Friday, 25 October 2013

Harbouring hidden felines

Godzone mysterious big cat has made the news again.

Michael O'Neill

Last week newspapers reported a sighting of what was described as a large cat-like animal feeding on road kill, in the early hours of the morning, in south Canterbury.  This persistently newsworthy mystery previously made the news in August last year when photographer Michael O'Neill took this image of  what seems to be a large feline crossing the frozen surface of Lake Clearwater.
But these reports are merely the tip of a long history of big cat sightings in the central South Island. I had the opportunity to produce a number of graphics last holiday season which highlighted New Zealand’s own ‘mysterious animals’: The South Island panther, the native otter,  moose still existing in Fiordland, the giant gecko, surviving moas and even our own version of ‘big foot’: the Maeroero.  And if you wonder why you haven’t seen or heard of all of these, the label Cryptozoology might explain this: it literally means ‘hidden animals’.
Do they exist?  History gives us many examples of previously undiscovered or assumed extinct creatures resurfacing throughout the world. Certainly other countries have their own mysterious big cat sightings, and New Zealand is blessed with large tracts of land uninhabited by humans.  Personally, I love the fact that there is still room for some mystery in this age of google earth and and GPS.  Cat of headline tales: long may you continue to evade any kind of capture except as a tantalising dark shape in photographs, you and your kind make the world a more wondrous place.
I hope to eventually revisit the Aotearoa Cryptids in this blog, but first up, here is our beautiful cat who walks alone (all text is legible once you zoom in):

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