The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, or Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ New Zealand to the CFZ global family.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Mythical monster puts NZ on notice

A mythical swamp monster "hiding" under Auckland is threatening to derail a project to improve the New Zealand city's traffic gridlock.

The North Island city is trying to move ahead with a multi-billion railway tunnel project to improve the minimal train network and free up its car-filled streets.

But Horotiu, a mythical monster, put the NZ$2.6bn ($2.1bn) project in doubt after an indigenous Maori board protested that it will destroy grounds once patrolled by the taniwha (pronounced "tani-fa").

Glenn Wilcox, a member of the Maori Statutory Board, which protects Maori interests, complained that the plan did not take into account the monster, which "was here first".

"As kaitiaki, or guardians, they protect people, but they also get up and bite you if they do not like what you are doing," he said.

The local council has since convinced the board that the correct consultation had taken place, putting the popular project back on the table.

The board accepted its needs had been met but not before it was invoiced thousands of dollars for public relations advice relating to the monster.

The monster now appears to have opened a Twitter account, @TaniwhaHorotiu, where it claims: "If I get my asking price I've got my eye on a stream out near Waterview."

It claims taniwha aren't invincible; in fact, one dies "every time a child reads a science book".

Surprisingly, its not the first time a taniwha has threatened to up-end a council project.

In 2002, construction of a stretch of road between Auckland and Hamilton was halted after protesters complained that it was cutting through the domain of a revered one-eye taniwha.

The taniwha was thought to be responsible for a number of deaths on the stretch of road.

Ranginui Walker, a respected Maori elder, said at the time: "You have to placate local demons, deities, taniwha.

"Don't tempt fate."

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Its been a long road.

Finally after all this time and various disasters along the way of persoanal natures, the CFZ NZ office is finally set up and running. The Library however is still the perfect picture of a civil defense emergency but will get there.

Im hopeing to throw a few pics up eventually. Set up some tanks in here 1 containing Nelson the CFZ NZ mascot - an Oscar Chiclid with extrodinary intelligence. Im sure he would one day make a fine engineer as he loves finding new things to shove up the filter and block it.

Another Tank houses a somewht oddity here in New Zealand - a freshwater PufferFish called Abe after Abe Sapien - yes we are Hellboy fans here.

One tank however remains empty in nticipation of I believe August when our Whitebait season starts I have been promised a number of these fish , which here in New Zealand are mainly comprised of Galaxids or Inanga. Due to excessive exploitation these species are not as plentiful as they once were and will be interesting to keep and observe. Its surprising just how little is known about New Zealand freshwater fish.

Whitebait during the early part of the 20th century were so plentiful they were caught and dumped in mass as agricultural fertiliser.

Now a few cup fulls is considered a good catch.

Being winter here we are still hunkering down and riding out the cold weather in anticipation of spring but this year alot of projects are on the boil so in reality we should be glad of the calm before the storm.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rare Takahe birds the focus of fundraising drive

These rare flightless birds of a feather need to flock together to keep their species afloat.

There are only 220 Takahe left in New Zealand and about 30 have been treated at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre at Massey University.

And three of the birds were the focus of a sponsorship drive recently run by the Centre at the Tiritea School. Sadly one of the birds had to be put down due to a severe leg injury.

The Takahē or South Island Takahē, Porphyrio hochstetteri is a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand and belonging to the rail family.

It was thought to be extinct after the last four known specimens were taken in 1898. However, after a carefully planned search effort the bird was rediscovered by Geoffrey Orbell near Lake Te Anau in the Murchison Mountains, South Island, on November 20, 1948.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

New Beginnings

Finally after a last few weeks of chaos, trying to arrange for this semester study, get my files and some kind of order and actually have an office I can work in I can now devote my attentions to the blog. My sincerest and deepest thanks go to those who have been covering for me over this period of turmoil.

Right, CFC New Zealand now has a new addition to the team in the form of Nelson, our Oscar Cichlid, who diligently stares at me from his fish tank like an over watchful master reminding me there is work to be done. It

There is still a lot to be sorted out, my library is gradually getting there, and a lot of my specimens and fossils are being moved to better display facilities.

Speakin of Fossils, I have noticed there was some very good specimens for sale on the New Zealand auction site trademe . one thing that caught my attention in particular however, is a taxidermist producing novel items . Cerebus the three headed Chicken. this item sold for $135 . a regrettable part of being self-funded is not being able to pick up such rarities.

Or for thoe searching for the legendary rarity how about baby legendary Grendel.

This Guy cerainly has talent.

Anyway - First post and still heaps to get done, I do intend to make his at least hopefully weekly postng if not more freqent.

Have a great Day and an even better tomorrow.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Endangered swamp bird Boris gets a second chance

A rare endangered native New Zealand wetlands bird has been brought back from the brink of death at Massey University's Wildlife Centre after arriving with a severely damaged wing.

Boris the New Zealand Matuku was picked up by Bird Rescue Whanganui and taken to the centre because of a fractured right wing which had led to it twisting around.

He was due for surgery on Tuesday but suffered a cardiac arrest after being anaesthetised and was resuscitated by veterinarians who decided to postpone the wing surgery.

Boris' wing fracture had healed out of alignment, so it would have to be rebroken and the muscles around it stretched out because they had contracted with the new position of the wing.

Matuku are endangered in both New Zealand and Australia.

There are about 750 left in New Zealand and less than 1000 in Australia.

There was great concern for the falling numbers of Makutu but it was difficult to learn about them because they were so good at existing unnoticed.

Massey University zoology lecturer Phil Battley said the main way the birds were monitored was by their loud booming calls. "They are a hard bird to get a handle on because they live in swamps."

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

OOPA: Was Emperor Penguin colonising NZ?

Richard Sadleir, a former director of science and research for the NZ Conservation Department, has some interesting ideas on why the Emperor Penguin now known as 'Happy Feet' decided to up stumps and visit the land of the long white cloud. Here he writes for the Dominion Post about his theory:

"Why should an emperor penguin travel from distant Antarctica to finish up on a New Zealand beach? The distribution and movements of animals is a fascinating part of ecology. Most populations live in well defined ranges but, surprisingly, often individuals wander long distances from their normal home.

Happy Feet is the second emperor penguin in 40 years to reach New Zealand shores since naturalists started keeping records.

It is very likely that many emperors made it to New Zealand in the past 1000 years and many more would have travelled north and probably died before they could return home.

Why should this happen ? Ecologists think that the evolutionary reason for roaming animals, often called stragglers, is that, by chance they may arrive at a suitable place to live, then settle down and start a new colony, therefore extending the range.

A pregnant female mammal, or a female bird with an egg forming inside her, could theoretically start a new population, but in most cases more than one straggler would be necessary.

Almost all of these roaming individuals die but the process of such attempted dispersal continues as it has for thousands of years.

About 50 years ago a keen naturalist in New Plymouth kept a light trap running for many years. Insects attracted to the light are collected in a container.

The naturalist found hundreds of butterflies and moths that had blown over the Tasman Sea from Australia, especially after big storms. Almost all of these never established themselves here, probably because of our colder temperatures.

Again and again, special animals try the long trips to find new areas to live. Almost all die but some are successful.

In 1912, a small Australian wallaby was freed east of Rotorua. This species has very slowly increased its range eastward, getting halfway to Whakatane. But year after year, locals have reported seeing wallabies many kilometres away from the main range. These stragglers may find new habitats or they may not.

Three wallabies that turned up in Taranaki were certainly helped in their dispersal by a passing hunter!

The Indian mynah bird shows the same process. Introduced to the North Island in 1875, this bird, considered by many to be a pest, spread widely and now lives almost entirely north of a line from Whanganui to Waipukurau. It is apparently too cold for this species further south, yet there are sightings of stragglers trying to probe southward.

Strangely, the species was found in Wellington many years ago but it then vanished. Perhaps, as our climate warms, this unpleasant bird may make it south.

So Happy Feet is a sort of pioneer, looking for a new place to live. The penguin seems to have travelled too far in its quest but its relatives back in Antarctica will continue the process of travelling far from home to see if new homes are available.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Whales re-colonising NZ waters

Scientists have discovered that southern right whales, hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, appear to be re-colonising mainland New Zealand calving grounds from a remnant population in the subantarctic Auckland Islands.

The endangered whales were rarely seen around mainland New Zealand for most of the last century, but small and growing numbers are slowly returning to the coast to give birth and raise their calves.

“With the increase in numbers observed around the Auckland Islands over the last decade, we think that some individuals are re-discovering the former primary habitat around the mainland of New Zealand,” says Professor Scott Baker of The University of Auckland and Oregon State University, who helped initiate the first study of the Auckland Island population in 1995.

The latest findings are based on genetic evidence from small skin samples collected from 707 whales over more than a decade. By comparing the DNA fingerprints of individual whales, the research has confirmed genetic differences between whales around Australia and New Zealand, and provides new insight into differences in the recovery of regional populations.

The results support the conclusion that the mainland New Zealand population was wiped out and that the returning whales are from the remnant subantarctic population. It revealed, for the first time, the movement of seven individual whales between the Auckland Islands and mainland New Zealand. “The seven whales that have been identified in both the Auckland Islands and the mainland are probably the first pioneers of this re-colonisation,” says Dr Baker.

The research has been published today in the international journal, Marine Ecology Progress Series, by scientists from The University of Auckland, New Zealand Department of Conversation (DOC), Australian Antarctic Division, Macquarie University, the Museum of Western Australia and Oregon State University.

“The results confirm the strong connection of right whales to regional calving grounds around Australia and New Zealand as a result of early maternal experience,” says lead author Emma Carroll, a PhD student from The University of Auckland. “This maternal fidelity contributed to the vulnerability of these local populations, which were quickly hunted to extinction using only open boats and hand-held harpoons.”

Maternal fidelity is a kind of cultural heritage passed from a mother to calf during the first year of life, as they migrate together from calving grounds to feeding grounds thought to be near the subantarctic convergences.

When right whales around mainland New Zealand were wiped out, this heritage seemed to have been lost, slowing the return of whales to their former habitat. Surprisingly, a remnant population that calves in the subantarctic Auckland Islands survived and has shown signs of recovery, with surveys in the 1990s revealing an estimated 1,000 individuals.

With increased numbers of southern right whales returning to the mainland shores, DOC is calling on the public to report sightings of this rare whale. “With the winter calving season upon us, we are once again calling for the public to immediately report sightings of southern right whales to 0800 DOCHOT” says Dr Laura Boren, the DOC National Marine Mammal Coordinator.

DOC also has a flickr gallery where the public can upload images of the whales, at Dr Boren reminds photographers not to get too close to the whales, however. “To keep both you and the whale safe, leave a distance of 50m or 200m if there is a calf present,” she says.

The research article, entitled “Population structure and individual movement of southern right whales around New Zealand and Australia”, with the unique identifier “doi:10.3354/meps09145”, will be available for free download from the Marine Ecology Progress Series website

Southern right whales are large, long-lived mammals that calve in shallow coastal areas where they were hunted intensively in New Zealand and Australia in the 19th century. The species was given legal protection by the League of Nations in 1935 but was subject to illegal whaling in the 1950s and 1960s. The current New Zealand population is estimated to be less than 5 per cent of its pre-whaling abundance.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

OOPA: Sick Emperor Penguin drops into NZ

One of New Zealand's top surgeons has operated on an ailing emperor penguin found on a beach near Wellington, some 3000 km from its Antarctic home.

More used to dealing with sick humans than poorly penguins, surgeon Dr John Wyeth performed a delicate two-hour operation on the bird, nicknamed Happy Feet, which has suffered declining health since it appeared last week.

But the penguin is underweight following its long swim north and has intestinal trauma, and not yet ready to be released into the wild. It's resting up at Wellington Zoo while wildlife experts ponder o=how to return the penguin to his chilly home.

The emperor is the largest penguin species and can grow over a metre in height. The reason for Happy Feet's appearance in New Zealand remains a mystery, although experts say emperor penguins take to the open sea during the Antarctic summer and this one may have simply wandered off course.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Great White Shark hauled from harbour

A 2.8-metre great white shark hauled out of the entrance to Wellington Harbour had been feeding on large marine mammals.

A team at Te Papa defrosted the shark, caught last year, for measuring this week. It was the largest great white specimen preserved intact in New Zealand, Te Papa collection manager Andrew Stewart said.

One of the biggest surprises, for the examiners, was discovering that the shark had an empty stomach except for a seal claw and some tape worms.

The claw was the "smoking gun" that it had started eating seals, he said. "This shark had moved from being a fish eater to being an apex predator ... These are animals that sit right at the top of the food pyramid."

Scientists would study markings to establish if the shark had been spotted off Stewart Island, where Conservation Department shark expert Clinton Duffy had collected photographic records of great whites.

Cells of the shark would be analysed to try to discover what else it had been eating.

The shark was hauled from the water near Barrett Reef in October last year by Peter Amitrano and Alfonso Basile, who had set moki nets.

Great whites are a protected species, meaning if they are caught, the Conservation Department has to be notified.