Going on a Monster Hunt, gonna catch a big one…
Written by Kat Mackintosh
As a kid, when imagining what he’d wish for if he was granted three wishes by some magic or for a good deed, one of my brother’s wishes was that he would catch the Loch Ness Monster. He’s a younger brother so it didn’t suit me to admit it but I always thought that was a pretty cool wish, you’d be famous, probably be get some scientific accolade and strike a blow for ardent believers-in-a-bit-more everywhere, as well as basically ending up with your own dinosaur, or sea monster or whatever it is - either way that’s a much cooler way to get to school than walking.
There are plenty of new and unusual creatures lurking in the world’s darkest, quietest nooks and crannies evading human notice thus far, so why not a really big, impressive one? It’s arrogant to believe we’ve seen everything - in the first few years of the 21st Century scientists have already discovered a number of new species of flora and fauna, including skeletons of the tiny hobbit-esque Flores Man, so who can be 100% sure that scientific proof of the existence of Big Foot, the Mongolian Death Worm or Chupacabras won't be turned up next?
My little brother isn’t the only one with big scaly dreams, monster hunting has actually made itself into a science. ’Monster Hunter’ has been replaced by the more scientific ‘Cryptozoologist’ but they’re still out there, actively searching for these ‘could-be’ creatures, which they refer to as cryptids (meaning mystery animals) rather than monsters. Cryptids fall into two main categories, creatures which are generally believed to be extinct but which cyrptozoologists believe may not be (dinosaurs hiding out deep under the surface of remote lakes, or lochs for example) and creatures which cryptozoologists believe exist but where there is no scientific evidence to prove it (as in the Beast of Exmoor, strange big cat/ wolf hybrids living on the moors.). One of history’s most famous cryptozoologists and a prolific writer on the subject, Bernard Heuvelmans, believes cryptozoology should be undertaken with the same stringent and empirical scientific standards and reasoning as other sciences, but with an interdisciplinary understanding of the biological and zoological sciences and an open mind. He also advises cryptid hunters to pay attention to local stories, urban legends and folk lore, the bare bones of which are often founded on historic facts (stories of sea monsters are now thought to describe encounters with giant squids.). His argument is that civilisations developing on opposite sides of the world wouldn’t all imagine the same kinds of mythical creatures so there must be some truth to legends like Big Foot, who’s popped up on every continent.
Unfortunately for my brother, though there is still hope, the non glamorous side of cyrptozoology involves a lot of sitting quietly, hidden in the bushes, but I can see why he’d be tempted by the potential rewards are great - people at the beginning of the 20th Century didn’t believe in the Giant Panda, Megamouth Shark or Coelacanth - and they were all still around, hiding out, out of view. The people who ended up with the unimpeachable evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their quarry existed were the ones who had the most faith and patience.
Hunters of the most popular cryptids like Champ, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster seem to cop the most flack. Searching for a creature which has managed to evade decades worth of similar searching (and sonar testing etc.) is your best chance of being disappointed and made fun of. People will hit you with the gene pool argument of: it’s not just one creature which would need to survive here but a whole breeding population of which no skeletal evidence has ever been found…ever…etc. The pay off is that if you were to find proof of one of these celebrity A-list cyptids you would be very very very famous and probably wealthy with it. If you weigh it up, and the risk of spending your life alone in a van, watching over a still lake, waiting for something to happen sounds too high, you can hunt something smaller, there must be hundreds of undiscovered beetles out there - some of which probably have exciting horns or markings and fit the classification of ‘mystery animal’.
To my little brother I say: remain patient, remember that no one believed in platypuses, giant squids or Komodo Dragons to begin with either.
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