I can be contacted on thehighlandtiger@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 3 December 2010

Correspondance with Adam Davies, leader and organiser of the Orang Pendek expedtion to Sumatra.

I have recieved the following emails from Adam Davies. It appears all is not lost with regards to hair sample retention as Adam seems to be very much on the ball, thank goodness.

He has allowed me pemission to post his comments on this blog.

30th November 2010

Hi Highland Tiger,

I just picked up on the discussion re the Sumatran hair samples today, and I thought it appropriate to reply to your enquiries. I led the expedition to Sumatra, and am happy to confirm that I did indeed keep two of the hair strands back.They are still in my posession.This was precisely to allow further objective scrutiny of the samples. I am always happy to share my research, as far as I`m concerned, the more the merrier!

Best Wishes,
Adam Davies.

I then replied with the following

Excellent news Adam , thanks for letting me know.

With the DNA testing being very ambiguous, ie coming back as human or near human, we cannot rule out contamination of the sample. This leaves us with just the visual hair analysis. I was worried that no-one at the CFZ had thought of either saving a hair or two or at the least keep copies of the microscopic images. This was my issue with Jon, before he threw his toys out of the pram. Personally, I think in the circumstance, that any images of the hairs should be passed on the primate experts. Like you say, the more the merrier, and it can't hurt to get lots of other opinions from other experts regardless of what they conclude.

I'm worried that in the effort to discover evidence to prove an unknown species such as the orang pendek, that the possibilty that an unknown population of orangutans is overlooked. It is obvious these hairs have come from an animal of some description. Even if it does not turn out to be an unknown species, it may turn out to prove the existance of a new population of orangutans. If so, then the world needs to know, I just can't stress how hugely important this would be to orangutan conservation


He again replied,

I do the field research, I am happy for others to draw out conclusions on the subject. Of course, I do have my own views on the subject.If you go to Jon Carlson`s paranomalist blog, you can see my replies to many people who have enquired about the analysis. I also have my own blog-if you tap Adam Davies extreme expeditions into google, and go to the journal section ,you will see it there.I would like to think its an unknown primate,but we will see.Y'know ,since I first began my reserach into the OP about ten years or so ago, and found my first prints with Andy Sanderson, I think that the debate has moved on from whether it exists, to actually what it is,and I would like to think that I have contributed to that, as have all the team members ,over the years, who have come with me.This is of course to take nothing away form either Debbie Martyr or Jeremy Holden, who have spent much more time on it than I. If you are right, so be it, I have no problem at all with that.My biggest motivation is that the area isn't destroyed in my lifetime, and with it, the creature itself, whatever it is.I have seen jungle eradicated in Sumatra to make way for palm oil plantations before. Its simply devastating to see with your own eyes.
I have told Jon Downes that I would be replying to your mail. I am off to London at six in the morning(I live in Manchester),so I am signing of now!

Thank you for that Adam....

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Centre For Fortean Zoology, the Orang Pendek evidence, and a few observations from yours truly

NEWLY UPDATED 1st December 2010 - Check latest post at the bottom of the article

As you may or may not be aware the Centre For Fortean Zoology, the CFZ, recently published the results of the DNA and structural analysis of the hair samples they bought back from Sumatra on their expedition to find the Orang Pendek last year in 2009.

Although I am still officially banned from posting comments on their site, I have still been posting them regardlessly. In response to my comments on this subject, they have actually posted them as seperate articles on their blog, for which I thank them.

This is an ongoing dialogue at present, and in order to get this out to the wider cryptozoological community, I will reproduce my comments and their replies in full here. Feel free to comment yourselves either here or on the CFZ blog site.

I will endeavor to include the whole conversation on just one post, so please check the date at the top of the post to see if there are any new additions.

The CFZ posts will be in block quotes, with my replies and comments in normal type in red.

Sunday, November 21, 2010
LARS THOMAS: Analysis of the orang pendek hairs collected in Sumatra during the 2009 expedition
In late 2009 I was given a sample of hairs collected in Sumatra earlier that year by Adam Davies, Richard Freeman and several others taking part in the expedition searching for evidence of the elusive orang pendek, the Indonesian “abominable snowman.”

A small part of the hair sample was subjected to a DNA-analysis, but due to the small amount of DNA extracted and the rather poor condition of it, no firm conclusion could be reached. The DNA did show some similarities to primate DNA, possibly orangutan, but no definite results could be obtained.

Following this I subjected the remaing hairs to a structural analysis to see if this could bring any information to light that might reveal the identity of the owner of the hairs.

I checked all of the remaining 6 hairs and they were all consistent with hairs from large primates or humans. They all had the rather large medulla with a lot of pigmentation typical of large primates, and the intermittent holes in the centre of the hairs, making them look somewhat like hollowed out tree trunks. I compared the hair samples with reference samples of 3 different species of gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo, gorilla and some 15 samples of human hairs in various colours, mainly red or reddish. I was never able to ascertain their identity with total certainty, although I could eliminate some. The hairs were not modern human, and they were not from siamangs or other gibbons. They have a very deep rusty-red colour, very similar to the colour of orangutan hairs, but varied in other structural details.

So based on these results alone I concluded that the hairs were from something closely related to orangutans or from a form of orangutan I had not seen before.

In the autumn of 2010 Tom Gilbert from the DNA Laboratory of the University of Copenhagen did a further DNA test of the remaining hairs. In this case he was able to extract a good amount of DNA enabling him to conclude that whoever used to wear these hairs were either human of very closely related to humans.

So the structural analysis point to either an orangutan or something very closely related to an orangutan. The DNA analysis on the other hand point to a human or something very closely related to humans.

Based on this information I am forced to conclude that Sumatra is home to a completely new species of large primate, but I am also well aware that these results can in no way be called conclusive evidence of the existence of these animals. But it should be more than enough reason for a new expedition to go back to the area, hopefully obtaining enough evidence and samples to come to a final conclusion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The other day Lars Thomas posted his findings regarding the morphological and DNA analysis of the hair sample brought back from Sumatra by the 2009 CFZ expedition. This attracted several negative comments, and as I believe that this is a matter of some importance, rather than having Richard Freeman post his reply in the original thread, we have asked him to post his answer on the main bloggo:

Andrew Sweeney, your comments are utterly absurd. Have you even bothered to read Lars’s account? He is a professional scientist who says that he is forced to conclude from our data that a new species of large primate exists in Sumatra; something you seem to have conveniently ignored. I call that a result.

To say that the expedition added nothing to our knowledge is just completely wrong. We saw tracks and learnt of foot structure. Dave Archer actually saw the creature and even managed to get a look at its face. His description gives us anatomical clues to the animal’s nature. Any eyewitness account is valuable in the sum of our knowledge.

Dan and Jum, the orang-utan has been extinct in west Sumatra since the 1880s. Dave Archer is adamant the animal he saw was not one of these. It was the guides who collected the hair samples from a tree stump using tweezers. They were next to some very clear tracks that showed a long, human-like heel and an ape-like forefoot with a well separated big toe. They were not orang-utan or gibbon prints, both of these are animals with which I am very familiar.

Thursday, November 25, 2010
On Thursday I received a message from the person calling themselves `The Highland Tiger`. He wrote hoping that we took his comments on this occasion "as a genuine observation". In that spirit, therefore, I reproduce what he had to say:

From what I can gather from the conclusions made by both Lars and Richard Freeman, it appears that the DNA results of being close to human are being ignored, largely in favour of the hair analysis. I find this very worrying as it appears on the surface to be a case of trying to fit the evidence to the theory.

Hair analysis is very subjective process and is literally in the eye of the beholder. Different experts may come to different conclusions in investigating hair samples. DNA results are less subjective.

The reason the DNA samples claim to be almost human is more than likely through contamination. Yes I know the researchers claim they did not touch the hairs, but to be honest it is hard enough to prevent contamination in a laboratory, let alone obtaining clean samples in the field, is hard and I don't blame the field team for this.

I understand Karl Shuker has given an example of the king cheetah to explain a possibilty of both DNA and hair analysis being correct. However, this is only one case and we can in no way extrapolate this example in order to fit the evidence to the theory again, as Richard seems to have done.

I am actually in agreement with Dr Dan Holdsworth in that I feel the DNA results have probably been compromised by contamination.

The hairs are interesting in that I have no problem in accepting them as orangutan hairs, (and as such in finding a new population of orangs you have had a success)

Now this find is more exciting to the wider zoological world. Are you intending to contact orangutan researchers, and allow them to look at the hairs themselves. To find and confirm a new orangutan population is very important on a wordwide conservation scale, and needs to be released to mainstream zoological research and not kept in the restricted confines of cryptozoological research"

The most important thing about these DNA results are that whatever the hairs are, they are NOT from an orang utan. I would like to stress this. If there had been evidence suggesting that there was at least one orang utan living in that stretch of jungle, we would of course have made the hairs available to the relevant authorities. If there is any chance that there is a hitherto unsuspected population of these increasingly beleagured great apes then it is our sacred duty to do what we can to save them, and the discovery of a new population would be immensely important.

But the hairs, whatever they are from, are NOT from an orang utan.

However, we are not claiming that they are from an orang pendek either. Neither Richard nor Lars is ignoring the startlingly human-like DNA, and yes, the possibility of contamination is something that is always a possibility.

But as Lars writes, the results are inconclusive, although as a zoologist with many years experience, the hairs, together with all the anecdotal evidence that has been collected, Dave Archer and Sahar Didmus's eyewitness testimonies, and the various hair samples and footprints secured over the years have convinced him that there is an unknown species of higher primate living in Sumatra.

But no. Both Richard and I agree with Lars and HT that the DNA evidence - though interesting - is far from being conclusive, which is why we intend to go back to Sumatra with more equipment and more manpower to continue the hunt.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jon, I thank you for posting my comments. I understand that you wish to accept the findings of your experts. However, do you not think it prudent to contact orangutan specialists for their opinion of the hair samples. For them to confirm the identity of the hair samples would in my opinion have more validity in the wider zoological world. You need confirmation of the hair samples. not from just a generalist such as Lars, but from someone who is an expert in orangutan physiology. You need to eliminate any possibility it is of a known orangutan sub species, before you can claim it is of a new species.

And for the record, Richard Freeman is incorrect, in saying that orangutans have been missing from Western Sumatra since the 1880's. The IUCN report indicates that there were reports up to as recently as the 1960's. I really feel you need to get as many professional opinions on the hairs as you can.

We wrote to Lars Thomas, who replied:

'Unfortunately it will not be possible to send anything to anybody - in order to get enough DNA out of the hairs, all the rest of them had to be sacrificed. The actual extraction process destroys the hairs. All that remains are my notes and drawings and the various pictures taken from the screen of the big microscope during the Weird Weekend. But intriguingly enough, a couple of days ago I got a call from a Danish guy, who used to work as a tourist guide in Indonesia. He had stumbled onto the CFZ blog and read about the orang pendek. He claims to have some long orange/reddish brown hairs in his position he found in Sumatra about 10 years ago, at a place where some local had seen an orang pendek. He never though much about it at the time, and just kept the hairs as a fun souvenir of his time in Indonesia.'

As far as the dates when orang utans were last seen in Kerinci National Park, Richard had been told that they had not been there since the 19th century. However, in the light of what THT has written, we have written to Debbie Martyr and the management of the park for clarification.

Sunday, November 28, 2010
SUMATRA HAIR SAMPLES: The dialogue between the CFZ and the person calling himself "The Highland Tiger" continues..
The dialogue continues. THT writes:

Thanks for posting my thoughts. I did wonder if the DNA testing had destroyed all the samples. Some people might say, "yeah yeah here we go, all proof has been destroyed etc", but in this instance I don't think this is the case. It is one of the drawbacks of DNA testing that samples are detroyed in the very nature of the test. That's life as Esther would say!

Can you confrm if any proper images were taken of the hairs. By that I mean photographs taken through the microscope and not photographs taken using a camera aimed at the screen.

I do hope it is not the latter, because if it is, then you must admit that is very poor scientific practice. I would expect, with microscopic equipment worth a small fortune, that the ability to photograph specimens would be a necessity.

If you do have good microscopic images of the hairs, then why not send those to some orangutan experts, even if it is just to get a second opinion.

After all, a second, third or even fourth opinion cannot hurt, and will only increase the credibility of your findings.

For the record, I do feel that of all cryptids in the world, the orang pendek is probably the most likely to be a real creature. But you do need to investigate every avenue in order to rule out the possibility of those hairs being from a known species.

Lars replies:

'The microscope I used were set up to record pictures of everything I put into it during the WW, but it is back with Olympus by now, and I am not sure whether they have the pictures or whether the production company has them. But I will check and let you know - and I will try and contact various primate experts I know.'

Monday, November 29, 2010


`The Highland Tiger` wrote:

Sometimes, the CFZ really make me want to scream and bang their heads together.

So it appears that images were taken, but no-one at the CFZ thought of actually holding on to copies of them for their records.

My whole agenda with the CFZ is to get them to start thinking more scientifically, and changes have been made for the better in recent months.

It is possible that you have evidence of a brand new species, but no-one at the entire Weird Weekend, or any member of the CFZ directorate thought there was any need to document the evidence properly. It is inexcusable, as a scientific organisation that no-one thought to keep any of the images taken of the hairs for the CFZ records. You are now keeping your fingers crossed that someone else has kept copies.

You all knew the samples would be destroyed during DNA extraction.

Personally, I would not have destroyed all the hairs. I would have kept a few back, for the records.

I really do hope that the images can be found, and they are passed on to primate experts.

If you have lost all evidence, either through DNA testing, or through the inability to do something basic like saving a photograph, then you really do need to have a rethink on how you conduct future scientific research".

I replied:

"Once again you have ignored the facts in order to take a
cheap shot at the CFZ. I will remind you of these facts:

1. You claim
that "the CFZ" have lost the pictures. This is simply not true. The CFZ do not
have a laboratory or anyone qualified or experienced in extracting DNA samples.
All work was done by two labs in Denmark. As far as the pictures are concerned,
they have not been lost. They were used in a documentary made by Danish TV, and
Lars was not sure whether they are at the TV Company or with the microscopy

2. The DNA extracted by Tom Gilbert was not orang utan DNA. To
expect the CFZ (and me in particular) to ignore the findings of two eminent
scientist in order to follow the instructions of someone who has a peculiar
interest in other people's qualifications but is presumably unqualified himself
(we don't know because he is too cowardly to come out from behind a facile nom
de guerre) really is ridiculous.

3. When you first wrote to me on this
matter you said that you were not going to go public with your queries. I
decided, therefore, to do you the courtesy of allowing you to address the
general readership with your concerns. I note, sadly, that this entire exchange
has been placed on your site "in order to get this out to the wider
cryptozoological community". My discussion with you on this matter is therefore
at an end.

I have sent the following reply to Jon Downes, we will see if he posts a reply on his blog. Again I will make no comment on this dialogue, other than what I have said in my replies. I'll let the public make up their own minds

Jon, I really cannot understand the attitude you have taken here. I can only assume you did not read my last comment properly.

I'll address each point you have made.

I have not claimed you have lost the photographs, as you stated. I said "If" you have lost the photographs through someone not thinking it was necessary to do so, then that would poor scientific practice. I had already explained that I understood the reasons why DNA testing would have destroyed the evidence.

Fingers crossed that the production company have saved those images. I just wish you had done so yourself. Do you not think it was an oversight that no-one at the CFZ thought to save those images.

Your second point, is a complete deviation from my previous comment. I was not talking about the DNA results, but the hair analysis, and I have never questioned any of the qualifications of the people who have conducted the DNA testing. Would you not consider apologising to me for insinuating falsely to your readers that I had done so.

Regarding point 3. Yes I did say that I would not go public with my comments, but it was you yourself Jon, that decided to put this dialogue into the public arena by putting it on your blog. It was not me. I would have been quite happy to have discussed this via email. By you putting this dialogue online, I felt there was no need for me to withold anything on my blog. If you have read my blog, you will note that all I have done is reprint the posts from your blog, in their entirety with no alteration. I have included links to your blog entries, so people can view then on your blog. I have asked that if anyone wishes to comment then they can do so either on your blog or mine.

At all times I have been courteous and thanked you for asnwering my questions and thoughts.

One has to wonder what has changed for you to state that our "discussion is at an end".

I find it a shame that as soon as the questions get difficult and call into question some of your research methodolgy, you refuse to answer. Do you honestly think it looks very good for the CFZ by you taking this line.

I await your reply with interest.

1st December 2010

Although I am still waiting for Mr Downes to reply to my comments, I thought I would post the following comments from Dr Dan Holdsworth who is a regular contributor and poster on the CFZ blog. This was posted in the comments section of the last post Mr Downes placed on his blog about our dialogue.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...
My opinion in this matter is that the observed DNA was mostly from contamination of the sample at some point. I prefer to use the logical tool Occam's Razor in these matters, and prefer the simplest explanation in the matter.

We know that the hairs were collected from a rain forest environment (hot and humid) by people who probably didn't take great pains to avoid contamination by human epithelial cells. We also know that Lars examined the hairs and found them to closely resemble Orangutan hairs, i.e. to be within the probable range of variation that Orangutan hairs are capable of, so therefore either from an Orang utan or something very closely related to it.

We also know that the DNA analysis would have had to have used PCR to amplify the initial sample to provide a decent sample for typing, and that PCR is peculiarly sensitive to contamination. In particular, it tends to amplify undamaged, long-chain DNA preferentially over degraded, short-chain DNA.

This leads me to prefer the hair analysis Lars performed over the DNA analysis, since to give equal weight to both would force me to believe that a human can produce hair that's damn nigh identical to Orangutan hair, yet retain a human-like DNA profile.

I also tend to have a little sympathy with "The Highland Tiger" in his criticisms of CFZ data retention policies; as I frequently tell people, you can never have enough

I find it interesting that Dr Holdsworth makes the same conclusions as myself, and yet it is only me that is prevented from saying so.

To be Continued................................................

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A statement from BARSoc's Hayley Stevens "Biologist" friend

I have been contacted by "A D", the biologist referred to by Hayley Stevens, and he would like to make the following statement to clarify a few of my questions. I have agreed to continue to respect his anonymity, after all I too work under a veil of anonymity, so it would be churlish of me to do otherwise.

Obviously I cannot confirm any of the details within the statement, so I will leave it to the readers to decide which "expert" opinion they would be more happy with. If we use Hayley Stevens criteria of "proof" we are still left with a lot of unanswered questions, and as such I will still be leaning more towards Lars Thomas' findings as it being a leopard rather than "A D"'s one of a dog. However, whilst I am happy to accept the hair being from a leopard, like Hayley I still don't think it is enough proof yet to claim the existance of a living leopard in Longleat Woods. More research is needed to be done in the location, and I hope the "Four-Teans" will continue to gather evidence in the location.

So, over to you, "A D"

Dear Highland Tiger,

I'd like to give you quick response to this whole hair issue. First let me address the issue of anonymity and why I chose to go down that route. The simple reason for this is that I am not actively involved in this whole "scene" and have no particular intention of becoming an active particpant (largely due to life being hectic enough as it is), beyond having spoken to Hayley on the issue. My reason for getting involved is that Righteous Indignation is one of the many podcasts I listen to each week (of multiple genres). Previously the presenters had requested that if anyone had any kind of relevant background they might be interested in getting advice. When I heard Hayley talking about the hair on the podcast I was interested so I contacted her on Twitter. This was my first involvement with Hayley, or indeed anyone involved with this whole thing.

Let me make it clear that I have no particular axe to grind on this thing. I actually find it entirely possible that there are "big cats" on the loose in the UK. I certainly don't consider it impossible. There are multiple incidents of non-native species making it into new ecosystems, whether through escape from private collections, dumping after a period of illegal ownership, or accidental travel with humans. That's why we have so many invasive species! Actually, had I found the entire thing a preposterous idea I wouldn't have bothered offering my opinion. It is entirely because that possibility exists that I was interested to see what evidence existed, to satisfy my curiosity.

It is not my position that this hair is conclusively not of leopard origin. Rather, my position is that this hair is not conclusive of anything, and in the absence of more substantial evidence there is no evidence to support the conclusion that this comes from a leopard or anything else for that matter. I do have significant concerns about the nature of the analysis. From what I can gather, those involved would certainly like to prove that there was a leopard. Whilst there is abolutely nothing inherently wrong with having person wishes (we all do!), it does create potential problems with interpretation of data. This is not a criticism that is being levelled soley in this case. Throughout science it is clear that researcher bias can, and ideed does, pose a significant level of interference with interpretation. In this instance a major problem comes from non-independent analysis of the hair and that, I believe, it was compared against only other known leopard hair. I also saw no record of these known hairs myself. This is poor analysis. The least that should have been done in this case is the hair being compared against reference hairs from other animals likely to be present in that environment. This means both wild animals (the most abundant obviously being rodents and the like) as well as more domesticated animals such as dogs. This should also have been done in a blinded way so that person conducting the analysis was unaware of which reference hair was which.

An individual hair is not a particularly vast data collection and to try and inflate it into more than it is is inappropriate. It is certainly not enough, by a very long way, to support the hypothesis of a leopard. An individual hair can not be judged to come from an animal to the exclusion of all other species. This is particulary true without DNA analysis. And of course that hair would still have to have had to hair root attached for DNA to be extracted from it. Hair itself carries no DNA. Even with a single root, you would have to be very careful with your protocols as low-yield extraction can be a tricky beast! If it goes wrong you either end up with no DNA or DNA that is of such low quality that downstream PCR-based analysis becomes next to impossible.

So, to reiterate, it is not my opinion that this conclusively disproves that there is a leopard here. I just argue that the evidence is too weak to be considered evidence of anything! In the absence of any compelling evidence, my natural inclination is toward the idea that this hair is far more likely to have come from a species that might be native or common to the area.

Regarding my "qualifications", I'm not interested in getting involved in a game of credential top trumps. But to give you a brief taste of my background I worked for 5 years on a candidate gene SNP study of the molecular genetic basis of epilepsy. I have also worked, briefly, as a microbiologist in industry (it was a job to get me through a patch, but it was not one I enjoyed!). I currently work in a microscopy unit where we do a range of cell and whole-tissue work. We work with simple model systems, such as yeast (S. cerevisiae and S. pombe) as well as mammalian and human cell lines. We also occasionally work with tissue taken from biopsy.

As you might imagine, my work keeps me busy and I have no interest in entangling my professional life with this, which is why I erred on the side of anonymity. I was just offering my opinion on the evidence. I realise that other people are more invested in this, which is why I was prepared to, at the least, prove I exist. Whether you wish to accept my "bona fides" is a matter for you. Whether you wish to believe me when I say that I was genuinely interested in seeing the strength of the evidence to satisfy my own curiosity is also a matter for you.

I strongly feel that it is important not to get carried away with this. By all means keep looking for evidence, and if you do find compelling evidence of a leopard then that would truly be exciting and I would definitely love to see a wild leopard without having to pay to go on safari! I just don't consider this hair to be anywhere near that level of support, and I have attempted to view it with an aim of scientific impartiality. In my view, over-egging the evidence is not justified, scientifically. I hope that just because we don't necessarily agree on our viewpoints, you will at least accept that I am sincere in what I am saying.

I hope that this has answered some of your questions. And just one final time, I chose the anonymity because this was just something I emailed Hayley about in the course of an evening with a bit of my down-time. Whilst I am happy to stand by my opinions and issue this reponse to explain my position, and I have tried to offer it to the best of my ability, I have no interest in getting deeply embroiled in this and I would be very grateful if this desire was respected.

"A D"

The flaw in "The flaws of hair analysis : Longleat Leopard"

Hayley Stevens of BARSoc has posted her thoughts on the analysis of the Longleat Leopard hair done by CFZ member Dr Lars Thomas of Copenhagen University. She has also sought a second opinion by another biologist.

This can be read at http://barsoc.org/2010/10/01/the-flaws-of-hair-analysis-longleat-leopard/

I applaud Hayley in seeking a second opinion, and I find her conclusions interesting, but there are some major flaws in her thinking.

She is only working with the material at hand to make her judgements, that is, the photographs taken of the hair on a monitor. She has shown these images to a "biologist" friend, who claim the hair appears to be from a dog. He then posted images of the hair on an un-named blog where a majority of other members also thought it was dog. The "biologist" wishes to remain anonymous as is his or her right.

Can Hayley not see the problems with this scenario. She often makes comments with regards to people being objective and without an agenda. And of course people have mentioned that Lars Thomas is a member of the CFZ and might have an alterior motive. (although why he would wish to tarnish his academic reputation on his evaluation of a hair found by a non CFZ member is beyond me). Now she wishes us to believe that an unknown person, who she claims is a biologist disagrees with Lars Thomas' findings.

Whilst Lars Thomas made his conclusions based on viewing the hair itself, Ms Stevens is now relying on this unknown person and persons on an unknown forum making conclusions from a photograph that she herself claims cannot be used as evidence, because of the wrong resolution, the wrong light, the wrong camera, the wrong sandwich etc.

Talk about compounding the issue.

How are we to know that Hayley does not have an agenda.

Who is her biologist friend?

Is he/she a real biologist?

What are his/her qualifications?

Is he/she an expert on microscopic hair analysis.

Is he/she an objective expert, or a member of a sceptic organisation.

Why do they wish to remain anonymous?

I'm sorry Hayley but you are making the same errors that you yourself have claimed of others.

The only thing that can really be concluded here is that more evidence is needed. Although if I have to trust an expert, I'd rather trust an expert with known academic credentials who views the evidence in person, rather than an anonymous "biologist" of unknown academic standing and his "mates" (also of unknown academic standing) an online forum making conclusions based on a poor quality photograph of a monitor showing the evidence.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

I have to laugh.............

It appears that Hayley Stevens founder of the WPR/BARSoc, has had plenty to say about the post below. And I did say I would be happy to post details of her reply.

You can read her reply, at


Now I have no problem with her reply, but I find it ironic when she calls the Four-teens "pathetic", (yes I have seen the email Hayley)

And at the same time, in a similar vein to a few CFZ members, who think it is clever to make puns around my nom de plume. The Highland Tiger. She does a similar thing. Some thing that I find both childish and pathetic.

Yes in one small blog from Ms Stevens, I was mentioned as "tiger person", "tiger human person", "Mr Highland Tiger", "Tiger boy (or girl…)",

But, I'll live. I've been called worse.

However Ms Stevens, should have realised that in an aticle on this very blog, I actually praised the WPR regarding their approach to the hairs they found. The thing I failed to understand, was the apparant backtracking and mud slingling that went on within the WPR in the aftermath of the Fortean Times article.

But then it takes all sorts.

So there you have it. You can now read both sides of the argument and decide yourselves regarding the merits of each group.

My own opinion on this is quite clear. Cryptozoology, ghost hunting etc, is, after all mostly done by people as a hobby, with out any airs or graces. Although I have said before that I have never been a member of a cryptozoological or paranormal organisation, if I was forced to choose between joining the "Four-teans", or an organisation with the mouthwatering highfaluting pompous title of "The British Anomalistic Research Society", I think I'd rather join the former.

They'd be much more fun to hang out with.....don't you think!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Find some leopard hairs in the UK countryside and all hell breaks loose.

Now I expect those of you when reading the headline here, would be expecting yet another expose of the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). I'm afraid though you will be dissappointed. In this case the CFZ are not to blame for anything, although they are connected to it.

The examination of "leopard" hairs at the recent CFZ Weird Weekend by Lars Thomas, is well known now amongst those with a crypto-interest. It is also well known that hairs were found by another group other than the CFZ, The Wiltshire Phenomena Research group. You can read what the WPR said about it in a previous article on this blog.

All well and good you might say. Leopard hairs found in the UK countryside and confirmed as such. Of course this doesn't confirm the existance of leopards in the UK, as there is no way of knowing how the hairs got there, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. (I've also read today that the CFZ have got a second expert to view the hairs and they too confirm the original identification)

In this months Fortean Times, there is the following short article
"New Evidence for Big Cats"., by Lars Thomas. Here he describes the evidence he examined, mentioning both the CFZ and the WPR.

Here is where it unravels very quickly, not with the CFZ but with the WPR. To such an extent that the WPR has now ceased to exist and has renamed itself as
"The British Anomalistic Research Society (BARsoc)".

Why has this happenned you may well ask. well it appears that the Fortean Times article caused a bit of a storm within the WPR, with the sceptics being very unhappy that their organisation was by association being linked with a report that the evidence found proved that big cats existed in the UK countryside. With the leaders of the group, altering their blogs and comments and laying the blame at a small 4 man crypto group known as the
"Four-teans", (nice pun and name). It seems that the WPR group that found the leopard hairs was part WPR and part Four-teans. From what I can gather, and it is a very mixed up situation, the WPR are very much a sceptic based orgnisation. This is of course very different from a sceptical organisation. The last thing sceptics want is evidence to prove them wrong. Being sceptical however means that you are prepared to accept evidence and alter your beliefs accordingly.

The fallout of all this is a lot of messy accusations aimed at the Four-tean group from the WPR, leading to a rebranding of the WPR to the BARsoc and a distancing of them from the finding of the hairs, even insinuating the hairs were deliberated placed there by the Four-teans.

Now from what I can see, the Four-teans have actually done nothing wrong here. They were all upfront and never made any outrageous claims. They seem to have fallen foul of the political crossfire within the WPR. Now I feel slightly responsible here. It was my article about the WPR that lead the CFZ to admit more than one group found hairs at the Weird Weekend, and so lead to the WPR getting equal "billing" on Lars Thomas Fortean Times article. I'm sure if I had never written about the WPR then I very much doubt if tthey would have appeared in the FT article.

In the last few days I have been contacted by the Four-teans who feel very agrieved at the way they have been treated by people they once thought of colleagues or friends. They were in a bit of a quandry of how to reply to all these accusations, feeling they didn't want to post anything on their site, because they were already getting heaps of accusations by emails. I offered to put up their reply on this blog, and allow any reply comments to be placed here. This would both allow them them to put up their defence, whilst not causing problems on their own site.

Their reply along with links can be found below.

One final point, regarding the WPR and their name change to "The British Anomalistic Research Society". Now I'm sure people have realised by now, I don't hold with pomposity and people trying to look more important and academic than they really are. Well so does the British Government. There are rules and regulations regarding names you can use when describing an organisation or company. Especially the words "British" and "Society".

The Companies House Website says the following about the use of these names.

"British" - If you wish to use the word at the beginning of your company name you would need to show that the company is pre-eminent in its field by providing independent support from a representative body, trade association or government department.

If the word is used elsewhere in the name, you would be expected to show that your company is substantial in relation to its activity or product and that it is eminent in its own field.

The company’s registered office must be in England and Wales.
"Society" - To use this word the company should normally be limited by guarantee with each member having one vote, and include a non-profit distribution clause in the articles of association. If the company is limited by shares its articles would still need to include a clause stating each member had one vote and also a not for profit distribution clause.

Now I hope the BARS before they get the new T-Shirts printed have got all the relevant approvals from the government. I will be checking up in this in the near future.

Here is the defence from the Four-teans. I will be happy to post any reply from the WPR/BARS.

Longleat Forest Leopard Hair. The Defence.

Since the news of a hair, identified as being leopard, came into the mainstream blogs last Thursday (9th Sept) after being mentioned in Fortean Times, it has caused a veritable storm. Most of the blogs are highly critical of the four-teans group, with suggestions of fraudulent activities including planting the hair, manipulating the results etc. It has also been suggested we used the Wiltshire Phenomenon Research group (now defunct and renamed as BARS, British Anomalistic Research Society, a phoenix which has risen from WPR) as the respectable vehicle to push our ambiguous claims. In actual fact we were not claiming anything, we leave that to others better qualified than ourselves. The accusation that were accusing Hayley Stevens of conspiring to ''cover up'' the truth is, quite frankly, ridiculous! what truth? We never claimed anything! In addition the Longleat find seems to have become inextricably linked to the Huddisford woods finds.

Most of the events reported would have been easily provable before the WPR website was torn down. If anyone wishes to contradict them they are welcome to, we know we are telling the truth. The four-teans feel badly let down by WPR, with two of them not even knowing about the Longleat events. The case in fact had nothing to do with the four-teans at all, and you would have thought anyone visiting our website would have found it strange it wasn’t even mentioned aside a short paragraph at the end of the blog on the Huddisford Wood findings. But apparently they didn't, obviously preferring instead to believe we had stitched up WPR.

The news unleashed a veritable shitstorm onto the four-teans site, with derogatory
comments being unleashed via the ''contact us'' feature. So to put the record straight, here are the full facts.

Colin of the four-teans was also a member of WPR. Hayley, its co-founder, advertises herself as the rather friendly sceptic. Initially just paranormal investigators, the decision was taken by WPR, with no direct encouragement, to branch out into other areas; one of these being cryptozoology.

Having heard reports about sightings of big cats in the Wiltshire area and in particular a recent one in the vicinity of Longleat Forest, Hayely asked me if I would be willing to lead a WPR expedition into Longleat Forest to investigate the claims. I agreed and asked if it would be ok for Perry to come along also, not because he's a better tracker, fraudster, or anything else you care to mention, but because he only lives 45 minutes up the road and had never been to the Forest as he doesn’t drive. Please note then that
the head of WPR (or BARS) thought up the investigation and planned it. As an
added bit of interest for the group I also asked along Marcus Matthews, who is a
local author and researcher; he knows all the local sightings, as most are reported directly to him. Marcus was to take us on a short walk round the footpaths and point out to us where the most recent sightings had actually occurred. Duly, the news that WPR were to investigate the claims of big cats in Longleat Forest was announced on the front page of their site, with the further announcement that all findings by the group would be reported after the investigation.

We arrived at the woods on the day in question and parked up. In attendance were: Hayley, Sharon and Charlie of WPR, (Charlie is Hayley's younger brother, so I would class him as WPR) myself ( WPR but also four-tean) Perry (four-tean) Nadia (Perry's partner & driver) and Marcus Matthews. The stroll round the footpaths took longer than anticipated, perhaps an hour and a half, with various prints in soft ground looked at and dismissed. Arriving back at the car park, Marcus took his leave, which left just five of us. It was I or Perry who suggested (but I can’t remember which one of us) that we now went off track into the forest itself. Hayley and Sharon however were reluctant for whatever reason and chose instead to stay behind at a cafe across the road. This meant just three of us entered the woods. We were in the woods I would estimate for, approx, another one and a half hours. Various things were examined and for the most part dismissed. One thing we did come across was a tree with scratch marks about seven feet up the trunk, which is indicative of big cat, although we took photographs we even dismissed this as we felt it wasn’t clear cut enough, and could have possibly been caused by deer rubbing their antlers. We did decide water and food within the woods was plentiful, we saw loads of evidence for the presence of deer, rabbit, fox and badger.
It was as we were starting to make our way back that we came across a definite trail of something that had pushed through the undergrowth. The track made through the undergrowth was approx two feet in height, making a definite tunnel-like effect. Investigating further it was noticed just opposite what-ever-it-was had pushed through, was a four strand barbed wire fence. Sheep wool was prevalent on the strands; but standing out like a sore thumb amongst all the white was a single black hair. We didn’t know what it was but it was collected as per procedure with latex gloves and placed into a sealed bag. The find I should point out was in a totally different part of the wood to where we had walked earlier.

We arrived back at the cars and met back up with Hayley and Sharon, showing them
the find. The same evening WPR reported the investigation findings on their website. ALL operatives were referred to as WPR personnel. The hair find was also announced with the statement that it was hoped to be tested. Yes, I work for Rentokil and we have a research and development department. I managed to get it tested but obviously Rentokil are not really geared towards identification of such things; I did however manage to get an identification of felid, which wasn’t too exciting as it could have come from a tom cat at the nearest farm. And there for a few weeks the matter rested. I can’t remember if the ID of felid was ever announced on the WPR site; if pushed I’d say it wasn't, although there was an update on the case posted on WPR. This brings us to the weekend of the CFZ conference in Devon. This weekend is well documented in our blog so I’m not going into any further detail here. It's not as easy as you may think getting a hair tested for positive species identification. I had no idea how to do it, and as Hayley was to find out when she wanted a second opinion: just who do you ask without having to pay extortionate fees? Museums, zoos or universities are just not interested. However I knew Lars Thomas would be able to do it for me, especially as luck would have it he was actually going to be doing a lecture on hair identification at the conference. This is actually a hobby of Lars; he has thousands of hairs from different animals in his

As we now know, it was identified as “...not maybe, not possibly, but definitely Leopard”. This is where it gets interesting for me. I, of course, reported by text immediately to WPR. It was announced with caveats on the site (second opinion etc). So it was still a WPR case. Hayley made enquiries for getting a second opinion, but came across the same problems I had had: Just where do you get a hair tested?

On the 9th September the Fortean Times carried the article about the Huddisford Woods findings (one cat scat contained over 20 leopard hairs); yes the four-teans were implicitly involved in this. WPR were also mentioned by Lars for the Longleat find; he mistakenly attributed all of us to WPR and made the erroneous connection to the Huddisford finds, and so the trouble began. To my mind WPR at this point panicked. Up until this point all the reporting on the site on the investigation had been reasonable,
sensible, and not biased one way or the other, as of course it should be. Once the Fortean Times piece was published the site was obviously going to generate a lot more hits. It is, of course, only right that any cryptozoological evidence should be questioned, but not with unfactual statements and innuendo's against an innocent group.

A front page headline on the WPR site announced “Have you come to the site because of the leopard hair announcement in Fortean Times? If so click here”; this then took you into Hayley’s blog, where she was announcing “I’m not saying the hair was planted, but...” or “I’m not saying Lars mixed up the samples, but...” No, she may not have been saying that... but! we feel the idea was certainly being planted into people's minds, deliberately or not. Worse still was the fact that she announced the unfactual information into sightings of a big cat in the area: The statements though once again spun a negative aspect onto the case. In fact, on the 18th of August on her own blog Hayley had stated: ''We’ve also recieved numerous eye-witness reports of big cats in the same area so this is a case that is still being worked on''

The blog obviously provoked a lot of comments with ALL comments being in agreement with the facts (sic) presented by Hayley. Then it got worse. I posted a reply onto the blog regarding a few points; when, to my dismay, I re-read Hayley's original blog only to find she had changed a large part of it. Gone was the assertion of only one sighting, gone were a few other statements too. This is moving the goalposts to a high degree; in fact I would call it cheating! Changing your original blog facts because someone challenges them successfully is at the least underhand. The announcement was then made that this wasn’t in fact a WPR case at all! No, it was in fact a four-tean case. Oh right! I see!
The investigation was announced on the WPR site as a WPR investigation, reported
on the site as being conducted by WPR members, findings reported as WPR findings, but when the going gets a bit tough announce “it's nothing to do with me guv”; and so four-teans, two of whom know nothing about it anyway, get vilified with phrases like “consider it likely to be outright fraud by four-tean group”. And god knows where our supposed claim of “undeniable proof” came from. I also love the quote “And in such a small area, and such a large predator requiring food, I’m sure we’ll have it captured or killed within weeks if it’s really there. Let’s see what happens” We will? Is this person getting a team together then, to clear up the mystery? I doubt it, or maybe I just don’t
understand sarcasm.

This is a link to above quotes:


As well as the above and the remarks on the WPR site, as mentioned before, derogatory comments were being thrown at the four-teans on their own site which hadn’t even announced or claimed anything. I challenged Hayley by private email about trust in members, the response being that unless she had seen, or experienced something herself she couldn’t be sure it was true. Not much point in sending members out whilst sitting drinking tea then really, in fact not much point in having members at all!

Interesting philosophy, and if that’s what you live by then fair enough, but I believe she in fact broke her own rules by stating a “fact” on the blog by quoting the study of Nowell & Jackson. ''In their IUCN survey, Nowell and Jackson suggest male home territories vary between 30–78 km2(7413.2 acres – 19274.2 acres), but just 15–16 km2 (3706.5 acres) for females'' and of course the forests around Longleat are not nearly that large.
Really? Where did she pull that from? The internet no doubt, but wherever it was from, was she there? Did she take part in the study? How does she know it's true and factual?
In fact the study is likely to be correct, but guess what? The study would have been into the leopards’ natural habitat, where a lot of their territory is savannah; prey is sparsely spread and constantly on the move. A UK cat would not have far to travel at all to get a meal. The deer population in the UK has exploded in the last 10 years, not to mention badgers, foxes, rabbits etc, all easily available to a predator, in fact they’re spoiled for choice. They even have road kill. Why travel?

After a couple more emails between Hayley and I, WPR pulled down their site and all evidence of what I’m saying here has gone. But it is all the truth and I challenge anyone to contradict it. If they do, so be it, but we know the truth of what is being written here.
I have also managed to retrieve an archive of the WPR site relating to the Longleat study from Google to back up my case; please click on the link to read further.

And here is the link to the Original blog piece that was posted


Unfortunately, it's the only archives I’ve been able to find relating to the WPR Longleat case, but I haven’t given up on finding more. The changed blog of above will I suspect be lost forever, as it was only online a few hours before the site was removed. This original blog though, even before the revised one, disowning all responsibility, provided the first signs of the WPR distancing themselves from responsibility in the first sentence!
Notice as well on this original post the errors and inconsistencies for such an important piece, knowing there would be massive hits owing to the Fortean Times article ''Firstly I should point out that Perry & Colin are from the Four-Teans and were simply joined by some members of Wiltshire Phenomena Research'' With the following sentence though, she was saying in fact the hair was found by WPR, contradictory I feel! ''Secondly, included was the hair sample that Wiltshire Phenomena Research found in Longleat Forest earlier this year'' Yes, thats what people had come to the site to find out about!
It went on to say '' When Colin took the hair sample to the Weird Weekend with him it
had already been tested by Rentokil (a team member works for the company) and the analysis had come back saying that the hair was feline. The ''team member'' who works for Rentokil is actually me, so looks like i'd suddenly become a WPR team member again rather than a four-tean!

Then came the errors in facts such as ''One single leopard hair does not, in my opinion, prove that a leopard is living in Longleat forest. I would expect there to be other evidence too. Scat, other hairs, prints, carcasses…'' No one had claimed it to be proof, and we agree it proves nothing. In addition we had spent a total of 3 hours exploring a small part of the forest, half that actually in the forest off track; so maybe in such a short space of time it's not that suprising ''other evidence'' wasn't found. We got lucky finding anything at all. Other evidence has in fact been found by different researchers. ''The forests are not that large and the cat sightings have been of dark coloured cats during the day. Leopards tend to be nocturnal, though daytime sightings are possible'' misleading, as recent studies by radio tracking have shown that forest Leopards are more inclined to be both diurnal and crepuscular (active during the day, and active during twilight and dusk) ''There has (been) one sighting at night time on a road near the forests, but an exact date for this is not known'' Untrue. The sightings may or may not be erroneous but there are some, and their documented. In fact over the last 10 years or so around 50 well documented sightings have occured around the area at different times of day. ''Not to mention that close by is the Safari Park who would probably be aware if there were cats prowling the locality, which they aren’t'' Did someone ask them then?
If they did i'm unaware of it. (edit; A post on facebook on 17th Sept, six days after this statement, has stated '' have just had an interesting email from the head warden at Longleat Safari Park who said'' "I would have to question that a single hair was found on a fence could be confirmed as a leopard." This would suggest to me that no contact was made before. It would of course be evidence against any presence of a big cat. That's fine, once again I must reiterate four-teans were not claiming anything)

It may also have been helpful, just to balance things up a little, to have included the direct quote from Gary Mantle who is Head of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. In a recent interview he said; ''I have never said this before, but we have enough credible sightings for me to believe we have Big Cats in Wiltshire''

As said earlier four-teans feel badly let down by this episode. We once again must stress that the four-teans have never claimed anything, even with our Huddisford finds. We will always seek the truth in cryptozoology, rather than wishful thinking. A successful debunk is welcomed, there are always more mystery animals that could just possibly be real to investigate. We would also like to add that we as a group have made no financial gain whatsoever from either the Huddisford or Longleat finds, nor are we planning to. I hope this blog goes some way towards putting the record straight and re-establishing some trust. We would be happy to receive comments.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Richard Freeman, our favourite non qualified zoologist, claims he knew more about zoology than his lecturers.

It occured to me whilst replying to some comments on the previous article that perhaps we should have a little look at the recent comments made by the CFZ's Zoological Director Richard Freeman.

In an interview at
http://ghastlydoor.com/interview-with-richard-freeman/ Richard makes the following statement

My qualification is as a zoo keeper. I did study zoology at Leeds but I was appalled at the lack of knowledge of the tutors! For example they had no idea how many species of crocodilian there were (23 known) or what the Latin name of the thylacine was (Thylacinus cynocephalus).Some of their text books were 30 years out of date. One ‘professor’ in particular gave lectures on how sauropod dinosaurs lived habitually in water (it has been know for decades that they lived on dry land like elephants) and continually confused triceratops with protoceratops (the former from North America, 30 feet long and ten tons, the latter from Mongolia and the size of a sheep) and mammoths with mastodons. I just threw up my arms in despair at the state of academia and said ‘fuck this’. I would not have made those errors as a ten year old but professors in a major university were making them!

Now this seems to be a complete change of affairs, and as far as I can tell the first time this story has come out in the media.

Perhaps we should look at how, until now, Richard has described his time at Leeds university.

Lets see how the CFZ themselves described his time at University.


"Richard Freeman is one of Britain's few professional cryptozoologists. His interest in unknown animals reaches back to his childhood and he has had a long and varied career working with exotic creatures. He was head curator of reptiles at Twycross zoo in the Midlands. In 1996 he took a degree in zoology at Leeds university and after graduation moved to Exeter to work full time as the Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, the UK`s only cryptozoological organisation."

or perhaps we should look at his Amazon press release of his Dragon book.


"In 1996 he took a degree in zoology at Leeds university and after graduation moved to Exeter to work full time as the Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology,"

Or how his own publisher decribes him on his Bio on their website


"Richard Freeman is a former zookeeper and has a degree in zoology."

or perhaps the following interviews


The Centre for Fortean Zoology is the only full time scientific organisation dedicated to cryptozoology, the study of unknown species of animal. I came upon a copy of the society's journal Animals & Men in the now defunct Potter's Museum of Curiosities in Cornwall. I started to write for them, became the Yokshire rep then, after I finished my zoology degree, I was invited down to work with them on a perminant basis.


"I do not do this as a hobby. It is my profession. I am a qualified and professional zoologist. I was the head of reptiles at one of Britain's biggest zoos and have studied more than 400 species. I'm not an amateur."


"I took a degree in zoology at Leeds University"

The CFZ continue to state that no-one at the CFZ or Richard himself ever claimed that he had a zoology degree. If so, then how have so many interviews and even his publisher gone away with the impression he has one.

Now we all really know he has no Zoological Degree, and he has no Zoo Qualifications, (I'm assuming he is refering to the nationally recognised "Advanced National Certificate in the Management of Zoo Animals"). The facts above shows that he has lied in the past, obviously to make him look more intellectual and professional than he actually is.

But it makes one wonder what has changed from a few years ago where he was desperate to mention in interviews that he was a qualified zoologist from Leeds University, to today where he pours scorn on the very same university.

Oh yes, I know...................................................................................it must be something I said.