Sunday, November 14, 2010

Monsters Amongst Us

Well, not necessarily amongst us...

Many continents have stories about great hairy ape-men - everyone's heard of the Yeti, Big-Foot, the Yowie etc. Some Australian indigenous stories tell of the 'Yahoo' - which were allegedly big, hairy man-creatures. While Jonathon Swift was writing Gulliver's Travels, by co-incidence, or perhaps something else, we had exactly such creatures with the same name in Australia. At least, according to indigenous legend.

When many different cultures and countries seem to share legends, it is very tempting to believe that there must be some originating truth in them. Cross pollination of legends is not unheard of, of course, but when cultures are essentially isolated - as is the case in Australia - it may be well not to be too dismissive.

Yowies - or whatever name you choose to call them - may have existed in Australia and of course elsewhere. Yes, it is possible. Over the last ten years, 1200 new species have been discovered in the Amazon alone.

Now of course, Australia isn't the Amazon. It is far more populated and forests, though at times large, are hardly unexplored. Could a large, hairy man-creature really still be living in Australia undiscovered?

Firstly, if such a creature does exist then it is hardly undiscovered. While there may be no conclusive proof, there are many, many reports about such creatures.

Secondly, while it is tempting to argue that we should have found bones by now, it is important to remember that bones of any animal are rarely found in the wild. There are plenty of creatures whose very life depends on the consumption of hair, skin and bones. When did you last see a koala skeleton?

One day, sadly, such a creature will be killed and DNA testing performed. Once we have located and killed the last of its kind we will be able to classify the 'Yowie' into a convenient species box.

Originally, scientists refused to admit the existence of the platypus. Now they know better.