For most people, even just the briefest mention of monsters and mysterious creatures inevitably conjures up amazing imagery of such famous beasts as Mothman, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, the Abominable Snowman, sea-serpents, and the Chupacabras of the island of Puerto Rico. Less well known, however, is the rich and wide variety of strange and bizarre beasts that have been regularly reported from the land down-under: Australia. So, I figured that I would enlighten you a bit on some of these particular animal-oddities.
Australia, or to give it its official title, the Commonwealth of Australia, is said to be the home of some distinctly strange critters. Like a lot of nations all around the world, Australia has its own tales, myths and stories relating to so-called hairy, giant man-beasts that were said to roam the country’s wilderness in the distant past.
The United States has the aforementioned Bigfoot (or Sasquatch, depending on which name you prefer). The icy Himalayas are home to the Yeti. China boasts of tales of the Yeren. And the wilds of Russia are the rumored haunt of the "cave-man"-like Almasty. The Australian equivalent of all of these is known throughout the nation as the Yowie. Interestingly, a number of the Murri and Koori tribes of Eastern Australia have “Dreamtime Legends” that tell of an ancient, violent war between their long-gone ancestors and a race of mighty, fearsome ape-men that struck terror into the hearts of one and all.
The people finally came out victorious, and the hairy monsters retreated to the safety and camouflage of the surrounding mountains, woods and forests – only surfacing now and again to steal babies and forage for food and water. Of course, it could be argued that this is merely a classic folk-tale and nothing more – after all, most countries and cultures have stories of fantastic beasts seen in times long-gone. However, the interesting factor here is that reports of the Bigfoot-like Yowie still surface to this very day.
Then there is the fearsome, flesh-eating predator known as Megalania. It was a huge monitor-lizard (current estimates suggest its length may have been as much as 20-feet) that prowled around southern Australia, causing overwhelming havoc and mayhem in its wake, and up to approximately 40,000 BC - at which point, we are told, it became extinct. Or did it? As is exactly the case with the Yowie, people still talk about occasional encounters with the monster-lizard itself: in both mainland Australia and in New Guinea. And up until very recent times, too.
One such case – made both famous and notable by the fact that the witness had impeccable credentials – occurred in 1979, when a herpetologist named Frank Gordon reported seeing a truly gigantic lizard, in the region of 30-feet-in-length, in the Watagan Mountains of the Australian state of New South Wales. Needless to say, there are no monitor-lizards alive today of such immense size. Or, at least, there most certainly should not be. That is, of course, unless Megalania really has survived extinction and still continues to roam the Watagan Mountains.
And, now, we come to the Thylacine, or Thylacinus cynocephalus - which is Greek for “dog-headed pouched one” – a highly bizarre-looking animal that had the extraordinary ability to stretch open its huge, muscular jaws to around 120 degrees. Certainly the largest known carnivorous marsupial of the modern era, the Thylacine was native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, and – according to the mainstream scientific community, at least – became extinct in the 1930s. But, yes, you’ve guessed right: sightings of the beast still surface to this very day. In other words, just like Megalania, the extinct Thylacine might not be quite so extinct, after all.
And with all of the above now firmly in mind, if you ever decide to pay a personal visit to Australia, and its vast wilderness, huge mountains and magical forests, keep a very close look-out: you just never know what you might stumble across. Plus, if you are lucky enough to encounter the Yowie or the Thylacine, or if you even come face-to-face with a Megalania and you somehow miraculously live to tell the tale, let me know.