When it comes to the weird and wonderful, the animal kingdom is certainly full of strange species. After all, we have rats that have wings (bats), fish with legs (axolotls), even gigantic birds that can’t fly (ostriches).

But did you know that there is an investigative field dedicated to finding what can be termed as animals that are the stuff of legend or folklore? Its name is Cryptozoology.

Crypto what?

Cryptozoology, according to Wikipedia, is a field of study that started with the works of Bernard Huevelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson, who believed in the existence of animals described by folklore or legends but had not been properly catalogued by science. They even had a name for such animals so that they wouldn’t just be termed as “monsters”: cryptids. So, it can be said that cryptozoologists aren’t exactly scientists, but they probably do look for cryptids in the name of scientific awareness.

Magical creatures like unicorns, however, are not necessarily cryptids because of their magical abilities. Still, it can be argued that a unicorn-like creature that isn’t the rhinoceros but is horse-or goat-like with a horn on its head might have existed, according to a 2015 Skeptoid article by Ryan Haupt.

In other words, a cryptid must be an animal with a biological base: DNA.

Philippine cryptids

Our country has many tales of strange and mysterious animals. For the sake of narrowing down the criteria, we present those which have little or no magic in their narratives. The following are taken from the Aswang Project – specifically, Jordan Clark’s 2016 article on Philippine Cryptids.

Amomongo

(Photo: fandom.com)

A primate-like cryptid (or a variation on the bigfoot), this supposedly man-sized ape is found in the Western Visayas. It has long claws, or nails, and supposedly attacked isolated village.

Kulariut

(Photo from Creatures of Darkness Philippines/Facebook)

With big eyes and black fur, this bearded animal – also a primate-like cryptid – likes observing people. They are supposedly natives of Pampanga.

Manangilaw

(Photo from aswangproject.com)

Very close in appearance to the Bigfoot, they seem to frequent covers in the mountains of Bicol. There are others like the manangilaw, such as the Onglo found in the Eastern Visayas and the Pongo in Bicol.

Mantahungal

(Photo from cryptidarchives.fandom.com)

This of this one as a cow on steroids – complete with nasty teeth.

Pseudo-science quackery?

One serious stumbling block for cryptozoology followers that there are no standards for how to go about investigating and qualifying cryptids – in other words, there is no scientific process that applies to the whole field.

Worse, many people who do call themselves cryptozoologists do not have training in scientific fields that coule be related to cryptozoology – and this makes them susceptible to believing in hoaxes or improperly vetted data.

The greatest cryptid hits

Some cryptids did turn out to be real animals, according to a 2010 article by Ker Than for Live Science. These are the times when cryptozoology can point out that while there is no set scientific process or system to their field, they can still come up with scientific discoveries.

Giant Squid

In the past, the idea of an oversized squid would have been hard to believe, but recent studies find that some squids that are considered “giant squids” do reach up to 40 feet in length – with colossal squids winning over them at around 46 feet in length.

Okapi

The okapi looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra. It’s related to giraffes. It has striped legs like on a zebra, but the face is pretty much like its long-necked cousins. The species was not discovered until 1901, though people who lives in the Congo rainforest have always known about their existence.

The big mysteries

There are many mysterious creatures waiting to be discovered – or, in some cases, to be rediscovered. Here are some of the top cryptids that we must confirm, according to a 2020 article on Gaia.com.

Megalodons

Megalodons are like great white sharks – except they’re probably twice as large. They fall under the kind of cryptids that may be part of a small population of an older species. In this case, these super-big sharks might be living in the depths of the ocean.

Bigfoot

The bigfoot is the poster boy for cryptids, with variants appearing across the globe and even here in the Philippnes. Some believe them to be like humans, except that they branched off earlier than we did from our primate ancestors. Whatever the case may be, the idea of a lost tribe of not-exactly-human beings makes the bigfoot one of the more intriguing cases.

Lake monsters

The Loch Ness monster is but one of quite a few reported lake monsters. Many feel that these lake monsters may be dinosaurs they have survived until now, probably plesiosaur types.

Consider the possibilities

Cryptozoology really is an interesting field of study. However, it still has a long way to go to be accepted by the scientific community.

Still, there’s nothing like the thrill of tracking stange animals. If Cryptozoology is your cup of tea, make sure that you apply as much science as possible. You never know.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November-December 2020 issue.

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