Tuesday, 27 August 2013

ShukerNature Himalayan Mystery

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Nepal's limbless crocodile dragon (William M. Rebsamen)

As comprehensively documented in my latest book, Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), crocodilian mystery beasts come in all shapes and sizes and are of worldwide distribution. Yet few, surely, can be stranger than the giant limbless version reported from southern Asia as recently as 1980.

That was when Reverend Resham Poudal, an Indian missionary, was leading an entourage through a Himalayan jungle valley in Nepal. They came upon what seemed at first sight to be an enormous log, greenish-brown in colour, lying on the ground across their planned path – and then the 'log' moved! To the great alarm of everyone present, it proved to be a huge limbless reptile, whose scaly serpentine form blended in so well with the surrounding vegetation that when stationary, it did indeed look exactly like a log or fallen tree trunk.

Its eyewitnesses estimated the creature's total body length to be at least 42 ft, and approximately 6.5 ft in circumference, but most shocking of all were its jaws. For whereas those of true snakes, even massive ones, are relatively short in relation to their body, this mystery reptile's were extremely long, greatly resembling a crocodile's jaws. And although they were motionless, they were fully open, yielding a gape wide enough for a 6.5-ft-tall human to stand inside!

As I learnt from veteran cryptozoological explorer Bill Gibbons, who has also written about this bizarre cryptid, the entourage's native Nepalese members informed the Reverend that they considered these 'crocodile-snakes' to be dragons, but stated that they were only very occasionally encountered - and even when one was met with, it rarely moved. Instead, it would simply lie impassively with its monstrous jaws agape and wait for unsuspecting prey, usually water buffaloes, to approach, not seeing its enormous yet perfectly camouflaged form until it was too late. For as soon as a buffalo walked within range, the dragon's open jaws would seize it, and from those immensely powerful killing implements, brimming with sharp teeth, there would be no escape. In addition, the natives claimed that its eyes glowed like luminescent lamps at night (a feature also reported for anacondas and other very large snakes), which helped to lure prey.

But if such a remarkable creature as this truly exists, what could it be? Possibly an immense species of snake with unusually large jaws, or perhaps a gigantic legless lizard? Might it even be a unique limbless species of terrestrial crocodilian, highly specialised for this cryptic, motionless lifestyle? Whatever it is, it certainly does not match the appearance of any reptile currently known to science.

This ShukerNature blog post is excerpted from my newly-published book Mirabilis:A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (Anomalist Books: New York, 2013), which is available as a hard-copy paperback book and also as a Kindle e-book.

 This may not be transparently obvious to everybody but the creature that is described here is really the same thing as the Buru, the Buru being a creature that is alternately described as having four limbs like a crocodile but also as being limbless like a sepent. The size as reported here is comparable to the clearly identical Bu-Rin of Burma, said to be 50 feet long and limbless (but also seen swimming in the water only and so the legs could be missed. In this case the creature was well-camouflaged and hard to discern from the vegetation, well covered by vegetation as well, so the legs could conceivably be missed.
The story of "we thought it was a log until it moved and then we saw it was a big snake" is a popular legend found in many places, including several different parts of Indonesia and including also many parts of Latin America. Of course selecting only one telling of the legend as a report is analogous to singling out one report of The Phantom Hitchhiker and treating the story as a real event unrelated to the dozens of other other near-identical retellings of the same story.
Personally I think estimations of lengths up to 50 feet or more are only exaggerations. Heuvelmans allows a length of up to 25 feet for this species and this blog has had an ongoing disputation over that point. The more exaggerated accounts allege that such creatures (called Nyans) can eat whole elephants and so the stories of buffalos marching into its open jaws are right in line with that. (The bestiary dragons which attack elephants come out of this legend) The legends of larger creatures undoubtedly originate in sightings of wakes-in-the-water and an early publication of the reports notes a distinct resemblance to Scandinavian sea-serpent reports. Because of this there is at least the sound suggestion that some of the reports are actually referring to giant eels instead.  All of this has also been mentioned on this blog before.

The Buru of Assam as illustrated by Neave Parker of the British Museum (Natural History)

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