KARL SHUKER bids farewell to a crypto-leg­end and solves the mys­tery of a ‘weird’ African bird


Fortean Times - - Alien Zoo -

Dur­ing late Jan­uary 2018, a de­cid­edly odd re­port orig­i­nat­ing in a Ghana­ian on­line news site called Pulse was cir­cu­lated widely through­out the ma­jor so­cial me­dia sites and else­where on­line. It con­cerned a re­port­edly “weird” bird shot dead on 26 Jan­uary 2018 by some youths in the Nige­rian town of Og­bo­mosho, in Oyo State, and then pa­raded through the streets, held by one of the youths high above his head. The re­port, which claimed that this in­ci­dent had “caused con­fu­sion among com­mu­nity mem­bers”, con­tained two colour pho­to­graphs of the dead bird, which for once were ac­tu­ally both in fo­cus and in close-up – a dou­ble rar­ity for cryp­to­zo­o­log­i­cal im­ages! Un­for­tu­nately, they were still of lit­tle use in iden­ti­fy­ing its species be­cause of the bizarre an­gles at which they had been snapped, yield­ing a pair of very large, partly out­stretched black-plumed wings but seem­ingly no legs or head.

In the ac­com­pa­ny­ing text, the bird was de­scribed as “weird” and as “a scary look­ing bird with fea­tures like a vul­ture”, and when I first looked at the pho­tos I did won­der if it was in­deed a species of vul­ture, of which seven ex­ist in this large West African coun­try, but none of them seemed to match the killed bird. If only its head were vis­i­ble.

Brows­ing on­line, I found ad­di­tional re­ports from var­i­ous other West African sources, plus a third pho­to­graph of the bird’s hoisted-aloft car­case, but once again the an­gle at which it had been taken was such that all of the bird’s vi­tal fea­tures for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­poses were ob­scured, and I even be­gan to won­der if its head had been chopped off. How­ever, af­ter choos­ing what ap­peared to be the most de­tailed of the three pho­tos and both en­larg­ing and en­hanc­ing it con­sid­er­ably, I was fi­nally able to dis­cern the head and base of the beak, which re­vealed un­equiv­o­cally that the mys­tery bird was a marabou stork Lep­top­ti­los

cru­menifer. The bare head and neck of this species are cer­tainly su­per­fi­cially vul­turine, which ex­plained why it had been de­scribed as such in the Pulse re­port, and its wing­span can be 7-9ft (2.1-2.7m) across, but what re­mains un­ex­plained is why, at least ac­cord­ing to the var­i­ous re­ports, this bird had caused con­fu­sion (and ap­par­ently even chaos) among the lo­cals and had been deemed weird – bear­ing in mind that the marabou is both a com­mon and a very fa­mil­iar species in Nige­ria and else­where in West Africa. Equally odd is a men­tion in the Pulse re­port of an ear­lier killing of an­other sup­posed mys­tery beast, this time in Sapele, in Nige­ria’s Delta State, yet whose pho­to­graph re­vealed it at once to be a West African mana­tee

Trichechus sene­galen­sis, yet again a very fa­mil­iar species in this re­gion of Africa. Care­less re­port­ing, cun­ning click-bait, or cryp­to­zo­o­log­i­cal fake news? I’ll let you de­cide! www.pulse.com.gh/filla/scary-look­ing­bird-killed-in-og­bo­mosho-id7907902. html?ut­m_­source=face­book&utm_ medium=so­cial&ut­m_­cam­paign=pulseghana_web, 29 Jan 2018; www.akpraise. ng/chaos-in-og­bo­mosho-oyo-state-af­ter-alarge-bird-was-shot-dead-by-some-youths/, 29 Jan 2018.

ABOVE LEFT: The ‘weird’ bird shot dead and pa­raded through the Nige­rian town of Og­bo­mosho. ABOVE RIGHT: The marabou stork; why would a fa­mil­iar Nige­rian bird have caused con­fu­sion?

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