27 April 2009, JellyBean @ 2:13 pm

New Zealand has always been slightly mysterious to the rest of the world – I mean a country with a fluffy bird (Kiwi) must have a whole lot more weirdness! But just like the rest of the world, there are strange things which crop up every so often: big cats, `extinct’ songbirds, moa, native otters.

Here is an article recently published in the Sunday Star Times about some of the weirdness you can hunt for if you ever venture down to New Zealand:

moaIt was a dark and stormy night.

OK, says Vicki Hyde, president of the New Zealand Skeptics, so it wasn’t stormy. But it was dark.

And there was something out there. Big, black, bulky. Just sitting there, watching.

“We stared. It stared back.”

She threw a shoe. It didn’t move. “Too big for an ordinary cat. Too still for a dog. Too quiet for a possum.”

A quick dash inside and the outside lights went on to reveal: an upended bucket.

“Did we feel silly? You bet.”

It can happen to anyone, says Hyde. Mistaken identification leads to incorrect assumptions and misperceptions, she writes in her new book Oddzone.

“It doesn’t mean you’re foolish or stupid or insane. Just human.”

And humans love a good mystery. Is there a yeti in the Himalayas? A Nessie in the Loch? A moose in Fiordland?

The hunt for a remnant population of moose liberated in New Zealand bush in the early 1900s is more than three decades old. So is the search for the South Island kokako, last reliably sighted in the 1950s and 60s. Student filmmakers recently went on the trail of a mysterious black cat in Canterbury. And now moa are back in the headlines, with news that next month, an Australian researcher will cross the ditch to find a colony of the giant birds in Te Urewera.

Who are these people who devote lifetimes to the hunt for the unknown?

Ken Tustin, 62, has amassed around 600 nights in the Fiordland bush trying to prove the existence of moose. The closest he has come is the collection of stray hairs, DNA-tested by scientists in Canada, who say his theory is almost certainly correct.

Read the entire article at stuff.co.nz

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