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Sonnerat’s Non-Existent Penguins (and Kookaburra) of New Guinea

Posted by: Karl Shuker on May 1st, 2013

Pierre Sonnerat was a famous 18th-Century French explorer and naturalist. As will be revealed here in the following ShukerNature post of mine, however, he was also a blatant hoaxer – confirmed by the curious case of New Guinea’s non-existent penguins, and kookaburra.

Manchot of New Guinea

 “Pierre Sonnerat’s publications include Voyage à la Nouvelle-Guinée (1776), documenting an expedition that he claimed to have made to the Spice Islands (now called the Moluccas) and New Guinea in 1771. From an ornithological standpoint, this publication is particularly intriguing, inasmuch as it reports the presence in New Guinea of no less than three species of penguin as well as the common kookaburra or laughing jackass Dacelo novaeguineae. In reality, however, New Guinea is unequivocally bereft of any penguin species; and whereas three smaller kookaburra species do occur in New Guinea, the common kookaburra is confined to Australia. So how can these extraordinary discrepancies in Sonnerat’s book be explained? The answer is as startling as Sonnerat’s unfounded ornithological allegations…”

Further details can be found here on my ShukerNature blog.

Karl Shuker About Karl Shuker
My name is Dr Karl P.N. Shuker. I am a zoologist (BSc & PhD), media consultant, and the author of 20 books and hundreds of articles, specialising in cryptozoology and animal mythology. I have a BSc (Honours) degree in pure zoology from the University of Leeds (U.K.), and a PhD in zoology and comparative physiology from the University of Birmingham (U.K.). I have acted jointly as consultant and major contributor to three multi-author volumes on cryptozoology and other mysterious phenomena. I am the Life Sciences Consultant to The Guinness Book of Records/Guinness World Records (Guinness: London, 1997-present day), and was consultant to Monsters (Lorenz Books: London, 2001), as well as a contributor to Mysteries of the Deep (Llewellyn: St Paul, 1998), Guinness Amazing Future (Guinness: London, 1999), The Earth (Channel 4 Books: London, 2000), and Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained (Chambers: London, 2007). I appear regularly on television & radio, was a consultant for the Discovery TV series Into the Unknown, and a question setter for the BBC's quiz show Mastermind. I am a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Member of the Society of Authors, and the Cryptozoology Consultant for the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). I have written articles for numerous publications, including Fortean Times, The X Factor, Paranormal Magazine, FATE, Strange Magazine, Prediction, Beyond, Uri Geller's Encounters, Phenomena, Alien Encounters, Wild About Animals, All About Cats, All About Dogs, Cat World, etc. In 2005, I was honoured by the naming of a new species of loriciferan invertebrate after me - Pliciloricus shukeri.


3 Responses to “Sonnerat’s Non-Existent Penguins (and Kookaburra) of New Guinea”

  1. cryptokellie responds:

    Interesting post.
    Trivia note;
    The Kookaburra’s very distinctive call is well known to jungle movie fans.
    Although found only in Australia and New Guinea, the call has been used in multi-continent adventure films since the advent of sound cinema. You Tube “Kookaburra laugh” and a smile will come to your face. The stock sound effect can be heard in many TV shows as well.

  2. Goodfoot responds:

    In Crypto Heaven, Ivan Sanderson is grinning…

    On the “other side”, Ivan will be one of the first I will seek …

  3. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    Nice post. Thanks.



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