Ethnoknown Means What?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 5th, 2009

Amazing Finds

There appears to be an issue that a couple people wish to bring to the level of a new thread.

The nature of animals being “ethnoknown,” realized and acknowledged by local peoples, is essential to a clear understanding of what is a cryptid. (Please recall, by definition, a “cryptid” may turn out to be a known animal. Sometimes an ethnoknown cryptid that seems to look like a moose is nothing more than a moose.)

Amazing Finds

For some cryptozoologists, such as Chad Arment, being “ethnoknown” is pivotal to their view of cryptozoology.

Arment defined (here in 2007) cryptozoology as “a scientific ethnoknown-targeted methodology for zoological discovery.”

Furthermore, in his steps to achieving this practice, in the methods of the new science, he notes that cryptozoology “targets ethnoknown species. These are alleged animals with enough salience (observable characteristics) to be recognized as something distinctive or unknown, either by a native people group, or chance eyewitnesses. In some cases, a cryptid may be well-known, or may only have been reported a handful of times.”

Amazing Finds

Michel Raynal, looking at the limits of what concerns cryptozoology, touched on the issue of “ethnoknown,” when he wrote that,

As the size is not a criterium to state what is cryptozoological and what is not, Bauer and Russell (1988) have thus suggested an intensive research in what they call “microcryptozoology”, that is to say the search for little unidentified animals, but Dethier and Dethier-Sakamoto (1988) noticed:

“We entirely agree with Bauer and Russell when they point out the importance of searching for small and discrete unknown animals. If they are not ethnoknown, however, they are, of course, outside the scope of cryptozoology.”

This statement, though often true, is not an absolute rule. The definition of cryptozoology by Heuvelmans (1988) is much less restrictive:

“The scientific study of hidden animals, i.e. of still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstancial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some.”

As a consequence, a cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available: any information based on circumstancial evidence, allowing to forsee the existence of an unknown animal form, is relevant to cryptozoology.

Mangabey

Just to round out the cryptozoological use of the word “ethnoknown,” let me quote Darren Naish from his 2006 discussion of the discovery of the the Highland mangabey (Lophocebus kipunji). Observe how Darren used “ethnoknown,” in context:

The story of the Highland mangabey’s discovery is an interesting one. In January 2003 Tim Davenport of the Tanzanian Wildlife Conservation Society ‘heard rumours [from the local Wanyakyusa people of the Mount Rungwe region] about a shy and atypical monkey known as Kipunji’ (Beckman 2005, Jones et al. 2005, p. 1161), and became interesting in tracking down the species that might lay at the bottom of these reports. Meanwhile, another primatologist – Trevor Jones – had been amazed to observe an unusual, unidentifiable monkey in the Tanzanian Ndundulu Forest Reserve, a location about 350 km away from the source of the Kipunji reports.

Mangabey

So, at this stage, we have an ethnoknown primate known only to scientists by way of fleeting observations. This makes the Kipunji a bona fide cryptid, and, to repeat a point I’ve made before (in connection with the Odedi, a cryptic warbler from Bougainville Island), one would be justified in arguing that Davenport, Wood and their colleagues were now engaging in cryptozoological research. By definition these primatologists are therefore part-time cryptozoologists, whether they like it or not.

Borneo Mystery Animal

Like Arment, Raynal, and Naish, I too have employed the word “ethnoknown” (here’s an example from 2005) frequently, in terms of analyzing cases or in the context of the size of cryptids.

Despite all this growing, routine, and widespread use of the word “ethnoknown,” people clearly struggle with where ethnoknown ends and something else begins.

Here are two readers’ comments.

Mystery Man writes:

I’m curious to hear more thoughts on the gap between ethnoknown and confirmed by science. I agree completely that there is a gap there and that the subject is more complicated and deeper than many give it credit for.

There are a a lot of folkloric stories about seemingly fantastical creatures in Japan, yet there are many known, confirmed animals here that are surrounded by equally mythical sounding imagery. It makes me wonder which of these cryptids are fabrications or exaggerations, and which could be possibly based on something really there, especially when you have sightings by people that may not have ever even been aware of the folklore of the creature in question.

Whether it is real or not, one thing in the case of Kenmun is that it is fairly clear is that even in folklore, there is a definite distinction between monkeys and types of Kappa.

DWA replies:

I think we need an “ethnoknown/confirmed by science” thread to hold all we could go into on that.

The saola was known, by people who didn’t bother to document.

[Of course, we must consider that DWA’s definition of the local people “documenting” the saola that he says did not happen seems to exclude “oral tradition” as one form of the documentation, correct? But oral tradition is a “document” to narrative-enculturation among some peoples, as even DWA seems to indicate later – or appears to know in his gut. – Loren]

DWA continues:

They just saw, shot, ate, sold, and knew. And, fortunately, kept a skull or two around for a scientist to eventually find and go, what’s this? Native cultures across North America represent large nonhuman primates in their artwork. At least that’s what scientists said – without exception – in one case when they weren’t told where the art came from; when they were, they went into god-beings, forest nymphs, major deities, etc. The Sherpas – among the world’s great practical jokers, a complicating factor – list their fauna. Let’s see. Mouse hare; snow leopard; musk deer; serow; er, bharal; um, yeti; few wolves; um…let’s see here…red panda, um…couple kinds of mice, I guess…Folks in East Texas or Arkansas towns: “Oh, you talkin’ ’bout the big monkey? Think ever’body here either seen one or know somebody has..”

People tend to “document” things they know that aren’t their stock in trade in their heads. I think many folks are comfortable with what they’ve seen in the woods, and it’s not much to them whether science knows or not. They’re not going to the trouble to enlighten. I think these folks may be many more than the folks who report sightings. It may be that in science-driven, Westernized cultures, we tend to suppress this “documentation,” and make some kinds of it OK, and some not. The Kenmun could be a number of things. But you know what that painting shows me? The way the Japanese treat animals. Period. They paint cranes like that; ducks like that; songbirds like that; monkeys like that…now the apparent difference in faces of the two figures caught me right away. But they represent animals, the ones they know, like THAT.

The floor is open to a discussion of what you think is going on with being “ethnoknown.”

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.


17 Responses to “Ethnoknown Means What?”

  1. mystery_man responds:

    Well, it is interesting that this was brought up to a new thread level. I was just curious because DWA had said that the gap between “ethnoknown” and “confirmed by science” is a bigger rift than most suspect without really explaining more, and so I was curious to know more about exactly what he meant by that.

    I didn’t meant to make a fuss. 🙂 But I suppose this is a good topic for discussion. Sorry for taking things in that direction, Loren. It really just was an innocent question to an unclear statement made but look what came out of it, a possibly good venue for people to get their thoughts out on the matter.

    Nicely done. 🙂

  2. mystery_man responds:

    I will say that I also place a great deal of importance on the “ethnoknown,” and that my research into Japanese cryptids is heavily based on accounts by people who consider the creatures a very real animal (if not yet documented by science yet).

    Many of the animals that could be considered cryptids in Japan (and I suppose anywhere for that matter) are well known in the folklore and traditions of the local people. These animals are often given seemingly mythical traits, just as other documented Japanese animals are. It does nothing to detract from the fact that these people consider the animals in question to be a part of the landscape and a part of their lives. However, some mythical animals are obviously just that, myths. They go far beyond anything that could be a biological creature. Where my interest lies is in where the real animals begin and where the creatures that may really be just myths begin. I want to parse out the truth from the fantastical. Certainly I don’t think that every “yokai,” or Japanese monster must be real because local people say it is. But some of them very well could be.

    That is really the spirit in which I made my comment. This distinction is not always clear cut to me, and can be complicated in the absence of generally accepted confirmation and classification of the creature based on hard evidence. I’m curious for clues as to what really lies behind the stories on some of these creatures, and how I can use those stories to come to some sort of rational conclusion. I want to shed light on what these mystery animals could be and whether they are pure myth or based on some grain of truth.

    I feel I have a fairly good understanding of this term and do not think that I am particularly “confused” about where ethnoknown ends and where “something else” begins. It all begins with the ethnoknown for me, and goes out from there. My question above was a request for more clarity in a statement made to me. I certainly hope it didn’t convey a lack of understanding on the basic definition of “ethnoknown.”

  3. mystery_man responds:

    I’m also very interested in the statement given above that-

    “A cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available. The scientific study of hidden animals, i.e. of still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstancial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some.”

    I would have to agree. Some cryptids I have touched on here, such as the “Yamapikarya” cat of Iriomote island, indeed are not widely ethnoknown. The known Iriomote wildcat wasn’t either when it was discovered in 1967, indeed some residents of the island to this day don’t know about, or even doubt, its existence. However, the sightings (circumstantial evidence) of the mystery cats match up with facts about the ranges and habits of known cats elsewhere that could feasibly be present on Iriomote, and so deserve cryptozoological consideration.

    The same goes for some other animals. Indeed there have been new animal discoveries for creatures that were not known to the locals, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit Nesolagus netschen being one example I can think of off the top of my head.

    This is the kind of thing that adds complication to the matter of “ethnoknown” versus “confirmed by science” that I mentioned.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Mystery Man writes:

    “Some cryptids I have touched on here, such as the ‘Yamapikarya’ cat of Iriomote island, indeed are not widely ethnoknown.”

    Unfortunately, I find a great deal about the above statement of the “hand grenades and horseshoes” variety. Indeed, “close but no cigar” seems significant in making this discussion clearer.

    The extent of something being “ethnoknown” hardly seems relevant if the whole notion is whether it is “ethnoknown” at all, no matter if one person, one family, one village, or an entire cultural enclave has merely had brief sightings or fully incorporated the cryptid into its societal milieu.

    If you “ethnoknew” a cryptid, even a little, it still is ethnoknown. This is much different than the point that Raynal seems to be projecting, which is that cryptozoology can be done without a cryptid actually being seen, and thus without it being even a “little ethnoknown.”

    When Raynal says: “cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available: any information based on circumstancial evidence, allowing to forsee the existence of an unknown animal form, is relevant to cryptozoology,” I read him as saying that non-ethnoknown cryptids are worthy of study.

  5. runwolf responds:

    I’m not sure where the confusion or “mystery” lies. If Cryptozoology is the study of mysterious animals, then there must be a mystery to the animals.

    If I go out in my back yard today and discover a new rabbit species, that’s not cryptozoological.

    If I go out in my back yard today and find a new rabbit species because my four year old daughter tells me she’s been feeding and petting a red and purple rabbit she calls Hoppity-Hop, that’s cryptozoological.

    To make it cryptozoological, something must make it a mystery and that something is almost always (I’ll leave a bit of wiggle room) a story. Someone, somwhere has seen the animal you’re looking for. If that’s ethnoknown, so be it. But without that prior witness interaction, there can be no mystery. No mystery, no Cryptozoology.

    And if Hoppity-Hop (yes, my daughter really names everything twice like that, want pictures of Sheepity-sheep?) turns out to be an unfortunately deformed common rabbit, the search for and identification of this poor creature is still cryptozoological. Just like sea creatures that turn out to be swimming elephants.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, my daughter needs some carrots so she and Sheepity-sheep can go feed Hoppity-Hop some breakfast.

  6. DWA responds:

    First: as to documentation. I think I’ll let my statement stand. Ethnoknown animals aren’t documented, not in a way that has any relevance to the world beyond that immediate culture.

    Documentation, to me, is making it known to the wider world. It is, in fact, a concept that is only really relevant with the global reach of modern science. Is the sasquatch ‘documented”? Is the yeti? I mean, in a sense that matters to us here? I’d say (and all cryptos would, I think) an emphatic “no’ to both. When something is documented it is PROVEN. As in, scientifically. I’ve never heard the word used in any other context than that. (OK, there’s legally too; and its ancillaries.) “Documented” means “known,” not “ethnoknown;” the latter, in effect, says: not documented. Even the Native art representations of sasquatch don’t count, in my book. Is the animal in the guidebooks as a result of that? Nope. Do you see it on PBS? Nope. Do National Geographic, Scientific American, and other reputable journals of science and culture snicker at it? Yup. Do scientists, when told, as in my example up there, precisely where the documentation comes from, acknowledge it? No. They go on and on about the quaint customs of the natives. Only when they DON’T KNOW the provenance of the alleged “documentation” do they say “Oh, that looks like an ape.”

    Does this indicate a cultural prejudice against what could possibly be seen – through the right eyes, with the right mind – as “documentation”? Oh, I would say it does, and I’ve referred to it more than once here. If your culture accepts an animal as real (as the local Sumatran villages do the orang pendek), you might (and they do) get a tad incensed, and with cause, that your word isn’t taken seriously. But like that or not, Science – which now has global reach, and has installed a hefty dose of global cynicism when it comes to cryptids – has spoken. Too bad. And it is, really. I think it’s good that we wait for science to show proof before we accept. I just think that science should be more open to ethnoknowledge than it sometimes seems to be. It can’t be proof as science defines proof. But it is the first step to getting there.

    Now, as to this:

    ——————————————

    When Raynal says: “cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available: any information based on circumstancial evidence, allowing to forsee the existence of an unknown animal form, is relevant to cryptozoology,” I read him as saying that non-ethnoknown cryptids are worthy of study.

    ——————————————-

    That they may be. But If I am a scientist, I would want to see a sufficient volume of internally consistent “circumstantial evidence” before I’d ever advocate a serious scientific effort at documentation. Otherwise, well, I’ll just keep a weather eye out for that non-ethnoknown while I’m on Bigfoot stakeout. And it that means I’m arguing for Chad Arment, then so be it.

    But Heuvelmans works for me too. Anyway, let’s focus on the “ethnoknown” thing (runwolf’s bunny, I would say, isn’t), and define crypto, once and for all, later. 😀

  7. JohnAdams responds:

    When Raynal says: “cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available: any information based on circumstancial evidence, allowing to forsee the existence of an unknown animal form, is relevant to cryptozoology,” I read him as saying that non-ethnoknown cryptids are worthy of study.

    I agree with Raynal on this point and will expand on that in a moment.

    runwolf responds:

    I’m not sure where the confusion or “mystery” lies. If Cryptozoology is the study of mysterious animals, then there must be a mystery to the animals.

    I have always considered cryptozoology as the study of hidden animals. While they may also be mysterious, that isn’t the defining term in my opinion. Going by “hidden”, this doesn’t require them to have ever been seen or reported by anyone. In fact, if they have done a fantastic job of remaining hidden, they likely haven’t ever been seen by anyone.

    Now, it makes sense for scientists to focus their limited resourses seeking out credible ethnoknown animals most of the time. For instance, me setting up a blind in my suburban back yard and living it in for 3 months rolling constant video in search of a red and purple bunny without there ever being any report of such a creature would likely be a fruitless endeavor.

    However, what I feel we also have to take into context with the searches of cryptids and in association the the defining term “hidden” is the environment we are searching in. It would be a very worthwhile cryptozoological study to spend 3 months in a remote forest, or studying ocean depths, or any other highly inaccessible, sparsley habitated or non-inhabitated region in search for new species….even without ethnoknownticity (Not sure if that’s a word, but it works for my point..lol)

    These, after all, would still be hidden animals and thus falling within cryptozoological study in my opinion.

  8. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Ok guys, let me throw in my 2 pesos to the discussion, by formulating a question.

    Craig Venter, the renowned scientist that was directly involved in the early days of the Human Genome Project, embarked a few years ago on his boat—the Sorceress II— to work on the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition, “to help assess genetic diversity in marine microbial communities.” Basically, what he wants to do is acquire enough DNA samples to try to figure out what constitutes most of the unknown marine life forms that populate our oceans.

    So my question is this:

    Should Craig Venter be considered a cryptozoologist?

  9. DWA responds:

    r_p_j_:

    Craig Venter isn’t a cryptozoologist. You can’t be a “renowned scientist” and be a crypto. It’s a rule and I didn’t make it.

    [rimshot]

    But seriously folks.

    He’s a scientist, performing research along generally accepted scientific lines, to try to get a more concrete handle on a proposition nearly every scientist agrees upon: we haven’t got near everything that’s in the oceans.

    If he were gonna sit in a blind waiting to put a bioassay dart in a Bigfoot – OK, bringing it into current context, a submersible, waiting for a Kraken – now we’re talking crypto.

    “Hidden” means to me that science has OVERLOOKED it. And all I can appeal to there is usage. People combing the rainforests of Borneo and Irian Jaya and PNG and the Amazon and the Phillippines the past few years weren’t doing crypto. They were going into places science hadn’t been before, to conduct research into the kinds of animals they EXPECTED to find there, many types of which they had already found in similar habitats elsewhere.

    And here we know about shrew moles and least shrews and every species of mouse and bugs and bugs and bugs galore, and pretty much every animal any bigger – except for an eight-foot bipedal ape. That is being OVERLOOKED.

    THAT is crypto.

    But we still need to define “ethnoknown” here. Hey, now that I have a few shares of blog ownership I feel the need to stay on topic. So sue me! 😀

  10. corrick responds:

    Think this discussion on the term ethnoknown is mostly just an argument over semantics.

    Yes, Chad is correct in that ethnoknown can mean “alleged animals with enough salience (observable characteristics) to be recognized as something distinctive or unknown, either by a native people group, or chance eyewitnesses. In some cases, a cryptid may be well-known, or may only have been reported a handful of times.” But Michel Raynal is also correct in arguing, “a cryptozoological research is still possible when no observation or native tradition is available: any information based on circumstancial evidence, allowing to forsee the existence of an unknown animal form, is relevant to cryptozoology.” I’m assuming Michel is alluding to the well documented mystery of a large orchid in Madacascar who’s fertility cannot be explained by science except by the existence of a very large as yet unknown moth. But do we really need to have a discussion about micro-redefining what is cryptozoology and what isn’t?

    I actually think most readers on the list will agree with me when I write; Cryptozoology is all about animals who’s existence is not accepted by science, the discovery of unexpected new animals or the existence of animals previously declared extinct. Whether it’s just reading about, researching, debunking or even discovering any of those three, that’s cryptozoology to me. And the lumping and splitting of definitions won’t change anything for most of us.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    Loren- Point taken. Perhaps my example of Yamapikarya was a bad one. I’ll try to explain what I meant.

    I think the misunderstanding lies in perhaps different ideas of the criteria for what constitutes “ethnoknown versus “non-ethnoknown.” At what point is a new animal passing into the realm of ethnoknown? I don’t think this is as cut and dried as it was made to sound.

    For instance, there are all sorts of questions that pop into my mind. If even one person seeing the animal makes it ethnoknown, as stated above, then if my neighbor claims he has blue squirrels living in his backyard, does that make it an ethnoknown Japanese animal because he or his family saw it? Does the person seeing the animal even have to be from here? I have lived in Japan for 13 years, does a sighting made by me constitute the animal being ethnoknown?

    Also, how much time has to pass before the creature is considered ethnoknown? If some Japanese hikers see something strange never seen before by anyone, does the strange creature become immediately ethnoknown right then and there? After a year? 10 years?

    This is relevant to the question of what is non-ethnoknown. What if there is a Japanese researcher that goes in to study a remote area near where he is from and spots an undiscovered animal? Is that animal by your definition “a little bit” ethnoknown, whereas if a foreign researcher did it would be classified as “non-ethnoknown”?

    I’m little curious about as to what animals are completely hidden and not known by anything other than circumstantial evidence, meaning I suppose sightings or tracks. The circumstantial evidence must have come from somewhere, otherwise no one would be looking for the creature in question in the first place. So if even finding tracks by locals could be considered “a little ethnoknown,” as well as the sighting of even one local, then doesn’t this mean that the circumstantial evidence stems from “ethnoknown?”

    If the meaning of “non-ethnoknown” here is undiscovered animals out in the middle of nowhere, for which not a single person of the country has seen or found any tracks of, then I suppose as DWA said, that animal was likely found by scientists out studying something else unrelated. Otherwise why would anyone be out there looking for something at all? People need something to go on in order to go through the time and expense of these excursions. If they were in the middle of nowhere looking specifically for a hidden animal, where did they get circumstantial evidence that is not even a “little bit” ethnoknown?

    So I think the interpretation of what Raynal said has a lot to do with what criteria one holds the definitions of ethnoknown and non-ethnoknown to.

  12. PhotoExpert responds:

    Leave it to mystery_man and DWA to ask the most thought provoking questions.

    This is a very relevant point. I say this because the term does come up in posts here, quite frequently. I think it is an important distinction that Loren has clarified rather thoroughly.

    I appreciate the the clarification by Loren and appreciate the questions posed by mystery_man and DWA. Oh, mystery_man, I left you a reply and detailed explanation in that Dr. Eugenie Scott thread. If you get a chance to read it, that will explain my perceived absence. LOL

    Thank You Gentlemen!

  13. DWA responds:

    corrick:

    “Think this discussion on the term ethnoknown is mostly just an argument over semantics.”

    Well, maybe true. But maybe not “just.”

    One thing crypto – however one defines it – has to do is jack up its cred with the hard sciences. I mean, this is essential, because I don’t think amateurs are gonna confirm cryptids. You have to get science interested; science has both the authority and responsibility for the proof.

    The thing under discussion here – what constitutes ethnoknown – is an argument about channeling search resources, I think. I’d argue that you want to channel them toward animals for which the information you have shows both frequency and coherence; there’s a lot of it, and the picture it paints is a consistent picture that seems to point to an animal. Yeti? Check. Sasquatch? Check. Lake monsters? Well, I’d like to see more coherence there, even if the frequency numbers might say go. That’s why I spend most of my time here on the yeti and the sas; frequency and coherence. They sound to me like they could be real critters.

    Luck can give you a big lead without all the data. I believe that in the case of the saola, a zoologist with mainstream cred, on a mainstream search, found a skull fragment in a village with horns attached, the latter identifiable to no known animal. This trumps a LOT of stories. If no one had ever reported a sasquatch, anywhere, I bet a skull found in the backcountry would pique attention anyway.

    So we need to talk about how to structure our search, how to get the info together and decide: here’s a lead; here’s wishful thinking. To me, “ethnoknown” suggests a large body of information, of whatever kind (forensic evidence; consistent accounts from people who haven’t compared stories with one another beforehand; frequent accounts providing what looks like a potential species profile; etc.)

    I can go with your definition of crypto; it’s as good as any I’ve read here. But when we go to science and say, here’s an ethnoknown critter, it would be good for all of us to be meaning the same thing. Science is big on defining terms, and on consistency.

  14. mystery_man responds:

    Photoexpert- Saw your post. Thank you for your kind words. It is good to see that you are still lurking around here. Hope you get more time to comment.

    I suppose one of the main questions I’m posing here is in Raynal’s statement, what exactly constitutes non-ethnoknown circumstantial evidence, and at what point does that become ethnoknown circumstantial evidence? I don’t feel this is clearly defined.

    For instance, does he mean something along the lines of evidence found in remote areas by people outside of the country who come across some evidence or sightings for an animal which nationals of the country have never heard of or found any sign of? If this is the case, then what if this same evidence was stumbled upon by someone from that country? If we say that the very bare minimum for something to be defined as “ethnoknown” is that at least one person from the country has seen it, then automatically this must then be considered an ethnoknown animal if it’s evidence is found by a national. By this definition, the evidence would be of a non-ethnoknown creature only if found by a foreigner. So for example a team of Japanese scientists or even a fisherman sighting or coming across evidence for a never before seen sea monster in Japanese waters would make the creature immediately ethnoknown, yet it would be non-ethnoknown if the person in question was, say, American in the same location?

    It can become even more complicated. If for instance a Japanese person sees evidence found by Americans in Japan that no Japanese know anything about up to then, does the circumstantial evidence at that instant go from non-ethnoknown to ethnoknown simply by them seeing it? Would this be the case even if they just watched it on TV or read about it on a website? In Corrick’s example above about the moth, how can you be sure that not a single person from that country has ever even glimpsed that moth? This all ends up just becoming a nitpick on who is actually finding or seeing the evidence, and that Raynal allowing for creatures based on non-ethnoknown evidence to be allowable by cryptozoology becomes really an argument over semantics.

    How do you define “searching for cryptids based on non-ethnoknown circumstantial evidence” versus doing so on ethnoknown evidence of the same kind when the lines between the two can be so tenuous?

    Is the difference really just as simple as one person from a given country seeing or even hearing about the creature present there or is there something more?

    Maybe I’m thinking way too much about this one. But the statements by Raynal and the definitions here seem to me to be open to some interpretation based on the point at which one actually considers an animal to be truly ethnoknown in that country. Perhaps there needs to be more of a clarification or concrete parameters made on just what is required for a creature to be classified as ethnoknown.

    I think based on the definitions already made, it could be argued that if only one person is needed for “ethnoknowness,” then a great deal of the evidence Heuvelmans talks of when he says “still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstancial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some,” would likely be ethnoknown evidence to some degree.

    These are just some random thoughts on an interesting topic. 🙂

  15. red_pill_junkie responds:

    IMHO ‘ethnoknown’ means that the alleged creature has made an evident impact in the local culture—i.e. there’s oral tradition regarding the creature, it’s part of their religious belief system, etc.

    Other than that, the argument becomes pretty complicated. Like m_m says: how many people does it take to make the cryptid ‘ethnoknown’? To me it’s about culture, not about numbers.

    Of course, there’s a flaw in my argument: the Montauk Monster had a definite impact in the American pop culture. Should it be considered a bonafide cryptid? Some people would agree, but others wouldn’t.

    Maybe the passage of time is the adequate test for any of these mysteries. 10 years from now I doubt the Mountak Monster will be remembered outside the circles of cryptozoology, but I’m willing to bet my money that 50 years from now many people will be still talking about Nessie and Bigfoot.

  16. BeastInTheLake responds:

    Perhaps I should stay out of this, not being a biologist – but for what it’s worth, I am with Raynal and Heuvelmanns on this. That is to say, I agree that it is only cryptozoology, if there is some prior indication to an animal’s existence, but that this must not necessarily be ethnoknowledge. The Arment-definition not only leads to the kind of absurd results, envisaged by mystery_man, but also excludes such cases as the thylacine – an animal which is known to science, but considered extinct. Of course collecting local stories and eye witness reports is an important piece of cryptozoological methodology, but making it the defining point of the whole field seems unwarranted.

    In all fairness, Arment, as quoted by Loren, apparently doesn’t mean the definition as narrowly as it might sound like – after all, he recognizes ‘chance eyewitnesses’ equally with native people. But that makes the word ‘ethnoknown’, which sounds like folklore and ancient myths, all the more unfortunate.

  17. mystery_man responds:

    Bunnieslair- I don’t think you have to be a biologist to talk about this stuff. 🙂 Anyway, I agree. I tend to go with the Heuvelmans’ definition too. Evidence is evidence, and there doesn’t seem to be much urgent need to micro define it cryptozoology along these lines. I’m glad you noticed my attempts to illustrate some of the absurdities that can possibly stem from trying to do so.

    For me, it’s all about the evidence, whether that is by a local, or by a fisherman out in the middle of international waters. Heuvelmans’ definition is simple and works on its own without considering what is “ethnoknown” or not. Evidence should be considered on its own merit. If I was out studying a “lost world” where no humans had been before, and found evidence of a new animal by accident, that to me is still cryptozoology if I make an effort to get to the bottom of what I found. If it is evidence of some kind, it doesn’t seem to really matter if it is ethnoknown or not. Other scientists reviewing my findings are certainly not going to be hung up on whether the evidence I present is considered ethnoknown or not by some vague definition.

    As I said before, I’m not sure, though, that folklore or myth should be written off. It can be intrinsically tied to real animals, as I mentioned with Japan above. However, whether that is considered “ethnoknown” or not, it is all just more circumstantial evidence to me. However, if we must place importance on what is “ethnoknown,” and use these terms, then in this case I could say that “ethnoknown” evidence in the form of stories or folklore is very important to me.




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