Were the Wild Things Were

Posted by on October 16th, 2009

The story of a faraway island still inhabited by legendary creatures has been a captivating idea since before Homer wrote down the Odyssey. Recent incarnations include the works of Jules Verne and stories like King Kong, Jurassic Park and recently Where the Wild Things Are.

When we think of fascinating creatures we tend to put them into two categories, those that came before recorded history and those that came after and are mostly still around. While we can comprehend recent extinction and acknowledge that our caveman ancestors dealt with beasts that are no longer around, we tend to think of things having been the status quo since we started writing stuff down – with the exception of a dodo bird or two.

The truth is a little bit weirder. A number of fantastical creatures continued on well into recorded history and only vanished quite recently. Oddly enough, many of these creatures survived on remote islands (this isolation might explain why they survived as long as they did).

Here’s a list of amazing beasts that survived in remote places well into historical and almost modern times. Some are sure things, others are a little far-fetched. All are just as plausible as another.

The last Wooly Mammoth died on Wrangel Island (Near Russia) probably around 1,700 BCE – close to the reign of Ramesses the Great and over 1,000 years after the Sphinx was built.

The Elephant Bird was a giant bird (a ratite to be precise) native to Madagascar that went extinct in the 1600’s. At 10 feet tall and close to 1,000 pounds in weight, this was no dainty emu. Given what we now know about dinosaurs and their relation to birds, this is one scary creature.

Megalania was a giant monitor lizard that may have survived into historic times. At 26 feet long and 4,000 lb in weight, it’d be the closest you’d come to seeing something that looked like a classical depiction of a dinosaur. Some cryptozoologists claim recent sighting as evidence that that there may be populations still alive in New Guinea and Australia.

The Giant Hutia was a large rodent that got as large as 440 lb – as big as an American Black Bear. Indigenous to the West Indies it may have been hunted to extinction by aboriginal humans but some may have lived into historic times. One smaller species may have survived as late as when the Spanish explored the Caribbean.

Homo floresiensis – “The Flores Man” or “Hobbit” was a possible distinct humanoid species that is believed to have died out 12,000 years ago. However local folklore about creatures called “Ebu Gogo” that match the description of these creatures suggests that they may have existed as recently as the late 19th century.

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