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Waitoreke
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koala
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 4:07 pm    Post subject: Waitoreke Reply with quote

The Waitoreke (or Waitoreki, Waitorete) and/or Kaureke (or Kaurehe) is an otter/beaver-like cryptid alleged to live in New Zealand.

Name
The name "Waitoreke" was said to be "ungrammatical" (and presumably nonsense) by leading Māori anthropologist Sir Peter Buck. Despite this, possible etymologies have been put forward by researchers:

All agree that the "Wai" component is from the Māori word for "water".
Some believe "to reke" translates to "the (bone) spurs", ie. Waitoreke = "water (animal with) the spurs"
Others believe that "toreke/toreki" may be a South Island dialectual variation on "torengi" - which could mean "to disappear". ie Waitoreke = "disappears (into) water".
Others still, believe that "toreke" may be a distortion by the Māori of a foreign (Asian/Arab) name for the animal.
Since European settlement (late 18th century onwards) the animal has also been referred to as the "New Zealand otter", "Māori otter", "New Zealand beaver", "New Zealand muskrat" and "New Zealand platypus" based on various accounts and theories.

Lack of land mammals
The Waitoreke would be most remarkable if it exists, due to the fact that New Zealand is one of the few significant land masses on Earth to have no (known) native land mammals. The South Pacific nation does play host to several native pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) and bat species (genus: Mystacina) but is most notable for its plethora of bird species that seem to have evolved without the restrictions of mammalian predation.

New Zealand's dearth of mammals is a result of its separation from the super-continent of Gondwana approxiamately 8OMYA. While there were presumably mammalian creatures on and around New Zealand before this separation, placental mammals were almost certainly not present, and no land mammal (or mammal-like) fossils have ever been discovered there.

Sightings

"Evidence" for the existence of the Waitoreke is mainly based on sporadic accounts of an "unidentified amphibious animal" in the country's South Island spanning well over 200 years. Some of the more infamous accounts are dubious and/or incongruous - but a significant number of descriptions (particularly from the late 19th century onwards) share a striking similarity to each other AND to species known to exist outside New Zealand.

Some of the most notable early (claimed) accounts come from pre-20th Century explorers/naturalists:

Captain James Cook - Dusky Sound - 1772
Walter Mantell - various - 19th Century
Reverend Richard Taylor - (in his book) New Zealand and It's Inhabitants - 1855
Julius von Haast - various - 19th Century
Later accounts come from a variety of settlers, farmers, trampers, hunters and tourists throughout the 20th century.

Theories on identity
Despite the lack of fossils, and/or confirmed proof in the form of a living specimen, theories on the Waitoreke's identity include:

Monotreme
cynodont
marsupial
placental mammal (via Gondwana)
pinniped
mythical animal
(mistaken) mustelid
(escaped) mongoose
beaver/rodent
otter

Theories on the animal's identity based on zoogeographic conjecture continue today, but most serious cryptozoologist/Waitoreke enthusiasts admit that the most likely scenario for the animal's coming-to-be in New Zealand would be by way of human introduction. Whether this be by ancient Asian seafarers - or by early European settlers - is more debatable.

If the Waitoreke was found to exist, it would have fascinating implications for the way New Zealanders view their natural and/or colonial history. It could severely "shake the mammalian family tree" or even re-write the seafaring history in the South Pacific.

However, not a single piece of physical evidence put forward in over 200 years has conclusively proven the animal is anything more than cryptozoological mystery.
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