Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review Book Review

Moa Sightings, Volumes 1-3
Bruce Spittle
Paua Press (Dunedin, NZ), 2010
PauaPress.com

Reviewed by Chad Arment (7/28/10)

Given the growing number of cryptozoology books recently published that give brief overviews of regional sightings, it was a surprise to come across a set of books that focuses on one specific cryptid in a relatively small area (New Zealand). I was a little leery of paying for the set, which is not cheap, even though each volume has almost 450 pages in it. After all, how much can you really say about moa sightings? And, I'll admit, the author's website (he set up Paua Press) did not fill me with confidence.

Having received the volumes, my primary question is: Is it better to call this the most important cryptozoology book of the year, or the last decade? Without a doubt, it is the most extensive. The author has packed three volumes with data from historical records, witness interviews, maps, and photos (in full color wherever possible) regarding the possible survival of the supposed extinct moas. He presents the evidence (both pro and con) without pushing his own interpretation, though noting that he favors a staggered extinction model, with the possibility of some late survivors in remote areas.

This set belongs in the library of every serious cryptozoology researcher. Unfortunately, the high cost (NZ$70 + shipping per volume) will probably limit its distribution. The pricing is certainly reasonable, given it is from a small press (probably small print run), and is casebound with jackets, in full color. At the very least, I'd like to see several sets placed in North American and European university libraries for enthusiasts able to access them. I don't know how likely that is to happen, however.

There are some minor quirks with the books (e.g., pagination is a bit odd), but overall it is easy to see that this is a well-presented set that should be an example for every cryptozoology researcher (particularly those of us who publish our own works). I don't know Mr. Spittle's background, so I don't know if he has an interest in other New Zealand cryptids. If so, I would love to see similar volumes on other mystery animals from that region. This sort of work is so much more valuable to cryptozoology than the often opinion-based texts we see too often.

For those who would consider ordering this set, my suggestion would be to look for it on AbeBooks.com, as there is a New Zealand bookseller who carries it, and may offer a better deal on shipping. I ordered my set through him, and received it very quickly.

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