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ARFRA Triennial AGM 2016

Posted by ARFRA on June 20, 2016 at 7:55 AM

ARFRA Triennial AGM


16th July 2016, St George’s Anglican Church Hall, Monbulk




10.30am Hall Open


11.00am Annual General Meeting


12.00pm Lunch


1.00pm to 3.00pm Guest Speakers


Guest Speakers


ARFRA are pleased to announce the following guest speakers;


· Dr Jeff Yugovic


· Dr Bob Paddle


· Neil Waters


As this is a Triennial AGM, this year there will be elections for the ARFRA Committee. Nominations are now open. If you would like to nominate someone, or be nominated, please let us know.




More details of AGM are included in the Newsletter,


Posted by ARFRA on November 22, 2015 at 5:55 AM
ARFRA XMAS GATHERING We hope to see you on Saturday December 12th at Shedquarters From 11am for BBQ Lunch (around 12pm) BYO Meat and Drinks, and Salad or Dessert to share. Bread and Sauces will be provided. Come and catch up with members, share your stories, and enjoy good food and company.


Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on August 19, 2013 at 3:15 AM


‘The field has a bit of an image problem,’ says Dr. Darren Naish in his Tetrapod Zoology blog. ‘Frankly, this isn’t much of a surprise when you look at the busy efforts of the various creationists, true believers and cranks who express interest in the subject. … I still maintain that cryptozoology cannot and should not be considered a pseudoscience.”

Naish finds ‘no contradiction whatsoever’ between the skeptical hypothesis-testing of ‘proper’ science and similar careful analysis of cryptozoological data. He differentiates, however, between different approaches:

‘The zoology-based cryptozoologist looks at the mystery animals being investigated by the folklore-based cryptozoologist, and thinks that they are highly unlikely to exist as real animals.

‘The folklore-based cryptozoologist looks at the often rather mundane animals being investigated by the zoology-based cryptozoologist and thinks that the creatures concerned are so ordinary that they’re probably nothing to do with cryptozoology.

‘The dedicated cryptozoologist – who combines investigation of both of these fields – is interested in both areas, and finds both real animals, and entities that exist only in folklore, of equal research interest.’

ARFRA certainly had a mix of these in its early history, but moved quickly and steadily to a strong focus on the mass of evidence leading towards identification of big cats and thylacines.

Sightings of other cryptids are just as interesting, and kept in our database; but they produce insufficient evidence to allow the same testing of probability that our thousands of ‘panther’ and ‘Tiger’ sightings do.

‘Proof’ of their identity awaits the production of a body. Meanwhile, we work to increase, evaluate, assemble and interpret the evidence gained from both eye-witness accounts, and follow-up field investigations. These are not folklore!

Our large predators appear to match an ‘extinct’ species in need of preservation, and others a distinct threat to farm stock. As these contradictions place Government between a rock and a hard place, it is convenient for them to subscribe to the common assumptions of ‘folklore’ and ‘non-existence’. Our offered evidence was not included in last year’s government report.

However, scientific verdicts of panther and puma ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ also exist.


The camera has been out in some bushland areas around Pakenham Upper, and some unusual scratchings and markings on a neighbouring property have prompted us to look at this location early next week(01/07/2013).

So far, we have picked up images of Rabbit, fox, dog, woodland birds, and wombats and will keep you posted of other animal activities as they come to hand.

Phil Burrell

Philip and I had just returned from two weeks holiday visiting the Flinders Ranges, returning home via the South East of SA and then along the Great Ocean Road. Philip correctly identified tracks and traces beside the boardwalk at the Twelve Apostles, as those of the Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus ).

Helen Burrell

(If you have a camera set up, can you please let me know of it, and its general location? Research Coordinator)

Hi, all.

Just a note to tell you we're back home again - got in on June 13 and have slept every chance we've had ever since, especially Hartley who has picked up a bad cold and laryngitis. It was a fabulous trip with masses of great scenery and glimpses of fauna such as elk, reindeer, bison and one bear in the wild and lots in a zoo. In one free range area our bus drove through there were maybe 60 black bears ranging in colour from honey to black, lumbering about.

The trip home was much better sleep-wise than on the way over. After giving us a meal shortly after we got on the plane and giving us a bag of snacks each, the hostesses and stewards kept the lights off and didn't keep interrupting us every couple of hours with more snacks.

However, we couldn't work out why they had us going home via Auckland - Then, about half an hour before we were to arrive there, the Captain made an announcement that the weather was so bad and visibility so poor at Tullamarine that we had to detour to Auckland to refuel. . The detour and refuelling put about an extra 2 hours 15 minutes onto the trip.

Meryl and Hartley


In the interests of improving communica-tion within ARFRA we have set up the "Australian Rare Fauna Research Association" Facebook group.

This can be found by searching our name, quoted above, on Facebook. Once you find the group, hit the join button.

It's a closed group, so the public can see it exists, and see who belongs to it, but can't see the posts within the group.

The posts in the group will come up on your Facebook wall, with group members comments, for you to respond too.

To post to the group, find the group on your groups tab, go into it, and make your post.

Membership to the Facebook group is open to all members, but your request to join the group must be approved by another group member, so it won't be instant.

If you’re on Facebook, and have trouble joining the group, track Gordon down. He is on Facebook too.

Hope to see you online soon.



From the Tolmie Pub




I’m sorry, but chickens do not cross roads. It is true that Peter Chapple was once investigated by a passing police car while standing on a road with a chook in his arms at 1 a.m., and could not account for its presence, but the chicken did not cross the road.

In fact, it was quite unable to cross the road, as evolution appears to have weakened the musculature of chooks in captivity. The driver, a member of ARFRA, claims to have seen a passing truck loaded with chickens not long before this encounter, but was unable to examine it for damage and cannot account for the bird’s escape.

In spite of its thousands of reports of big cats and thylacines (often crossing roads), and extensive records of other animals sighted during night drives, ARFRA’S database contains not a single sighting of a chicken crossing a road.

The driver also claims that the chook travelled home in the car on Chapple’s knee, while Chapple claimed that the bird was tenderly cared for but found dead in the morning. What

possessed him (if this encounter was genuine) to dispose of the body without DNA testing, I cannot understand; but this is typical of the carelessness and stupidity of amateur zoologists.

Palaeontologists have found no trace of chickens in mainland Australian archaeological sites, and they have never been proved to exist in the bush at any time before or after settlement.

All chickens are kept in captivity as they have been since first imported. There are no records known to me of chicken escapes, therefore all the stories you have heard of chickens crossing roads must be folklore; or just possibly, misidentification of cockatoos or magpies.

Even this chicken (if this report can be considered reliable without witness evaluation), was not crossing the road, but stumbling and flopping on the edge of the bitumen. However ‘convinced’ the two were that they had picked up a chook, and no matter how plausible their account, this does not constitute ‘proof’’.

Moreover, the ARFRA database contains no plaster casts that can be definitively identified as Chicken.

Although the report assumes that it was a chicken that was picked up from the bitumen, it is always possible that the bird was in fact a misidentified native species. If the bird’s staggers were due to injury, what was taken to be a red cockscomb may well have been a blood-stained cockatoo crest.

As chickens are known not to cross roads, this bird is more likely to have been the aberrant result of a remote hybridisation with a Red-tailed Black cockatoo.

Finally, as this account was obtained from the driver, who is noted for her observations of potholes while passengers are counting animals, and the hour was late, it is not unreasonable to assume that the entire ‘experience’ may have been dreamed during a roadside nap.

What they were really up to when the police accosted them cannot be known. Their assertion of animal rescue may well have been a cover-up for more doubtful activities.

As everybody knows that ‘eyewitness evidence’ has been proved untrustworthy by expert psychologists, the possibility must be considered that the aforesaid Chapple was merely flapping a feather duster. And then too…

they were only a few minutes from the nearest pub. The End.


(Very Anonymous Expert)


President's Report 2013

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on August 19, 2013 at 3:10 AM


Welcome to new members


This vital meeting comes at a time of decreasing activity. Numbers have declined largely due to the absence of a totally dedicated research leader and publicist such as Peter Chapple was in his lifetime. Field research has suffered as a result, also a degree of isolation due to our scattered membership. Longstanding members of the team are much less active due to the weight of years, illness and family responsibilities. What we need, or order to resume our respected career of useful research is a team willing to participate in all the work of a team: continuing field research, background research, administrative tasks, and communication.

While still actively seeking not only the DNA evidence that alone is acceptable to Science and Government, we also expand patterns of evidence that only the hard-core sceptic attempts to refute. We owe a debt to thousands of people who have contributed to our database.

We define ourselves as a scientific research group, also concerned with strategic wildlife management although non-partisan and non-activist. For this purpose our stated aims are to ‘Set up liaison and mutual assistance with relevant government and professional organisations concerned with biodiversity’. ‘To research and assist in managing uncommon, rare and endangered species of animals and plants in the Australasian region.’ Decline in the networking we used to do is also due to some pretty serious misunderstandings of our intentions. From time to time members have left, discouraged, or to pursue their own individual interests. But with continuing enthusiasm our loyal members maintain their activities.

Some of our collected evidence was accepted years ago at a meeting at the Taronga Park Zoo as indicating an identification of Puma, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, but we were then told to leave it to the experts, and ignored. Several members left, discouraged. Earlier, a review of a Deakin University study came to a similar conclusion regarding the identity of black leopard sightings in the Winchelsea area, beyond reasonable doubt. Both of these conclusions were ignored in last year’s government report, as was our offer of access to our records.

However, our focus must change to suit circumstances. Our main focus has become thylacine evidence. Field research can mean fun and excitement. But the reliable recording of it is more humdrum, unless you have a personal target. Yet it is the collected evidence, the patterns of activity that support our hypotheses, that lead us to convictions ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Without this, the protection of habitat for the probable thylacine loses priority. With the amplification of big cat evidence, the protection of farm stock becomes more important, and a predator competing with our ‘incredible survivor’ should perhaps be acknowledge and hunted.

Nobody hates the word ‘filing’ more than I do! But without it the maintenance and preservation of the biggest collection of valuable evidence in the country will be endangered, and patterns of evidence lost. I have long advocated area coordinators to take responsibility for organising field work, recording, networking and admin in particular areas, while maintaining the confidentiality and precautions laid out in our Code of Ethics.

The more people willing to put their names to a particular job, the more efficient our work will be, and the less any individual will be overburdened. One thing is certain: I’m off admin. From today I will focus entirely on book-related work, and I need the support of every gift of time or talent that every one of you can offer for that purpose.

Dorothy Williams (President)

Australian Rare Fauna Research Association Inc.



As Research Coordinator I can only bring you a challenge. The big question is: Can we still carry out team research of real value? in addition to the humdrum administration jobs necessary for communication and incorporation?

What is our research task? Our stated objectives are to:

Ÿ Compile, collect and analyse data to assess the status of the species under review.

Ÿ Carry out fieldwork and document its results.

Ÿ Educate members in wildlife research and management techniques.

Ÿ Devise conservation strategies.

As this was quickly recognised as an impossible task for one person, ARFRA has always existed to gather together a team able to carry out different parts of it.


How do we carry out these tasks?

Ÿ Collecting sighting and other reports, preferably through interview, and evaluation of witness reliability.

Ÿ Recording reports chronologically for the Yearbook; completing report forms for area files.

Ÿ Gathering and diagramming various statistics from reports.

Ÿ Multilevel mapping of all such occurrences.

Ÿ Field work: following up sightings by searching for supportive evidence e.g. prints, scats, scratchings and predation.

Ÿ Listening posts: visiting ‘hot spots’, or recording nightly if living on or regularly visiting a wild life corridor.

Ÿ Careful, sceptical evaluation of such evidence.

Ÿ Determining direction of movement in a particular area.

No single one of these tasks will ever be considered ‘proof of existence’ of any specific species. The Committee’s new recommendation is that Shedquarters be open on the first Saturday of every month for work on the database.



To form and test hypotheses about species – both positively and negatively – with sufficient evidence to outweigh all reasonable doubts. Statistically, the sheer number of reports firmly identifying animals as ‘panthers’ and ‘thylacines’, together with the acceptance of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ status for each of Puma and Panther, in addition to DNA indicating a panther-sized version of the domestic cat, makes it highly improbable that no such animals exist. Our job then is to build evidence to the point where either the thylacine too is accepted beyond reasonable doubt, or an alternative identification is established. Also, to maintain and preserve our valuable database.



1st Saturdays, monthly, for work on the database. Quarterly meetings for educational events, socialisation, and inescapable formal stuff.

Field trips to explain and explore your area, as arranged. Constant communication from your area to the Research Coordinator.



Monbulk, monthly. Your own home and/or area. Otherwise as arranged or offered.



Everybody, of course! (leaving me to focus on researching The Book and coordinating your contributions.)


Please be aware that if there is no ongoing research to coordinate, our only job is to prepare the database for storage.

Dorothy Williams (Research Coordinator)


President's Report AGM July 2012

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on August 8, 2012 at 2:30 AM


Australian Rare Fauna Research Association Inc.

Annual General Meeting 29th July 2012

The last year has been a very quiet one, with several members limited in active participation by health problems and commitments to family and work. Although field work no longer has the priority that was formerly possible, and we have lacked the publicity of the past, sighting reports continue to come in, public interest is sustained, membership is stable, and research notebooks and report forms continue to proliferate among our faithful, longstanding members.

Administration has been somewhat scrappy, but in accordance with our constitution jobs have been redistributed within the committee, different aspects of secretarial duties now being shared through delegation by secretary Helen Burrell to Phil Burrell, Gordon Williams, Rosemary Chapple and Sonya Dobson, a welcome example of good teamwork. Our triennial committee election is due to take place in 2013.

We were pleased to welcome back from residence in Queensland Jan McDonald, whose very long association with ARFRA has been recognised by Honorary Membership. We also retain connections with members who are no longer able to attend in person. As our former Research Coordinator, Andrew Robinson, has in his turn removed to Queensland, I have now offered for that position in order to complete our long-planned work of publishing the results of our research.

This is now being assembled in a form which we hope will have an appeal to the general reader in addition to taking a professional approach to our evidence. Its basis relies on Peter Chapple’s interrupted drafts, updated and complemented by the work of other members, present and past. In the meantime other comparative work has been published elsewhere and we have been in touch with two more authors about to publish: Dr. David Waldron, whose expertise is in unravelling folklore, and our Patron Dr. Bob Paddle, who has been researching the effects of disease on the decline of both Tasmanian Tiger and Tasmanian Devil. Recent research by Marie Attard of the University of NSW indicates that the thylacine would not be able to bring down an animal as large as a sheep, which will lead to tighter focus on our predation reports.

Newspaper reports of big cat sightings in the Yarra Valley earlier this year brought us further reports. A consequent invitation to give a presentation on Mystery Animals at the Belgrave Library, was accepted by Dorothy Williams and Rosemary Chapple and drew still more reports. It is hoped that this presentation can be repeated at other places during the year. Other sightings continue to come to our web site, and an interview with Dorothy concerning a Kallista thylacinid sighting was posted on a student journalist’s web site.

Our visit to Ballarat University to inspect a box of files with which Dr. David Waldron is beginning a collection, and a double page thylacine spread in the historical ‘Significance’ guide from the Collections Council of Australia Ltd., point up our concern with the long-term care and preservation of our extensive database in a protected but accessible library or museum. With the loss of Andrew Robinson as Database Manager, working bees are essential to catch up and keep up with maintenance and presentation of our extensive and significant collection of scientific and historical reference material.

As a part of this, a Prints Workshop is planned for August for the study, identification and evaluation of our Prints collection of casts, photographs and photocopies, to be followed by something similar for our Predation material (non-organic!). Our Treasurer, Richard Sealock, also continues statistical work and others are following up reports on local areas.

My personal thanks are due, together with thanks on behalf all members, to all who have persevered, contributed, assisted and cheered us on, through a year that hasn’t always been easy.

Dorothy Williams

President, ARFRA


Timetable for ARFRA AGM, Sunday 29th July 2012

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 18, 2012 at 8:05 PM

Venue:- Pakenham Uniting Church Hall, 47 James St, Pakenham I(Melways ref 317-D8)

Time:- 12.00 for 12.30 p.m.

BYO lunch to share – tea & coffee provided.

12-30pm; Arrive and organise

1-00pm; Lunch

2-00pm; Annual Meeting;

2-30pm; Guest Speaker--Dr Bob Paddle: The Tasmanian Tiger - did disease aid its decline?

3-30pm Afternoon Tea

4-00pm; Peter Chapple Tribute, followed by Social Time. Bring along your memories.

6-00pm (Estimated finishing time,or earlier)

Visitors welcome.


Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Following the spate of Yarra Valley sightings, ARFRA was invited to speak about our Mystery Animals to a group at Belgrave Library. Rosemary Chapple and Dorothy Williams were warmly welcomed by the National Trust and an interested audience commented on our PowerPoint presentation. Three more reports of big cat sightings were received, a not unusual outcome!


Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 15, 2012 at 9:50 PM

 Yet again reports of panther/puma sightings have been making the local papers in Yarra Ranges in past weeks. On February 15th the Free Press Leader reported a ‘great big black panther’ encountered on the Warburton Highway, walking along the roadside. The cat ‘reached the height of the bottom of her car window’ and reflected back big yellow eyes when the driver flashed her high beams to get a better look.

A week later Healesville farmer Ken Lang spoke of both pumas and panthers living in the area. He regularly loses stock to foxes, eagles and the occasional wild dog, but had also seen a large black animal stalking his deer. The panther presence he bases on a neighbour's complaint back in 1980 of finding two chewed dead lambs high in a tree fork, and a later incident of a pony left with big claw marks on its flanks following a failed attempt to bring it down (an incident repeated at The Basin last November with injury to a seven-year-old thoroughbred).

Bernie Mace, an original ARFRA member, added further evidence from within the Shire going back thirty years, and both had spoken to witnesses regarding releases by American soldiers. Both had spoken to people who claimed to have been at the Gippsland farm where a puma and her cubs had been released. Mr. Mace was shown the spot where the animals were released, and Mr. Lang was told that they came up to the farm to be fed for six months before disappearing.

As usual, the report emboldened a number of other witnesses to come forward with sightings from all over the Shire and beyond. And, as usual, a Parks ranger claimed to have no evidence of big cats in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

In March a cat-like animal was spotted from a garbage truck taking a ten-foot leap up a ridge at Sassafras, followed on 3rd April by a teenager and two companions who heard a low growl in the bushes along the Belgrave-Gembrook Road. She turned to get a partial view of a cat-like animal whose height to her hip or waist set it beyond the range of a giant feral domestic cat.

The published photograph of a cast taken of a paw print appears to me to have the X gap between pads, toe pairs, and the more triangular plantar pad typical of a large dog, an opinion also expressed by a reader. Many similar casts were rejected when the ARFRA collection was moved from Clematis because size alone is not evidence of a big cat presence.

A workshop on print recognition is scheduled for Sat. 18th August 2012.


AGM: Sunday 29th July 2012: Dr. Robert Paddle

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 4:10 AM

Venue:- Pakenham Uniting Church Hall,

47 James St, Pakenham I(Melways ref 317-D8)

Time:- 12.00 for 12.30 p.m.

BYO lunch to share – tea & coffee provided.

Guest Speaker:- Dr. Robert Paddle

Dr. Paddle’s research has taken him around the world, investigating records of thylacines, devils and other marsupial carnivores in zoos and museums. His forthcoming book focuses on evidence of disease, and its importance as a major factor in the decline of the thylacine.

Bounty statistics from the deliberate killing of thylacines as a pest species support contemporary records at the turn of the twentieth century, of an epidemic disease in thylacines, devils and other marsupi-carnivores. Detailed symptoms of the disease have been recorded by museum staff, and zoological-garden curators and veterinarians.

It is argued that the effects of the disease in captivity, which more than halved thylacine longevity, and preferentially affected juveniles, are conformable with the expression of the disease recorded amongst wild thylacines.

He seeks recognition of the importance of this disease as a major factor in the thylacine’s decline, and its consideration as an influential factor on the genetic diversity, distribution and population dynamics of extant marsupi-carnivores.


Invitation: Celebration of Peter Chapple’s Life and Work

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 4:00 AM


As we approach the tenth anniversary of Peter’s premature demise in August 2002, we take this opportunity of honouring his painstaking work to bring about recognition and knowledge of our ‘mystery’ animals over three decades.

Old friends are invited to join us at the AGM - also to contribute any further research material as we work on gathering, extending and interpreting ARFRA’s collected information for publication.

Please bring or send your favourite reminiscences of your time with Peter and your connection with his passions: searching and singing - and laughing.

As the Committee are feeling the ravages of time and of competing responsibilities, we would also appreciate any offers to assist the Committee with any of its functions.