Giant Lizard of Australasia.

Etymology: Maori (Austronesian) word. Physical description: Length, 5-12 feet. Huge jaws with curved teeth. Six legs. Behavior: Arboreal.

Distribution: North Island, New Zealand. Significant sighting: In September 1898, a Maori bushman on W. D. Lysnar's ranch near Gisborne, North Island, was startled by the sight of a huge lizard, some 5 feet long, advancing toward him.

Possible explanations:

(1) An out-of-place Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), a 2-foot-long, lizardlike reptile that is now confined to about twenty small islands off the northeast coast of New Zealand and in Cook Strait.

(2) A living population of Delcourt's giant gecko (Hoplodactylus delcourti), a 2-foot-long gecko that once lived in New Zealand.

(3) Distorted folk memories of the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylusporosus), found much farther to the west off the northern coast of Australia.

kumi 285

Sources: James Hector, "On the Kumi," Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 31 (1899): 717-718; H. W. Orsman, ed., The Dictionary ofNew Zealand English (Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 430.

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