Kumi

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.

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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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