Waitoreke

Unknown OTTER-like animal of Australasia.

Etymology: Maori (Austronesian) word of uncertain meaning. Possibly wai ("water," or "one who") + to ("dive") + reke ("bone spur" or "knob"), meaning "spurred one who sinks into the water." Or wai ("water") + toreke ("left behind"), thus meaning "disappearing under the water." However, the root waito- often has a connotation of the spirit world, producing the meaning, "disappearing demon." Another possibility is "the one with wrinkles," if reke is taken to mean "wrinkled."

Variant names: Kaurehe, New Zealand otter, South Island otter, Waitoreki, Waitoteke.

Physical description: Otterlike or seal-like placental mammal, marsupial, or monotreme with glossy brown fur. Length, 2 feet-3 feet 6 inches. Small eyes. Flat, round ears. Possible bone spur. Thick, flat tail.

Behavior: Slides down riverbanks. Makes a whistling sound. Emits a musky odor. Eats fishes. Lives in either holes in riverbanks or a beaverlike lodge. Possibly lays eggs, which would make it a monotreme.

Tracks: Webbed. Width, 3-4 inches. Similar to a river otter but smaller. Stride, 7-8 inches. Habitat: Rivers and lakes. Distribution: Mountain ranges of southern South Island, New Zealand.

Significant sightings: Several crew members of Capt. James Cook's expedition saw a cat-sized animal with short legs and a bushy tail when they were anchored in Dusky Bay in May 1773.

In the late 1850s, Julius von Haast reported seeing Waitoreke tracks on the upper Ashbur-ton River, in the Southern Alps. However, a later account suggests that another waggish member of Haast's party had hoaxed the prints.

Around 1880, two hunters shot an otterlike animal at Lake Hauroko.

In 1921, A. E. Trapper saw a Waitoreke while on a bridge crossing the Waikiwi River. Some months later, he found a hole in the bank where the animal had disappeared. He had seen similar animals on fishing expeditions to lonely spots on five previous occasions since 1890.

Mrs. O. Linscott watched an animal swim across a lagoon near the Aparima River in 1957. It had a brownish-purple face, small eyes, rounded ears, short whiskers, and catlike fur.

P. J. A. Bradley was hunting deer on the Hol-lyford River in 1971 when he saw an otterlike animal climbing and sliding down the bank. It was about 3 feet long and had a short, thick tail.

In April 1973 in a swamp on the Taieri Plain, G. A. Pollock discovered a system of tunnels that seemed characteristic of an otter. Possible explanations:

(1) The description and behavior matches the rare Hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana), found in Java, Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaysia, where it is domesticated and trained to catch fish. G. A. Pollock suggests that it was introduced to New Zealand from Indonesia as early as the sixteenth century by colonists or castaways.

(2) A wayward population of Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) that traveled to New Zealand by sea.

576 WAHTEETA

(3) An introduced population of Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) from Australia.

(4) Stray seals, most likely the New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), the New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri), or the Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina).

(5) An introduced Beaver (Castor spp.), based on the occasional report of a lodge.

(6) The Golden-bellied water-rat (Hydromys chrysogaster), found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. It is 2 feet long and has a 2-foot-long tail and large, partially webbed hind feet.

(7) An unknown species of monotreme, perhaps spiny like Echidnas (Family Tachyglossidae) or with a spur like the platypus.

Sources: Richard Taylor, A Leaf from the Natural History ofNew Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand: Robert Stokes, 1848), p. 4; Ferdinand von Hochstetter, New Zealand: Its Physical Geography, Geology and Natural History (Stuttgart, Germany: J. G. Cotta, 1867), p. 161; Herries Beattie, The Maoris andFiordland (Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago Daily Times and Witness, 1949), p. 79; Ingo Krumbiegel, "Das 'Waitoreki,' ein Angeblich neues Saügetier von Neuseeland," Zeitschrift für Saügetierkunde 18 (1950): 110-115; J. S. Watson, "The New Zealand 'Otter,'" Records of the Canterbury Museum 7, no. 3 (1960): 175-183; Arnold Wall, Long and Happy: An Autobiography (Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1965), p. 107; G. A. Pollock, "The South Island Otter: A Reassessment," Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society 17 (1970): 129-135; G. A. Pollock, "The South Island Otter: An Addendum," Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society 21 (1974): 57-61; John Becker, "Towards an Etymology of Maori Waitoreke," Cryptozoology 4 (1985): 28-36; John Colarusso, "Waitoreke, the New Zealand 'Otter': A Linguistic Solution to a Cryptozoological Problem," Cryptozoology 7 (1988): 46-60; Gunter G. Sehm, "The Waitoreki of New Zealand: Marsupial or Monotreme?" Tuatara 30 (December 1988):

62-65; Malcolm Smith, Bunyips and Bigfoots (Alexandria, N.S.W., Australia: Millennium Books, 1996), pp. 170-177; H. W. Orsman, ed., The Dictionary ofNew Zealand English (Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 886; Craig Heinselman, "Waitoreke: The Enigma from New Zealand," Crypto 3, no. 4 (August 2000): 18-25, http:// www.strangeark.com/crypto/Crypto8.pdf.

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