Cryptozoology is the attempt to find scientific proof for the existence of animals known only through rumors, folk tales, or old explorers' accounts, and to study them in a scientific way. The word is derived from the Greek root crypto-, meaning hidden, and zoology, meaning the study of animals. The term was popularized in the 1950s by French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. These animals sought by cryptozoologists are known as cryptids. Familiar examples include the Loch Ness Monster, and the man-like creatures known as the Yeti (or the Abominable Snowman) of the Himalayas and Central Asia, and the Sasquatch (or Bigfoot) of North America.
The field of cryptozoology is closely associated with Heuvelmans, who authored a 1955 book Sur la piste des bêtes ignorées (On the Track of Unknown Animals) and with the International Society for Cryptozoology (ISC)  which he founded in 1982; The society published a refereed journal, Cryptozoology: Interdisciplinary Journal of the International Society of Cryptozoology, from 1982 until, apparently, 1998. As of 2007, the ISC appears to be defunct.
An article on an active cryptozoology website acknowledges that "By definition, cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unknown animals. Something that should also be noted is the fact that it is not recognized by the scientific community as a science. There are no degrees in it, and therefore, there is no such thing as a cryptozoologist." He defends it as "the search for truth," but laments the amateurishness and arrogance that, he feels, make cryptozoology "more of a hobby than it will ever be a science."
That there are many real animals unknown to science is hardly disputed. Those studying global biodiversity estimate, based on rates of new species discovery, that there are about 10 to 30 million living species (animals and plants), of which about 1.4 million have been described in the scientific literature. Furthermore, as ISC secretary J. Richard Greenwell observed, "Zoology was once essentially cryptozoology." He characterized the difference between traditional zoological practice and cryptozoology by saying that cryptozoologists target a specific animal, while zoologists tend to inventory a geographical area and catalog a new animal if it turns up: "Zoology throws a net," says Greenwell, "while cryptozoology throws a spear." Cryptozoologists largely focus their efforts on relatively large animals, while the vast majority of undiscovered or uncataloged species are very small.
To mainstream scientists, cryptozoology occupies a spot somewhere near the fringe of science; it is often classed as a protoscience or pseudoscience, bracketed with ufology and parapsychology. One writer comments: "This is a field that has carved a strange path between relative respectability and derision in the last century.... Quasi-academic articles often try to claim for the field a level of scientific rigour that denies the clear links between certain writers in the area and 'fringe' paranormal beliefs."
A related field is cryptobotany, which is the attempt to find scientific proof of plants believed to be extinct or mythical.
Notes and references
- Some sources credit him with coining it: Pincock, Stephen (2004) Tales from the cryptozoologists, The Scientist, 2004, 18(21):12; Gordon, David (1992), Field Guide to the Sasquatch, Sasquatch Books, 1992, p. 5. However, in his book, In the Wake of Sea Serpents, Huevelmans credits the term to the Scottish explorer and adventurer Ivan T. Sanderson.
- The name is variously stated as "International Society for Cryptozoology," "International Society of Cryptozoology," and "International Society of Cryptozoologists."
- McCarthy, Paul (1993), Cryptozoologists: An Endangered Species, The Scientist 1993, 7(1):1
- Harvard Library online catalog listing shows "Status: Currently received; Holdings v.1-12(1982-1993/1996). Library of Congress also shows a v13(1997/8).
- archive.org's archives of www.internationalsocietyofcryptozoology.org show a website as operating on November 30, 2005 and replaced by a hosting service's placeholder on December 10, 2005.
- Bates, J. P. What is Cryptozoology?
- Day, Peter (2006), Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil, p. 99