Dave Shealy is founder of the world's only research center dedicated to the skunk-ape (the 7-foot tall, 450-pound apes that supposedly stroll through Florida reeking of rotten eggs). He's spent much of his life trudging through the Everglades looking for signs of the creatures and has even gone so far as to call for the state of Florida to pass a law outlawing the hunting of them.
This guy is nuts, right? No matter your answer, he's not the first person to try this with the skunk apes, and certainly not the first to push for government protection of a cryptid (an animal whose existence can't be proved with scientific certainty). In Florida, the US, and even elsewhere in the world, individuals, politicians, and organizations have fought for legal protection for cryptids.
Here are five times where they've been successful.
A portion of Arkansas's White River, between the towns of Jacksonport and Possum Grape, is a protected wildlife refuge. The wildlife in question? The White River Monster, a gray aquatic creature roughly the size of a boxcar affectionately known as "Whitey."
Whitey was first sighted in 1915, and has been spotted intermittently since then. In 1973, after another sighting, State Senator Robert Harvey introduced a bill that would create the White River Monster Refuge and make it illegal to harm Whitey within its boundaries. The bill was quickly signed into law by a large majority. [Image courtesy of Ozarks Magazine.]
A similar river creature enjoys protection from both Vermont and New York. In the 1980s, the two states passed resolutions helping Champ, a serpent-like creature that inhabits their shared waterway, Lake Champlain. The resolutions declared Champ a protected species and made it illegal to harm him in any way. Champ's protected species status also earns him conservation funding from the Lake Champlain Land Trust.
Champ lovers are patiently waiting for Quebec, which also borders the lake, to pass a similar resolution. [Image courtesy of Heurtley.com.]
Speaking of the Canadians, Mike Lake, a member of the Canadian Mounted Police, petitioned the Canadian Parliament earlier this year to add Bigfoot to the country's Species at Risk Act alongside the Whooping Crane and Blue Whale. According to Mr. Lake, the reason that there haven't been many Bigfoot sightings is that the creature is endangered, and not shy like many believe.
The Skamania County Board of Commissioners in the state of Washington realized the same thing Lake did and passed an ordinance in 1969 that set a $10,000 fine and five years in prison for anyone who killed a Bigfoot in the county. [Image courtesy of Monorails.org.]
The cryptid protection trend isn't limited to North America. Plenty of countries have their own legendary creatures and their own laws protecting them. The migoi is the Bhutanese version of the Yeti, but with a few more quirks. The red haired creatures reportedly stand eight feet tall and often walk backwards or turn invisible to fool trackers and hunters. They've been part of the country's legends for centuries, and even show up in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan texts.
In 2001, the Bhutanese government created the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a 253 square-mile protected habitat for the migoi. The sanctuary is also home to pandas, snow leopards and tigers, but in a display of Big Government spending at its best, the Bhutanese maintain that the refuge was created specifically for the migoi and cuddly pandas are simply a bonus. [Image courtesy of Zinester.com.]
And here's our big star, the diva of the cryptid world: the Loch Ness Monster. Not only did Nessie get protection from poachers under the provisions of the Scotland's 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it illegal to snare, shoot or try to blow her up, but the old girl helped out one of her distant relatives in the process.
In the summer of 1985, the Scots received a request by the Swedish government for guidance on how it should draft formal legal protection for the Storsjo monster, the Swedish equivalent of Nessie in Lake Storsjo. The Scottish government consulted their Nature Conservancy Council, decided a lake monster would be protected under the 1981 legislation, slapped a "protected species" sticker on Nessie and advised the Swedes that "the legislative framework to protect the monster is available, provided she (or he) is identified by scientists whose reputation will carry weight with the British Museum."
The Swedish government passed legislation to protect their monster, but it was revoked a few months ago after a government watchdog group challenged the law, claiming legislation was not necessary to protect an unproven species.
Nessie is still protected to this day and no cryptids were harmed during the writing of this article.