A Cryptid well alive: the Marsupial Lion or Bunyip, by SunBôw
Life on this amazing planet never runs short of unexpected surprises and new wonders to discover. When a legend becomes reality, reality enters the legend. When you wonder what next could happen, life finds ways to manifest the unsuspected new experience and teaching for your learning and growth. This vast land of Australia is intensely rich in unknown secrets and unsolved mysteries, it has many unexplored corners, untold stories and unseen beauties to offer, especially outside of the beaten paths. My last encounter in these forests is one of the most impressive and most astounding of my entire life.
In my last post, I shared a few of the significant experiences and encounters I had since living in the deep bush of NSW, on the outskirts of the Great Dividing Range and the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage. Things have kept unfolding since. I have met many new animals and developed friendships with them. One night, I surprised grandfather Koala sitting in council around the medicine wheel with three wallabies. The next day I left him a branch of eucalyptus to honor his medicine and every night for the following days, he greeted me with grunts when coming by, while wallabies stood close by.
After that week, they then stopped coming. A grandfather Possum started visiting the roof and hanging out with me. At the beginning, he tried to break in, scratching the canvas, but we made a deal and though he protested at first, he finally agreed not to try to force his way in if I let him use the roof when it rains, as they too get tired of being wet. He too stopped coming, when the sunny weather returned.
Then I saw another less known, rarer type of wallaby, the Swamp Wallaby, rounder and darker than the more common Rock Wallaby. Since most mammals here are nocturnal, it is nearly impossible to take good photos of them. (Photo: google)
Meanwhile, I have been taking images and soundtracks from the winged friends enlivening the rainforest with their swift dances, flashing colors and their diversity of exquisite songs. Wildlife photography is becoming my greatest passion, as it teaches animal communications. Although hiding and trying to sneak on them could bring results, it is much more interesting to learn how to develop friendly relations and mutual trust, although it takes a bigger dose of patience and practice. Among the regular neighbors are the Sea Eagle, Heron, Cormorant, Kingfisher and plenty of songbirds.
The legendary Lyrebird that I described earlier makes sure to be heard loud and far, but it is hard to see and even more so to photograph. I was lucky enough to capture a few nice shots and decent short clips, as well as interesting recordings of their musical performances and imitation sessions. Listening back to them, I noticed that among its repertory of mixed songs, a few short human sentences can be heard. Documenting beauties of Nature, I’m starting to have enough footage to make a film as first planned.
But the most awe-inspiring encounter I had here as far as fauna, certainly in Australia, and possibly in my entire life, which is the main topic of this post, happened a few nights ago. I will describe here the sequence of events with the best of my memory, just a quick minute of my life but surely life-changing. I was alone at camp for a few days, staying quiet with Nature. I was reading, late in the middle of the night, when I heard a series of very strange, unusual loud growling and gnarling just next to the trailer. It didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard, so curious, I took my torch and went out to check out what was there. When I opened the door, I saw about five meters from me something unknown to me, big and dark, that ran into the bush, but it was quick and before my eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
I didn’t know what it was and kept hearing the eerie screams sounding as an almost scary warning. Unsure but curious, I walked closer and first saw a foot long gray Bandicoot run out of the bush and up the hill in panic, as if hunted. I though to myself that finally I was getting to see my first Bandicoot although they have dug a colony of tunnels close by since I moved here, but stay discreet. Yet, what I was still hearing was not one of them. That’s when I saw this beast of an animal, king of the forests, come running out of his hiding in the bush where he had just jumped out of view, rushing right at me.
The creature’s body was shiny black, it measured roughly one meter long (3.5 feet), prolonged by a long thick tail at least 60 cm long (2 feet), and it stood at about 60 cm (2 feet) tall at the shoulders. When we see something we don’t know, cognitive dissonance kicks in and the mind spins full speed trying to figure out what we are witnessing and where can it fit in the compartments of our knowledge. Likewise, when trying to describe something unknown, we try to associate it with things that we know.
So at first glance, it looked like a black panther by its way of moving and running in fast long jumps. When it got to about five meters from me, it stopped and stood on its stretched hind legs, using its strong tail to lift and hold its body up like a kangaroo, front paws raised threatening, standing nearly as tall as me. I noticed a whitish clear patch on the belly continued by a thin clear stripe going up its chest.
It stood up no more than three or four seconds and got back on all four, laying low and crouching as if ready to attack, and it started to creep toward me in quick successive small leaps like a defiant panther or badger would do, growling all the way. At that point I was glad that there was a stack of branches laying between us two, a visual barrier between his forest territory and my camp, acting as a deterrent. But I was too mesmerized by the scene to cede to fear, so I just stood still, silent and peaceful as a tree.
Meanwhile, I was taking note of all the details I could record and processing as fast as I can, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. This decision was worth the risk for what I was to witness and learn. One of the first clue I noticed was that it had a long muzzle and looked more like a marsupial, and then it opened its mouth very wide at a ninety degree angle or more, to display its teeth like Thylacines do.
The best known Thylacine, often called the Tasmanian Tiger or Wolf, is considered officially extinct, although some sightings are still reported, but it is known from historic stuffed specimens and photos. Its closest relative is the Marsupial Lion, a Thylacine from the Australian mainland, that is officially considered as long extinct with the ice age megafauna, but some sightings have also been reported. Thylacines are in fact neither lion, tiger or wolf, but these are the best way they could be described by European science, by association with known animals. They are in fact large carnivorous marsupials.
The animal was at no more than four meters from me when he started executing a powerful display of force, an impressive warrior dance like an aggressive territorial behavior, but a breathtaking show or prowess, swiftness, speed and strength. He began twisting and spinning at an incredible speed, while emitting the most anomalous screams, growls and gnarls, as if mimicking a fierce deadly fight or demonstrating his wondrous abilities as a fighter. His martial dance lasted for at least fifteen seconds. This display reminded strongly of the Tasmanian Devil, the other closest relative of the Marsupial Lion. This war dance could be compared to kata in martial arts, or Maori haka, those demonstrations of the warriors skills and strength, meant to impose respect in strangers and inspire fear to deter opponents.
I was quite impressed and under the shock, and started getting a bit unsure about the intentions of my new visitor, and if I was going to stay any longer to watch the rest of the show, but I couldn’t move. Flamboyant valiance and unique athletic feats displayed before me kept me stunned like a frozen icicle. Certainly a very rare and exclusive demonstration of Nature’s powers that I didn’t want to miss for anything, whether or not it would be the last show I was to witness, but thankfully, I survived to tell it. Surely, I didn’t want to make any move that could be felt as challenging to this most exquisite creature who could easily outrun, overpower and probably outsmart any man in these dense forests of his abode.
That’s when I heard from the bush behind the creature, the deep loud voice of a Yowie saying something that sounded like ”Lay Low!”. It was the Eldest Elder of these lands, who is known here by a few communicators as Armridge and who has guided me through my journeys in these southern lands. It was very reassuring to see that he was there supervising the situation and I understood that the Yowie had arranged this most unusual mystical encounter and sent the other animals to meet me earlier, so I can learn from their medicines, just like the Sasquatch had been doing in the last few years overseas. The closest feeling I can compare to this encounter is when a couple years ago, a grizzly came to my yard and laid down ten meters from me, but he was totally peaceful, as opposed to this impressive one.
The animal suddenly stopped its beastly screams and contortions and walked back a few steps, before taking a few panther-style jumps toward the rocky slope ten meters away. He sat and looked at me again, opening his mouth to an incredible width and growling a few more times, his eyes shining green in the light of the torch. While he sat still in the light for a few seconds, I could notice that on his silky shiny black coat, some dull black stripes are visible on its lower back and tail like on the Thylacine, but much darker, as we can see for instance the faint jaguar spots hidden in the black panther’s shiny coat.
The whole sightings lasted roughly around one minute, but before the king of these forests disappeared from my sight I already felt that I was meeting the Australian Thylacine or so-called Marsupial Lion. The majestic predator then proceeded to climb up the steep rocky slope, turning his head left and right to look back at me with an occasional grunt, as he vanished into the deep forest and the dark night.
While the experience was fresh in my memory I drew quick sketches of what I had seen as I remember. I had heard of the Marsupial Lion and seen some artistic representations, but a first hand sighting remains the best source. As I was still processing the experience that same night, I heard its gnarl again nearby. Then I heard it splash in the creek for a moment and dive underwater, to swim away silently.
This was the missing piece I needed to connect the dots with what I had already been suspecting for a while through what I learned. The Australian Thylacine correspond in every point to the description of one of the most enigmatic legendary creature of the Original Peoples of Australia known as the Bunyip.
The Bunyip is described by many tribes along the rainforest belt of the Great Dividing Range. Accounts vary but it is generally described as furry and black, having the tail of a kangaroo, the head of a possum and the body of a quoll, it can swim under water, run on four legs, stand on two and climb up hills and trees. It is considered as a dangerous, terrifying beast and to avoid encountering it, the Originals avoid walking in the bush at night, especially near the streams where it is known to live, and they never cook meat in the bush at night for fear of attracting the Bunyip or other similar creatures.
Although this might not make consensus, from what I observed, the Marsupial Lion fits perfectly the description of the Bunyip and I can understand why you wouldn’t want to attract it or make it angry. Even meeting it at night in the dark forest could prove to be extremely risky, dangerous, if not deadly. From what I witnessed, the Marsupial Lion or Bunyip would no doubt be the most frightening mammal in these lands, which would well earn it its reputation of terrifying beast it was known for from legends. From its size I doubt it would see humans as preys, but you sure wouldn’t want it to see you as a rival.
Australia’s unique fauna is characterized by a lack or rather a very small number of mammal predators. Of course, this excludes the Dingo, considered by most as having been introduced some millennia ago. This lack of predators explains partly how introduced species have multiplied so easily to the point of dominating the food chain, like wild dogs, feral cats, foxes, wild pigs, or even rats, rabbits and camels.
There are deadly predators in the water like sharks and crocodiles, large goannas, lizards and snakes as carnivorous reptiles, and a number of prey birds, but the majority of native mammals in this continent are marsupials feeding mostly on plants or insects. The few exceptions include the cat-size quoll and the Tasmanian Devil, considered the largest carnivorous marsupial; that is if the Tasmanian and mainland Thylacines are extinct, which obviously I know now, it is not the case, as they are well alive.
After this encounter, I’m also convinced that the Marsupial Lion accounts for a large proportion of the numerous sightings of black panthers or big black cats along the Australian Great Dividing Range. Although there are historic records of black panthers and cougars released from circus or by the army, the descriptions of an unknown large big black cat with long tail and low on legs have kept being heard of since decades. I’ve met at least five persons so far who have seen them in different parts of Australia. The feline movement of its jumps could easily have the Marsupial Lion mistaken for a black panther. Some Original Elders say that those animals have been here since precolonial days, but as no feline was on this continent to compare them to, they were rather likened to kangaroo, possum, quoll or platypus.
During the colonial days, the Bunyip was likely the most famous Indigenous legendary creature, seen as a mythological monster. In 1852, advocates of democracy denounced the ”bunyip aristocracy” controlling the country. An article from 1868 mention a bunyip sighting near Yass, by a man who followed the animal on his horse in a river until the horse ”showed signs of distress” and turned around. ”Many people have discounted the possibility of the existence of the bunyip… it could have been a large otter” concludes the article. But the witness adds: ”It is all nonsense about it being a savage sort of brute as it never left a mark on my horse”. The Bunyip was hence quite well known for a legendary being.
The word Yowie as a comparison was to appear decades later in Australian literature, an adaptation of Indigenous names such as Yowri or Yurri, and it did not become popularized until the 1970’s. But there is a huge difference between the Yowie and the Bunyip. The first are interdimensional people, I do not call them cryptids, the second is an animal of flesh and blood, a cryptid species that has eluded science. The experience taught me that the keepers of the forests play their role as overseers of all the animals.
Although the Marsupial Lion is known by fossils, science’s stubbornness refuses to acknowledge the existence of something it has not bagged and dissected in modern laboratories, explaining its ignorance. There are still unlisted species to discover and some thought extinct were found in these very forests. There are many reasons why the Marsupial Lion or Bunyip has remained hidden and untamed, in spite of several sightings over vast regions since ancient days. First, like the Tasmanian Thylacine, its habitat is in the steep, inaccessible mountain ranges, covered with impracticable thick and lush rainforests. This environment, still mostly untouched, provides the best refuge for the large marsupial predator.
Secondly, with its fierce strength, speed and swiftness, and its ability to swim, run and climb quickly and disappear into the thick bush, the Bunyip would represent an extremely difficult and risky prey to chase for even the best skilled trackers and bravest hunters, explaining why it is feared and left alone. Being also a nocturnal creature with a dark black coat makes it hard to see in the shadows of the forest. On the other hand, the Bunyip represents an extremely efficient hunter, the ultimate top apex predator.
The Bunyip has been the master of these forests since before humans existed; we are just visitors here. Due to its exceptional gifts and abilities, the Marsupial Lion or Bunyip has survived since prehistory, unchanged, unaffected by human presence and mostly unsuspected, except by a few who honor the deepest forest and its secrets. Again, Indigenous wisdom proves to be right and the legend to be true. That such an animal has kept eluding human observation or any attempts to capture it, to either prove or disprove its existence, is a sign of the powers of Nature and of the limitations of human knowledge.
Meeting him taught me a deep respect for this powerful untamed Nature I was starting to get familiar with, still believing that no significant danger was awaiting in this bush apart from the unlucky snake. But us humans are not kings of the mountains, only a link in the chain and the most disconnected one. Since that night, I have been more careful when going out at night, without fear, but with awareness that Mother Nature is way more mysterious than ever imagined, far beyond our limited comprehension. I can feel the presence of the Bunyip somewhere in these mountains and now that he knows me, we have a new telepathic connection, but he knows where to find me and I’ll never know where he hides.
As incredible as it might sound for some, these experiences really happen to me and sometimes, I wonder who would care or be interested to hear these stories, but I feel these experiences are special blessings and hear the call to document and share the facts, in case they might be useful for someone. Whether or not the account is heard, taken as plain fact or pure fiction, doesn’t really matter in the end. Some legends are worth documenting and some stories are good to tell; anyone can find truth in them.
Some might wonder how come these experiences happen often to a few, but never do for most; if anyone wants to hear my advice I would say: start by doing your spiritual work, send prayers, do your ceremonies, build an altar or a stone circle, give some offerings, consecrate space and time for spiritual activities, meditate, contemplate, be grateful for all the blessings, honor Creator, Creation and all life. Pay attention to signs and to all living beings around you, listen to their souls, learn from their message. Never think that being a human makes you superior; consciousness is one, it manifests in many forms. Inter-species communication is sacred wisdom available to all who care to try becoming better souls. These age-old shamanic practices do work and their quantum effects can reach beyond our knowledge. Of course if you choose to believe that human politics, drama conflicts and karma deserve more of your attention, you are always free to give them priority and follow that timeline, instead of spiritual growth.
Meanwhile, Nature keeps her secrets, and beings believed mythical like the Bunyip roam free and wild. The occasional reports of a rare sighting, or of a black panther of some kind, only add to the legend for lack of the generally required documented proof. It can be frustrating for the interested public to see no tangible proof, but even more for the first hand observer whom the vast public will usually not believe. There is no use in trying to make up the usual excuses, that a camera is not always handy, often useless at night, and that events happen too fast; nor would it be very useful to show photos of droppings with small bones and hairs inside, or unclear paw prints in the mulch and grass, so we are left with the story.
No tangible proof, much like Yowie or Sasquatch. The Thylacines are extinct says mainstream science. The Marsupial Lion was a prehistoric species. Black panthers reports are just feral cats or hoaxers tales. The Bunyip lives only through the storytellers. In the end, it is better if the Bunyip remains in the mythical dream-time legend and is left alone in the untamed wild, as the Originals have always said.
Yesterday, grandfather Possum walked by, sniffed the big tracks and grunted at me: ”Eew! The big guy was here!”. I chuckled and said: ”You bet!”. He said: ”He’s not bad if you’re not a Possum.”. I realized that my four-legged hairy friend knows these forests much better than I ever will in this human life. Minutes later he returned and said: ”I’ll stay on the roof tonight”. I agreed: ”Sure! I can’t blame you”. Tonight he’s back. I asked him if it’s ok if I tell this story. He laughed and said ”of course”. So here it is.
Blessings to all living beings on Mother Earth. May Peace, Love and Happiness prevail.
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