CKWRI's Dr. Scott Henke gives his interpretation of the Chupacabra

French Science and Life magazine recently published an article about the legend of the Chupacabra. CKWRI's Dr. Scott Henke provides his interpretation of scientific research (using genetic analysis) that is likely the explanation of these creatures. Read the full (translated) article below.

Chupacabra: the vampire, the alien and the canine

In less than 30 years, the Chupacabra has become a true horrific phenomenon. This resolutely modern myth is rooted in Latin America, where herds of cattle have been mysteriously decimated. Sometimes described as a bat or a bipedal creature, the monster could ultimately belong to several different species...

The term Chupacabra was first uttered in 1995 by Puerto Rican animator Silverio Pérez. And although he used it in a joking tone, there is nothing comical about the matter. Indeed, on the island of Puerto Rico, we find dead dozens of goats, cows and sheep supposedly emptied of their blood. Hence the nickname given to the perpetrator of the crime, still unknown: Chupacabra, that is to say "goat sucker" in Spanish. From then on, his celebrity will not stop growing at the same time as his portrait will evolve over the testimonies. The Chupacabra today reaches the third place in the list of the most famous creatures in the world. It sits just behind Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Almost 30 years after the events, can we now put a "face" on the famous American cattle killer?

1975-1995: from the “Moca vampire” to the Chupacabra In reality, the story of the Chupacabra seems to begin in February 1975 in Moca (Puerto Rico). “At the time, fifteen cows, three goats, two sheep and a pig died in strange circumstances. They would show in particular deep circular wounds, and would have been emptied of their blood…”, reports the biologist Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. He is also the author of True Stories of Fantastic Creatures. Deyrolle (Plume de Carotte, 2022), in which he deals with the case of the Chupacabra. The newspapers then call the latter the "vampire of Moca". Witnesses report a flying animal resembling a large black bat with red eyes. Two decades later, several herds on the Puerto Rican island fall victim to a creature whose actions are curiously reminiscent of those perpetrated in Moca. The phenomenon then spread throughout Latin America, from Chile to the South of the United States via Mexico. This time, the descriptions of the witnesses diverge sharply. On one side, we find the composite portrait of the "vampire of Moca" and his famous red eyes. On the other, a bipedal being about five feet tall, with scaly green skin and large, protruding eyes. This "little green man" also sported a row of thorns on his back and long, sharp claws. Finally, some people speak of a beast close to a canine but deprived of hair. So which of the giant bat, the ersatz alien or the furry dog would be the real culprit?

A vampire or an alien? What to think first of the Puerto Rican vampire? The hypothesis is based on the hole marks supposedly observed in the necks of cattle. “This story is very similar to that of the nightjar. This bird has long been accused of entering barns at night to suck the blood of goats. A very practical legend to explain strange deaths without accusing the neighbor! “, underlines Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. There are indeed vampires in South and Central America. Three blood-sucking species are known, the most common of which is the common vampire (Desmodus rotundus). But level proportion, nothing giant in this animal! Indeed, this bat does not measure more than 10 centimeters long for a maximum of 50 grams. And although it uses its sharp incisors to cut its prey and lap up its blood, it only takes an average of twenty of milliliters. Moreover, subsequently, many analyzes have denied any formal evidence in favor of cattle gutted in this way… What then of the almost “extraterrestrial” creature? It turns out that at the time of the Puerto Rican massacre, the Hollywood horror film The Mutant was hitting theaters. Spectators could see Sil, a human-alien hybrid, escaped from American laboratories and capable of transforming into a nightmarish entity. A monster designed by the Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Giger (1940-2014), who also created the famous xenomorph of Alien, the eighth passenger (1979). On the film poster showing Sil in her mutant form, we immediately notice her greenish scaly skin, her endless claws and her back bristling with thorns… Very similar to the Chupacabra described by the witnesses! According to American skeptic Benjamin Radford in his book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact (2011), there is no doubt. These people pulled this vision of the creature from their memory after seeing the horror feature film. But in this case, what avenue do we have left to explore?

Is the Chupacabra sick? Mange is a highly contagious parasitic disease caused, in canids, by the mites Sarcoptes scabiei or Demodex canis. These parasites burrow under the skin of the infected animal before laying their eggs there. The resulting irritation causes the animal to scratch intensely and eventually lose most of its hair. "In my spare time, I've gone through reports of people claiming to have killed a Chupacabra and possessed the carcass. These were often very damaged and showed significant physical abnormalities such as very thick skin,” recalls Scott Henke, professor of wildlife ecology at Texas A&M University. In an article titled El Chupacabra: The Science Behind a Latin America Mystery (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 2017) co-authored with colleagues John M. Tomecek and Terry Hensley, he presents the results of their tissue sample collection and analysis genetics. According to their work, the animals studied were none other than raccoons (Procyon lotor) and domestic dogs, including Bull Terriers. “Absolutely all of these animals had mange! Having very little hair, their skin had thickened and looked dry and wrinkled. In addition, by scratching heavily, they had developed a bacterial infection responsible for the blue color of their skin, ”explains the professor. Characteristics that, when put together, gave the sick animal a demonic appearance. The presence of raccoons also explains certain testimonies lending to the Chupacabra the ability to climb trees. Extremely weakened, these predators had to look for an easy meal, and therefore get closer to humans… and their livestock! "I understand that people want to believe in the existence of the Chupacabra, but for my part I have never observed such a monster", concludes Scott Henke. However, the much more terrifying forms of the giant vampire and the alien eventually mutated to give the current image of the chupacabra. A monster as we like them, and whose success is not ready to stop.


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