Cryptozoology is the study of animals that are either rare or unusual, presumed extinct but still occasionally believed to be sighted, or creatures of mythology that are possibly rooted in a real animal or phenomenon. The invention of the term is usually attributed to the zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. The hypothetical creatures involved are referred to by some with the slang term of cryptid. Some cryptozoologists align themselves with a more scientifically rigorous field like zoology, while others tend toward an anthropological slant or even forteana. For this reason, cryptozoology is often treated as a more humorous form of pseudoscience, though it can be considered a legitimate area of study.
While many cryptozoologists strive for legitimacy and many are already respected scientists in other fields, cryptozoology has never been fully embraced by the scientific community. A cryptozoologist may propose that an interest in such a phenomenon doesn't entail belief, but a detractor will reply the illusions of sightings are a form of belief. Cryptozoologists tend to be the ones responsible for disproving their own objects of study. For example, cryptozoologists have largely been responsible for collecting statistical data and studying witness accounts that have just about disproved the notion that bigfoot sightings have any legitimacy.
A common example among cryptozoologists for why their field is important is the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish. Believed to have been extinct for 65 million years, one was caught in a fishing net in 1938 off the coast of Africa. Cryptozoologists point this out to demonstrate that there are many unexplored regions of the world left, and that remote exotic locations or specialized ecosystems untouched by man can contain life we didn't expect to find. Along similar lines, the emblem of the Society for Cryptozoology is the okapi, a shy, forest-dwelling relative of the giraffe that was unknown to Western scientists prior to 1901.
Notable topics of interest in Cryptozoology: