What comes to mind when you read "dinosaur?" Probably "extinct" or "extinction." What about the word "ropen?" Until 2007, when the Sci-Fi Channel gave us the Ropen episode of Destination Truth, most Americans would think "jump rope'in" or "cowboy rope'n a steer." But gradually Americans are coming to learn about a strange flying creature that is said to live in Papua New Guinea. How strange? Try "giant long-tailed pterosaur."

The ropen is described in ways that actually lead to two words: "dragon" and "pterosaur," depending on culture and taste. But notice the word noticeably absent: "extinct."

Several Americans searched for the elusive creature; important expeditions were in 2002, 2004 (two), and 2006. But the Sci-Fi Destination Truth expedition of 2007 introduced the word "ropen" to many thousands of American T.V. viewers.

Live pterosaurs! But it gets even stranger. Reports starting coming in from North America, and some of the Americans who explored Papua New Guinea, in 2004, searching for ropens, began searching for them in the United States. In at least two of the West Coast states, one of the locations became extremely secret. Nevertheless, according to one press release, one of the living-pterosaur cryptozoologists has estimated that at least 1400 Americans have seen a living pterosaur between early-1980 and the end of 2008. Most of those who have given their reports remain anonymous.

But not everything is secret. According to a new nonfiction book "
Live Pterosaurs in America," (by Jonathan Whitcomb), Scott Norman stayed up one night and saw a pterosaur-like animal that "had an 8-10 foot wingspan; the wings were bat-like . . . the neck about 1-2 feet in length, the head was about four feet in length, and the head . . . has a crest that was about 2 feet in length." With a long neck, a long head, a head crest, and an 8-10 foot wingspan, it was no bat. And it was not in Papua New Guinea but in the Western United States.

Pterosaurs Alive, Not Extinct

Part of the problem is the breadth of the belief in absolute extinction of all species of pterosaurs. That means that nobody, in a "developed country," can easily report a sighting of an apparent pterosaur, even if that species is not extinct but simply rare. Anyone reporting a live pterosaur is subject to being not just doubted: A person's mental health can easily be brought into question. Eyewitnesses can be interviewed, however, by cryptozoologists who specialize in this field of cryptozoology: Jonathan Whitcomb and Garth Guessman (of Southern California) or Phillip O'Donnell (of Oregon). Interesting to note, those who have interviewed eyewitnesses in "primitive" cultures find no such problems interviewing eyewitnesses or finding those who have seen an apparent pterosaur. In Papua New Guinea, natives have no fear about what their neighbors will think about their mental stability, so they freely report what they have seen.

by Nathaniel Coleman (a cryptozoologist not closely related to Loren Coleman)