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A thousand? The answer may well be in the millions - if you go all the way down to insects barely visible to the eye. And the vast majority never will be discovered; the accelerating destruction of the natural environment means that they will be extinct before they are even noticed. To most people, however, an 'unknown animal' won't be of much interest unless it's at least as large as a dog - better still, an elephant - best of all, a dinosaur. Most zoologists are willing to admit that large creatures still remain undiscovered in the sea.

Even the nomadic herdsmen make only occasional excursions into the high mountains. It can be 400 miles from one road to the next. Tibet, to the south, is, by comparison, heavily populated. Much of the area is still thick primeval forest rising up the Shaal Tau and the Altai Mountains. It was in 1981 that Zhou first heard that there were relics of a wildman preserved in Zheijiang Province. The next year he was able to make a trip to investigate. In the village of Zhuanxian he met a woman, Wang Congmei, a cowherd, who as a girl (back in May 1957) had encountered the creature.

Bricklayer John Bonnor had seen it walk from behind a pile of empty crates at the nearby Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1971. There were other sightings that year in Canterbury Road and Harbour Close. As it hangs out amongst some of the most expensive real estate in Britain, the Surrey puma has naturally had some distinguished witnesses. Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees pop group saw it at his home in Esher in January 1985. He said, 'We were sitting around watching television, when the guard dogs suddenly tensed.

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