Orang pendek: le freak chic
In the jungles of the Indonesian island of Sumatra there might live some kind of upright-walking ape-man with long, heavy metal hair.
Several zoologists and plenty of connoisseurs of the weird believe so. And local Indonesian lore is chock full of tales and eyewitness accounts of the orang pendek.
Native Sumatrans don’t even consider the ape a mythical or magical creature, just another of the forest’s inhabitants.
The orang pendek, “short man” in Malay, is said to be 4-5 feet tall but powerfully built with broad shoulders and long muscular arms. Sightings suggest it walks upright like a human, its body is covered with black or honey-coloured hair, and it may have a long mane of hair from its head down its back. It appears to live on the forest floor, unlike the arboreal Sumatran orang-utan which is confined to the north of the island.
A two-year old article in the Telegraph tells of how a team of British explorers spotted the orang pendek and gathered some of its hair to be analyzed. I’m assuming that the results were ‘inconclusive’.
Tomorrow zoologist Richard Freeman will start another expedition into the Sumatran forests in search of the elusive bipedal ape.
Read more about it in the Guardian.
If the orang pendek turns out to be real, it would be a huge discovery for science. If no further evidence is found it will continue to occupy its place in crypto-zoology or maybe even secure a spot as one of Karl Pilkington’s “Cheeky Freaks of the Week”. A revival of the latter radio segment is perhaps the less likely of the two.
On the other hand, Southeast Asia is ripe for freakish discoveries in the animal kingdom, what with that giant salt water crocodile caught in the Philippines earlier this week. The behemoth weighed 1,075 kilos (2,370 lbs) and measured 6.1 meters (20 feet). The crocodile is believed to be the largest ever captured alive.
Click here for more on that story from the Associated Press, including a video report. I have to say the croc doesn’t look too pleased.