Sumatra’s own little miniature Bigfoot legend

Posted by K R on

Ssssshhh! We're in a dense jungle on the island of Sumatra, quietly making our way toward a brownish, three-foot-tall ape that one of our party spotted walking upright. Stop, he sees us! Wow, look at him. Note the scientifically plausible facial features and body geometry. Look at his small feet, which leave tracks surprisingly like those of the sun bear. Let's see if we can move a little closer — oh, there he goes! Watch him swing expertly up into the trees, and — wow, he's gone, just like that. Isn't it amazing that of all of us holding cameras, nobody thought to take a photograph? Well, just punch ourselves in the head for that one. Apparently, the orang pendek has some mystical quality that makes even the most dedicated of eyewitnesses forget to use their cameras. Well, here's one convincing factoid about the orang pendek: It sounds a lot like orangutan, so it's probably a relative or subspecies, and not some ridiculous cryptid with a wild sounding name like Bigfoot or Abominable Snowman. In fact, the similarity in names is not much help at all. Orang pendek is simply Indonesian for "short person", just as orang utan means "forest person". If you were hoping that orang pendek's legitimate-sounding name meant that it has some zoological classification, you are disappointed. Sometime in the 1980's, cryptozoologists began reading early 20th century accounts from Dutch settlers in Sumatra, and found that a few of their numerous reports about the strange animals they encountered there could be generally corroborated with one of the numerous characters from local Indonesian jungle lore, the orang pendek. Considering the large number of Dutch stories, most of which had nothing to do with any kind of ape-like creature, and the even larger number of fanciful native legends of magical forest creatures, this connection made by cryptozoologists was really quite a stretch. But it stuck, and now orang pendek is a firm fixture in the cryptozoology files. So much so, in fact, that in the 1990's a pair of British cryptozoologists named Debbie Martyr and Jeremy Holden began a 15-year search in Sumatra. They interviewed hundreds of natives, set up motion-triggered camera traps, made plaster footprint casts, and tramped along hundreds of miles of jungle trails. Debbie formed a detailed and specific description of orang pendek:

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