In our second instalment of Author and Cryptozoologist – Richard Freeman’s articles, we travel to Sumatra in search of Orang-Pendek.

We are impressed by big things. Dinosaurs, whales, rhinos, super-tankers, skyscrapers. Mention mystery apes to the man in the street and he will imagine bipedal hairy giants, ten feet tall. Indeed most reports of such things speak of massive animals; the yeti, the yeren, the sasquatch, and the yowie. But for every bigfoot there is a little-foot. Stories of little hairy men are widespread – but none are as famous as Sumatra’s orang-pendek.

Orang-pendek means ‘short man’ in Indonesian. The creature is said to be powerfully built and immensely strong but relatively short at around 4.5 to 5 feet in height. It walks upright like a man and rarely, if ever, moves on all fours. It is generally said to have dark brown or black fur but honey coloured or reddish hair has been reported. Sometimes a long mane of hair that falls down to the shoulders is reported.

Many Indonesians fear the orang-pendek on account of its massive strength but it is not thought of as aggressive. Mostly the creature will move away from any human it sees. It is said to occasionally use rocks and sticks as crude weapons, hurling them when it feels threatened.

The first Centre for Fortean Zoology expedition to Sumatra was not my idea. CFZ Member Dr Chris Clark, an engineer and astrophysicist, concocted the whole thing. Chris was a long term member of the CFZ. I first met him at the 2003 Fortean Times Uncovention in London. He is a small, kindly, drily witty and fiercely intelligent man with a somewhat Italian look about him. He had recently returned from an expedition to Sulawesi in Indonesia and had travelled extensively in Central Asia. I took an instant likening to Chris. He had wanted to investigate this animal for years and decided last year to organise a trip in 2003. He graciously asked me along as a zoologist. Whilst discussing this at the Unconvention we discovered our third expedition member Jon Hare. Cambridge graduate, martial artist, and science writer he was the Ed Mallone to Chris`s Professor Challenger and my Professor Sumerlee. Jon has a boundless, almost child-like enthusiasm and never ending energy. He is often mistaken for a teenager because of his youthful looks. Jon is an expert in a number of poorly known martial arts. In fact some are so obscure I’m convinced he’s making them up! Both Chris and Jon look years younger than they actually are, were as yours truly was once mistaken for a man in his thirties at the age of 17!

We contacted Debbie Martyr who was very helpful, suggesting were to look and what guides to employ.

The night before my flight I was put up by one of London’s finest Forteans – the ever hospitable and fascinating Rachel Carthy – the only person I know who is a bigger bibliophile than me! Hr small house is crammed with books on just about every esoteric subject know to man (and a few unknown). Rachel one had a violent allergic reaction to a banana whilst attending the CFZ’s annual convention the Weird Weekend. She had to be rushed to hospital but insisted on returning in order not to miss any of the lectures.

My odyssey began on 22nd of June 2003. The next 24 hours were a farrago of cancelled trains, slothful buses, missed flights, and general confusion and misery. I was shown onto the wrong train by a British Rail employee (a breed not exactly noted for their helpfulness or intelligence). This had a domino effect on my travel schedule, somewhat like John Cleese in the film Clockwise, making me miss train connections, busses and eventually the flight.

But suffice to say that Chris and I finally stumbled into Singapore airport (less half of my luggage and equipment that the airline had left in Dubai). I was promised that it would be sent on to Padang in Sumatra. Jon, who had been waiting in the airport for over 24 hours was relived to see us. He had booked us into a truly excellent hotel called the Roxy Plaza

Singapore – lion city – is a shining metropolis. A beautiful city filled with beautiful people. It puts Britain to shame. Not so much as a crumpled train ticket sullies the pavement. Singapore seems like one of the world’s great cultural centres. The city is not only overflowing with history it is crammed with world class museums.  We had scant time to appreciate Singapore however as we were catching the ferry to Batam island, the gateway to Indonesia after breakfast.

At the ferry port, Chris was stopped as his luggage was passed through the x-ray machine. One of the attendants asked him if he were carrying a knife. Chris replied he only had a little penknife used for camping. Behind him one of the other attendants was gesticulating wildly and making signs like the angler’s “the one that got away”. As it turned out Chris had an 18-inch parang, a type of Asian machete, in his luggage that he had totally forgotten about!

The beauty of Singapore and the pleasant ferry ride paled when we reached Batam. The island resembles nothing so much as a giant building site. Raped and bastardized, the depressing air of the island is made more acute by the tiny patches of rainforest left in a few areas. Batam must have been a paradise once, before this cancer we call “civilization” reached it.

I was glad to see the back of Batam, to shack off the leaden pall of its awful genius loci. A one-hour flight brought us to Padang, the largest city in Western Sumatra. Padang airport consists of two rooms and looks like a rather shabby bus station in a small town. The city itself was as ugly as a welder’s bench. Gaping holes in the pavement lead straight down into the sewers. The majority of the buildings seemed to be grubby garages and spare part dealers interspersed with malodorous shanties. We checked into the Dippo International, a surprisingly good hotel. The night’s entertainment was fittingly Fortean, an Indonesian Elvis impersonator! The paunchy Asian Elvis grated his hips and ‘sung’ a madly out of tune series of the King’s melodies including Hound Dog and Return to Sender.

Next day we ordered a bus to take us down to Sungai Penuh were Debbie Martyr lives. The day was spent wandering around a museum that included an eye watering display on the tools of circumcision! Whilst walking around a particularly pungent market in search of a traditional costume for Pencak Silat, the obscure West Sumatran martial art Jon practices, a crowed of locals appeared. They started pointing at Jon and saying “Harry Potter, Harry Potter”. Due to his uncanny resemblance to actor Daniel Radcliff, Jon now had a group of Indonesians believing he was Hogwart`s finest son. Sadly he was far too honest to make a mint selling them autographs.

We finally found genial old men who sold traditional martial arts gear. When Jon explained what he had been dressed in whilst practicing this back in London, the old man fell about laughing. Apparently it was what the locals wore when they were getting married! Imagine boxers dressed in top hat and tails and you will see his point of view!

Thankfully that afternoon my lost bag emerged from the either at Padang airport.

In the evening whilst Jon and I were eating and drinking at the bar we were talking to some locals. One man in his fifties (called Stephano) claimed to have seen orang-pendek. He told us that in 1971 he had accompanied an Australian explorer called John Thompson into the jungles of Kerinci-Seblat national park. He had seen small human like primates with yellow hair. In order to stop Thompson shooting them he told the Australian that a curse would descend on anyone who killed one of the creatures.

Stephano also heard of the cigau from the Kerinci locals. They told him that it had a head like a lion and a body like a horse. It ran fast through the jungle. Sadly before we could question him further the bus to Sungai Penuh arrived.

After eight uncomfortable hours journey along roads that would not look out of place in post-war Baghdad we arrived in Sungai Penuh (full river). We checked into a grotty hotel and collapsed.

The next day we met Debbie Martyr. Debbie is a charming lady who reminded me a lot of the chimp conservationist Jane Goodall. A former journalist Debbie fist came to Sumatra as a travel writer in 1993. She had heard tell of orang-pendek and assumed it was a legend, no more than a bit of local colour. Later a guide was telling her of the animals he had seen in the jungle. He said he had seen rhino, sunbear, tiger, elephant and orang-pendek!  About six weeks later Debbie herself saw the animal. She now resides in Sumatra and is head of the tiger conservation team and spends her spare time investigating orang-pendek.

When we met Debbie she was embroiled in a case where a local felon had tried to sell two stuffed leopard cats to a woman who turned out to be the chief of police’s wife!

Debbie told us that the most recent sighting, about 3 moths previously, had taken place at in the jungle surrounding Gunung Tuju or the lake of seven peaks, a large volcanic lake in the park. She photocopied several maps for us and also spoke of a lost valley. Despite being shown on the map Debbie told us no one had ever been there. It looked like a couple of days hike from the lake. The contours showed a wickedly steep sided canyon.

“We just don’t know what’s down there,” Debbie said.

We all felt that it would be exciting to look for the valley. She had also arranged guides. Sahar was a small bespectacled man in his earl thirties, who, if dressed in a suit and tie could pass for an accountant, his brother John, and an older man called Anhur.

We took a bus from Sungai Penuh to Sahar`s village Ulonjourni. During the journey a perky little man called Jeoffory sat next to Chris. An English teacher, Jeoffory bombarded Chris with dozens of questions.

“Where are you from?”, “How old are you?”, “How tall are you?”, “Are you married?”, “How much do you earn?”

He wanted our addresses in order to write to us. Chris gave a bogus one, I gave my real address. I looked forward to spreading some comic misinformation a-la Monty Python’s Anglo-Hungarian phrase book sketch but alas he never wrote to me.

We stopped the night at Sahar`s house. It was a tiny animal sanctuary in itself with geckos, grasshoppers, and a magnificent rhinoceros beetle. In the morning we set about buying supplies such as rice and noodles for the expedition.

A lot of my equipment was kindly loaned to me by CFZ member Paul Vella. I had asked Paul if he wanted anything bringing back from Sumatra. He had asked for a stick of Sumatran rock. In the shop were we were stocking up I though I spied some! Sadly the stripy sticks in the jar turned out to be wafer sticks.

Fully stocked, the six of us set out into the foothills of Gunung Tuju. The foothills were fine but as the gradient grew more acute I began to suffer. Gunung Tuju is 3000 meters high. Much of the way the path is at something like 75 degrees. Imagine a gargantuan winding staircase. The stairs are made of moss slick tree roots jutting at differing angles. Like the labour of Sisyphus in Greek mythology the climb seemed never ending. I collapsed with exhaustion, staggered on, collapsed again and vomited with over-exertion. The other five split my backpack between them and helped me up. Even without a weight on my back the climb was the most physically draining thing I have ever done. Chris (who despite looking about 45 is in fact knocking 60 at the time), Jon, and the guides, romped up the mountain like goats.

Finally I made the summit. The land falls away dramatically to the 4 km lake. Gunung Tuju is a strange unearthly turquoise in colour. It lies in the bowl of an extinct (or maybe just dormant) volcano. Geo-thermal in nature its waters are warm. There are many legends attached to Gunung Tuju. It is said to be home to a djinn, (an Islamic daemon). Some years ago a waterspout was seen moving around the surface of the lake. Once a fisherman and his canoe were sucked down by a “whirlpool”. The man managed to escape but his canoe never surfaced. The geo-thermal nature of the lake may offer an explanation here. Perhaps a release of carbon dioxide occurred changing the waters buoyancy for a time.

The lake’s waters are biologically impoverished. Only one species of small fish and one species of freshwater crab live in the lake. Despite this the waters support several fishermen. It was believed that the fish were poisonous until a few years ago when a wandering shaman cast a spell to make them edible. He didn’t do a very good job. I can tell you from personal experience that the lake’s fish taste foul. The fishermen catch them in tiny wooden traps suspended by floats then dry them and eat them whole.

Sahar hailed the fishermen who appeared across the lake in their ancient dugouts and paddled towards us. The men took us (and our packs) across the misty waters to their huts. A storm was brewing so instead of forging on to set up camp we spent the night with the fishermen in their huts and dined on rice, noodles, and bitter fish.

We were greeted in the morning by the whoops of siamang gibbons (Symphalangus syndactylus). A greenish tinted mountain tree shrew disported itself on a fallen tree above the fishermen’s huts. The fishermen ferried us to the point on shore were we were to make camp. Whilst John and Anhur constructed a bivouac out of branches and plastic sheeting Sahar led Chris, Jon, and I into the jungle.

The rainforest here smells very like an English wood. The towering trees are wreathed with vines, the vines are covered in moss, the moss is festooned with fungi. Life devours life. The great paradox of the rainforest is that despite being the greatest concentration of life on earth, the animals are hard to see. The vegetation and shadows hide most creatures and large animals can hear you coming from far away. The electronic buzz of cicadas and other insects fills the air mingling with the metallic screeches of exotic birds. Gaudy bracket fungi sprout from rotting tree trunks that fall across gorges and streams that run down from the surrounding mountains like ribbons of quicksilver.

Sahar`s skill as a guide is astounding. The slightest bent twig or misplaced leaf catches his eye. Things that you or I would walk straight past tell him the secrets of the jungle. He pointed out the trail of a Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), through the bushes. The bulky animal had hardly disturbed the greenery. Later we found its three-toed footprints. A brown throated barbet (Megalaima corvina) flew above us as we pushed deeper.

We came upon a possible orang-pendek footprint. Sadly, it had been damaged by rain. I measured it but it was too damp for casting. It was narrower at the heel than at the front and pressed about half an inch into the ground. Further along the trail we came across seven prints crossing a large muddy puddle. Similar in size and shape to the earlier print they too had suffered rain damage. The gait was definably that of a biped. A fallen log crossed the puddle and as Sahar pointed out a human would have crossed by the log as opposed to walking through the mud.

A little further on Sahar pointed out some damaged plants. Known as pahur, the pith inside the stem is a favourite food of orang-pendek. A number of the plants seemed to have been dexterously peeled apart and the pith eaten. A flattened area of moss on a nearby tree stump may have been where the creature sat whilst eating. We hid and waited in silence, but apart from the calls of birds and insects nothing disturbed the stillness of the jungle.

The rains began in force and we headed back to camp. On the way we encountered a rufous woodcock (Scolopax saturata), but saw no further evidence of our quarry.

Already I was heartily sick of rice and noodles. The foul little fish did nothing to improve our meagre fare. At this altitude the nights become quite chilly but fatigue insured that I slept soundly.

We set out on a different trail the next day. The jungle here was more open than the area we searched before. We saw many varieties of pitcher plant, known locally as the monkey’s pitcher due to the belief that monkeys drink from them. Green and black leeches fell from above and attached themselves to Jon and Chris.

Several miles into the forest Sahar noticed hair stuck to a tree trunk. It was about an inch long, dark grey, and was a meter above the ground. Close by pahur plants had been stripped and their pith eaten. We also found a stick with tooth marks in it. The bite was four inches across. We collected the hair for analysis.

Jon’s camera’s motor broke and mine steamed up badly. Further along the trail we found more hair. It was very like the first sample but somewhat lighter in colour. It was also found on a tree trunk one meter above the ground.

We came upon piles of tapir droppings and footprints. We also discovered civet dung. Sadly no orang-pendek droppings! We found no further prints.

Sahar told us that in 2000 he had heard the cry of orang-pendek. He demonstrated….

“UHUUUUUUUUR-UR-UR” ….A weird drawn out moan followed by two grunts. Quite unlike any animal vocalization I know.

Every so often we stopped, sat, and waited deathly quiet. But our quarry failed to emerge.

The next day we took a swim in the lake. The warm clear water was lovely and at this altitude no crocodiles were present. We were careful not to swim nude because one of the pieces of jungle folklore that the locals really take to heart is that nakedness in the jungle is a strict taboo. They believe that this will anger the tigers and bring their wrath down upon you.

We took yet another path into the forest. The bees here are gigantic, the size of small mice! Chris christened the B-52s. The going was slower here as there was more vegetation and the guides had to spend a long time hacking it away with their parangs. I could not help but feel that the noise they created would scare most animals away.

We found more hair on this day than any other, over 60 hairs in a hollow tree. They resembled the other hairs, short and grey.

The trail led upwards to a fantastic view of the lake from one of the edges of the collapsed volcano`s ancient rim.

Under a rotting log I caught a 4.5-inch skink of a species I have yet to identify. It was reddish brown changing to burgundy on the head and tail. The eyes were very large.

Sahar did his orang-pendek impression. His call echoed out across the lake but there was no answer.

Gelatin, a nasty stinging plant was very abundant as were bananas. Sadly these were unripe. It is another great paradox of the jungle that there is so little edible fruit around. Most berries are poisonous. I was missing fruit terribly. The only thing we came upon were some small berries Sahar called “strawberries” that looked and tasted like under ripe, red, blackberries.

Sahar`s brother John left. He was needed on a tiger conservation project elsewhere in the park. He was replaced with another guide called Parentis.

After a cold and sleepless night we broke camp to move to the opposite side of the lake. The fishermen ferried our luggage whilst Sahar, Chris, Jon, and I walked on foot. We found no further evidence of orang-pendek.

The guides set up a new camp and Sahar captured a beautiful agamid lizard closely resembling the Cantonese garden lizard. I photographed it then set it free.

That night I was woken by a commotion. The guides were looking up excitedly into the trees and shining torches at a cat sized, red furred animal whose eyes were reflecting the light like balls of fire. It was a red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista).

I must have lost weight rapidly. I only ate twice a day. Once before starting the day’s hike and once upon return. I could only stomach a few mouthfuls of the rice and noodles.

Chris felt ill and exhausted so only Jon, the guides and myself took the next hike. We took a route up to a knife-edge peak. Jungle swathed, seer drops fell away from us on either side. The peaks were literally a couple of feet across. The views were exquisite. We found the pugmarks of a golden cat. I discovered the newly dead cadaver of a shrew like lesser gymnure (Hylomys suillus) – a tiny jungle insectivore the size of a mouse.

In a clearing Sahar found two long brown hairs. They looked much more like what I had imagined orang-pendek hair to look like.

Back at the camp we met a couple of tourists passing through on a tour of Indonesia. It was nice to talk to other strangers in the jungle.

We never made it to the infamous lost valley but we decided to leave that until our next expedition.

In the morning the fishermen took us back across the lake to the edge of an incredible waterfall that tumbles down thousands of feet to the plains below. We had missed this spectacular sight on the way up.

As we climbed down again we saw more wildlife in a single afternoon than in the whole of our stay at the lake. Mitred langurs (Presbytis melalophus mitrata), a banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) a normally nocturnal member of the civet family, a small toothed palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata), and a pair of horse tailed squirrels (Sundasciurus hippurus). Also found the droppings of a golden cat (Catopuma temminckii).

As we reached the lowlands a massive bull elephant with impressive tusks loomed out of the bushes. I thought for a moment I had been lucky enough to see a wild elephant but it was one of a pair of tame elephants used by the villagers in the foothills of the mountain.

The village shop sold beer, bliss.

We took the bus back to Sungia Penuh and collected our things from Debbie. She was having trouble with a golden cat. The animal was caught in a snare after killing a goat. Villagers were now holding the animal. She would have to negotiate its release and tend to any injuries it had sustained.

We checked into the Aroma hotel. Even the VIP lounge had no hot water and was home to cockroaches you could put a saddle on.

We took Debbie and a couple of her tiger conservation team out for dinner. One of the men had seen orang-pendek although he almost refused to admit it. He thought he had seen a sun bear standing on its hind legs until Debbie pointed out that sun bears are black and the thing he had reported seeing was yellowish.

Barbecued chicken, after days of rice and noodles you have no idea how good it tastes.

The next day I interviewed Debbie about her orang-pendek sightings.

Me: Could you please tell me how you first heard about and got interested in orang-pendek?

Debbie: I was travelling in Sumatra as a journalist in 1989. I was climbing Mount Kerinci and heard of a legendary animal that I thought would add a bit of colour to the travel piece I did. Then I started meeting people we claimed to have seen something that didn’t appear to exist. At that stage I didn’t believe or not believe, I was trained as a journalist, which is a respectable profession so I took a look into it.

Me: Can you tell me about the first time you actually saw orang-pendek?

Debbie: I saw it in the middle of September; I had been out here four months. At that time I was 90 percent certain that there was something here, that it was not just traditional stories. I thought it would be an orang-utan and that it would move like an orang-utan, not bipedally like a man. I had my own preconception of what the animal would look like if I did see it. What was the real shocker was that I had been throwing away reports on the animal on the basis of colour that didn’t fit into what I thought the animal would look like. When I saw it I saw an animal that didn’t look like anything in any of the books I had read, films I had seen, or zoos I had seen. It did indeed walk rather like a person and that was a shock.

Me: What did it actually look like?

Debbie: A relatively small, immensely strong, non-human primate. But it was very gracile, that was the odd thing. So if you looked at the animal you might say that it resembled a siamang or an agile gibbon on steroids! It doesn’t look like an orang-utan. Their proportions are very different. It is built like a boxer, with immense upper body strength. But why an animal with immense upper boy strength should be lumbering around on the ground I don’t know. It makes no sense at all.

It was a gorgeous colour, moving bipedally and trying to avoid being seen. I knew there was something in the vicinity because the action of birds and primates in the area meant that there was obviously something moving around. So I sent a guide around as far as I could to where the disturbance was. What ever was concealed in the undergrowth would try to avoid my guide and move away in front of him. I was concealed looking down over a small shallow valley. We didn’t know what we were going to see. It could have been a bear, it could have been a tiger, it could have been a golden cat, or anything. Instead, from totally the wrong direction, a bipedal, non-human primate, walked down the path ahead. It was concentrating so hard on avoiding my guide it didn’t look towards me. I had a camera in my hand at the time but I dropped it I was so shocked. It was something so new my mental synapses froze up for a minute trying to identify something I hadn’t seen before.

Me: You have seen it a couple of times since. Could you tell me about those sightings?

Debbie: I saw it again about three weeks later. Again it was on Mount Tuju and again I had a camera in my hand, again I froze because I didn’t know what I was seeing. It had frozen on the trail because it had heard us coming. All I could see was that something across the valley had changed. I looked through a pair of binoculars. Something didn’t look quite right in the landscape. By the time I trained on the area the animal, whatever it was, had gone.

Those were the only times I could have got a photo of it. I have seen it since but fleetingly. Once you have seen an animal you can recognise it. If you have seen a rhino you can recognise a bit of a rhino.

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your theory of why orang-pendek walks bipedally?

Debbie: Everyone has pet theories. I think the only thing that makes sense is the massive volcanic event about fifty thousand years ago that created what is now Lake Toba up in north Sumatra. It created a biographical divide. You get the Malayan tapir down here but not up there. You get the Thomas’s leaf monkey up there but not down here. In recent geological history it was the biggest volcanic event. It was absolutely immense and would have caused massive habitat destruction right across Sumatra and into Malaysia.

All I can think is that surviving animals down here would have had to become terrestrial. They would have found themselves with very few trees.

Me: But fifty thousand years is a very short time for something to change so radically.

Debbie: What you could suggest is that fifty thousand years is not a long time for something to change its muscles. Maybe there wouldn’t be much skeletal change, there would be some but not a lot. But the main change would be in the muscles. An adaptable animal that is being forced to walk erect. Gibbons can walk erect so perhaps another, larger ape could become bipedal. Speciation that’s what makes the most sense.

Me: What do you think of reports of other bipedal apes in Asia?

Debbie: I don’t believe in the abominable snowman. My father was in Tibet and saw what he was told were yeti tracks but they turned out to be bear footprints. They are just too big. I think three-meter tall apes are too big. Maybe there has been exaggeration through fear. I don’t believe in things like bigfoot. The yeren in China might exist. Orang-utans like in China in the Pleistocene. It could be speciation in the orang-utan. The forests of Assam might be a good place to look as well.

Me: Thank you.

Debbie also showed us a cast of an orang-pendek foot print taken a few years previously in the jungle surrounding the lake. It was about 8 inches long and did not resemble a yeti or Sasquatch foot print. It was much less human looking. It had four longish toes at the front and the big toe was placed further back along the side of the foot. The toes all looked more prehensile than a human’s but less so than any known ape’s.

Debbie believes that the orang-pendek’s masterful camouflage has developed to protect them from tigers. The creature can freeze and resemble a tree stump fooling a primarily visual predator.

Orang-pendek has also been seen in trees so perhaps the once arboreal, now terrestrial ape is beginning to evolve back into a tree dweller. There is no competition from orang-utans in the west of Sumatra as they are confined to the north of the island.

Debbie also believes that early Dutch explorers may have collected orang-pendek specimens without knowing what they were. Bones and skin from this cryptid may be languishing in the basements of Dutch museums mislabelled as orang-utan!

Outside a massive black eagle flew low over the houses casting an impressive shadow and reflecting in rain puddles.

Debbie then translated for Sahar as he told us of his late father’s encounters with both orang-pendek and the cigau.

In the 1980s Sahar`s father and a friend had been cutting logs to build a house close to were the village of Polompek now stands. The area has long since been deforested. Both men saw a bipedal ape lifting up cut logs and throwing them about. It was covered in blackish brown hair and was about five feet tall. The hair on the creature’s spine was darker. Its legs were short and its powerful arms were long. The face was broad and was black in colour with some pink markings. Both men fled.

Back when Sahar`s father was a bachelor (as Sahar is the same age as me this would have made it some time during the 1960s) he saw the cigau. Kerinci trades with other parts of Sumatra. They exchange rice for goods like silk. Sahar`s father and four other men were travelling a trade route. The path led through the jungle. One of the men had committed a great taboo. He had eaten rice straight from the pot rather than waiting for portions to be given out.

In the dead of night the cigau came from the forest to claim him. It stalked right into their camp and dragged him off into the darkness. It was smaller but stockier than a tiger. It had a silvery lion like mane and golden fur. Its forelegs were longer than its back legs like the build of a hyena. It had a short, tufted, cow like tail. The men searched the jungle franticly for their lost comrade but when they found him he was minus a stomach, disembowelled by the cigau.

It would be easy to dismiss the cigau as a piece of folklore, the wrath of the jungle sent to punish transgressors but if you recall similar attributes are given to the very real tiger, for example the tiger becoming angry at those who go naked in the forest.

Sahar`s father also spoke of a cigau who laired near a fallen tree that formed a natural bridge over a river. It would swim out and devour those who slipped into the water.

Debbie also commented that she had many recent reports of the cigau in water. Most of them mentioned it flinging back it’s mane to shake of the water.

It is worth pointing out two things at this point. Whilst on the trail of the monster snake called  naga in Thailand back in 2000 I was told of the popular belief in a golden, lion like cat in the Thai jungles. The city of Singapore was founded after a nobleman saw a golden lion in the jungle were the city now stands. Singapore means “lion city”.

Also as mentioned before, crocodiles are absent from this mountainous part of Sumatra. Ergo a big cat could enter water without fear of being killed by a crocodile.

We were also told of the beliefs of Sahar`s people that the progenitor of their clan was transformed into a tiger. They maintain that shamans of there clan can commune with jungle spirits among who the tiger is foremost.

We were so lost in conversation with Debbie and Sahar that we were too late to catch the mini bus and had to take a larger bus that travelled through the night. At our destination we discovered that the proprietor of the guesthouse in which we were staying, Mr Sapandi was a keen bird watcher. He showed us some impressive photographs of a dwarf frogmouth he had taken earlier in the year. He had heard of orang-pendek but had never seen it.

Mr Sapandi`s guesthouse was very comfortable but I was awoke by a cock crowing at 4 am!

After a breakfast of pancakes and chocolate sauce (by far the best breakfast that we had during our stay in Sumatra) we caught the bus for Ulon-journi. From there it was a bumpy ride by motorbike to a small village (I lost my hat along the way but Sahar rescued it). On the way a black eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) wheeled overhead clutching a snake in its claws. Finally we began our long walk along the mountain trail to the next area we were to study, the jungles beyond the extremely remote village of Sungi-Kuning (yellow river). The village was a two-day trek away but thankfully it was mostly down hill.

Before we got into the jungle pass we had to walk for over an hour through coffee plantations. I was amazed at just how far into the jungle these plantations have encroached. Thousands of acres of rainforest have been lost to grow plants to produce this vile tasting, vile smelling, carcinogenic filth. The locals call the area were the plantations and jungle meet “the garden” I saw several more black eagles here but also several men with guns out to shoot birds. It seemed that the park and garden boundaries were ill defined.

Monster insects abounded here including some I have never seen in any text book. There were black hornets with bright yellow spots. These impressive insects were as long as my index finger (4-4.5 inches!). God only knows what kind of sting they would give but they would certainly liven up an English picnic.

Finally we got onto the pass and followed the path through the jungle. We saw another mitered langur, a pair of three striped ground squirrels (Lariscus insignis), and a small toothed palm civet.

As we pushed on it became clear that Jon was unwell. He looked deathly pail and began to tremble as if struck by the palsy. He was corpse cold and clammy to the touch. He was too ill to continue and worried that he may have contracted malaria. Sahar offered to take him back to Mr Sapandi’s guesthouse and rejoin us the next day.

Parentis, Chris and I set up camp by a stream and hoped that Jon was wrong about his sudden affliction. That night I could not sleep and was treated to a light show by luminous green fireflies that floated ghost like from the jungle and into the bivouac.

Back in Sungi-Penuh we had brought some powdered milk, tomato sauce, and corned beef. These little things make the food far more tolerable. Sahar reappeared and we continued our trek.

At dusk we reached the tiny village of Sungi-Khuning. We stopped in a large (by village standards) house in the centre of the village. I was unsure whether it was a guesthouse, village hall, or just some hospitable soul’s home. Sahar said that a man who had recently seen orang-pendek lived in the village and would come to talk with us. That night about 23 people crowded into the house but the witness was not among them.

Sahar asked if we would like to hear some local music and led us to the edge of the village were a wooden stage had been erected. A Sumatran band was playing. They had several electric flautists, an electric drummer, and a trio of singing girls.

They sang a medley of Indonesian songs. They don’t write them like that any more. Chris thought he had seen Hendrix do one of the tracks at the Isle of White in 1970. I was going to ask them if they knew any Joy Division but I suspected that they wouldn’t. Still the idea of the west Sumatran highlands throbbing to the dulcet tones of Ice Age or Colony is one that will remain with me forever.

That night we discovered that our lodgings were indeed a guesthouse and we signed the guest book. We were the first ever to do so.

Next morn we set off through yet more plantations that bordered the village. We came across a tree scared by the claws of a sun bear that had excavated a bee’s nest for the honey. We finally reached the jungle and made camp. The rainforest here was at a lower altitude. It was warmer, damper, and thicker that the mountain rainforest that surrounded Gunung Tuju. It also seemed less disturbed. At Gunung Tuju I had been alarmed at the amount of litter. Some areas looked like urban parks in England. But this jungle, known as Sungi-Rumput (grass river) there was no litter. Oddly there seemed a lot less game.

We had employed an extra guide, a local man who knew the area better than Sahar or Parentis. On our first trek he led us round in circles, up pointless ridges, and into dead ends. In the morass I lost my parang that I had brought back in Sungi-Penuh. Each time we paused and sat the forest floor came alive with leeches. A living carpet of vampiric annelids squirmed and looped towards you homing in on the body heat. It was an eerie sight to see them blindly tumble towards you like tiny living slinkies. Whilst you swatted them aside half a dozen more would have attached themselves to your legs from the rear and be gorging themselves on your blood. Trousers, socks, and boots proved no deterrent.

The only mammal I saw was a long tailed giant rat (Leopoldamys sabanus). Yes it may hearten Sherlock Holmes to know that the giant rat of Sumatra does exist but at about 18 inches it is more of a respectable rat than a giant one.

As we returned to camp the new guide led us up a vegetation choked blind alley. We had to turn back and walk along a crumbling riverbank. A section gave way and I fell five feet into the river. It was not a long fall but on the way down I smashed my coccyx on a rock jutting from the bank. I turned the air blue for five minutes solid.

Back at camp after plucking of the leeches and being besieged by mosquitoes, Chris noted that at this point Sumatra was about as much fun as Stalingrad.

The following day we trekked again. This time all we saw was leeches. We didn’t even hear any birds. The jungle devoured Chris’s parang on this day. The next morning we had to make the return journey.

Back in Sungi-Khuning we brought a chicken and had it cooked. At last a decent meal! That night we were treated to a display of a local dance called Tarri Asic. It has its origins back in the time of tiger ancestor veneration/appeasement but its proper meaning is now lost. It consisted of a group of about twelve girls in traditional dress moving in a square formation and swapping first flowers, then necklaces, then kris knifes.

The following morning I found that one of the girls (aged about 16) had taken a shine to me. She said I was handsome and she loved my sweet smile. She asked if she could keep my dragon necklace. I gave her the necklace (I felt naked without it).

We began the arduous trek back. What had been all down hill going was all up hill coming back. Though not as steep as Gunung Tuju the pass when on for much further and once again I suffered. I was reduced to a staggering pace were putting one foot ahead of the other was exhausting.

That night we camped alongside a group of about fifty men who were repairing the path. They had set up a camp so large it looked like a small village. The evening was raucous but by morning the workers had all vanished. Sahar found an impressive giant centipede the size of my hand. The pass seemed alive with huge insects, sago “worms” in fact the larval form of rhinoceros beetles, and their ponderous adult forms were common.

Finally as we approached the plantations the ground levelled off again. On the path I found the carcass of a beautiful Malayan coral snake (Calliophis bivirgatus). The poor animal was obviously the victim of a human attack, hacked into three by a parang.

We made our way back to Sungi-Penuh to pick up the things Debbie had kindly let us leave in her house. Debbie was not in so we checked into the Aroma hotel again. This time we did not have a VIP suite. The average room was tiny and filthy. Covered in graffiti it had the most decayed, insanitary toilet I have ever seen (and I have travelled).

Luckily Jon turned up shortly after our arrival. He had spent five days at Mr Sapandi’s guesthouse. Fortunately he had been wrong in his suspicions of malaria. It was food poisoning that had struck him down. He had spent several days in a fever and Mr Sapandi had kindly nursed him back to health. We never did work out what had disagreed with him so violently.

Unfortunately Debbie was not in all day and our passports were still in her house. At the Aroma the appallingly camp concierge (who made Larry Grayson look like Geoff Capes) had mad us fill out complex forms asking, among other things, our passport number. That evening he came bursting into our room with a policeman because we had not filled in our passport numbers. We explained about the situation with Debbie and the policeman was very understanding and apologetic. The camp concierge minced off without the slightest apology.

A man from the tiger conservation team was kind enough to drive us the eight-hour journey back to Padang. We stopped off for a meal at a pleasant roadside café at dusk and were treated to the sight of hundreds of magnificent short nosed fruit bats (Cynopterus sphinx) heading out into the forests to feed.

Latter on a large black cobra slithered onto the road in front of our car. Unfortunately despite breaking we ran the snake over. It was hit again by a lorry behind us and killed. I did not get a close enough look to identify the species. As a reptile lover I was upset by the incident. All three of the snakes I had seen in Sumatra were now dead ones.

We checked into the Dippo hotel again. We spent a pleasant night drinking beer in the company of very beautiful women. In the morning we caught the plane to Batam and the ferry back across to Singapore.

Chris and I booked into the Roxy hotel and after a huge meal of pizza in an Italian restaurant we bade Jon farewell. Chris and myself spent the next two days around museums and the lovely Singapore zoo, on which I could write a whole book.

Finally we took the long and uneventful journey back to England were I suffered a delayed train that crawled along taking several times as long to reach Exeter as normal. After the clean, glorious public transport system in Singapore it was a total disgrace.

The hair samples sent to my old friend Dr Lars Thomas of Copenhagen University for analysis. The team at Copenhagen specialize in retrieving DNA from old or damaged specimens.

I came away from this first trip believe more strongly than ever now that an upright walking primate, unknown to science inhabits Western Sumatra.

It should be noted that similar creatures have been reported on the Malayan peninsular were they are known as mawas, Borneo were it is known as batutut, and in the valleys and foothills of the Himalayas were it is called teh-lma (a type of small yeti as opposed to the man sized meh-teh and the classic giant duz-teh).

The cigau may once have had a wider range. In Malaya and Indo-China legends of golden lion like cats abound. But as far as I know there have been no recent sightings outside of Sumatra. The nearest true lions are the Asian lions of northwest India.

What I felt certain of certain however was that both orang-pendek and the cigau may not be around on Sumatra for much longer. Four out of the six sites were orang-pendek have been reported in western Sumatra are now deforested. I visited the remaining two and was worried by the amount of disturbance. Around Gunung Tuju litter abounded and on the road to Sungi-Rumput many people carried guns.

Several weeks later Debbie e-mailed me to say that a honey coloured orang-pendek had been recently reported from Renah Permatk. It had supposedly killed three dogs. The locals set out to catch it and Gunung Tuju was crawling with people armed with cameras. Needless to say nothing came of the hunt.

On describing the cigau to my palaeontologist colleague Darren Naish he told me how struck he was with its resemblance to a group of fossil cats known as Homotheres. These were also known as scimitar cats and were related to the more familiar sabre toothed cats. They had large canines, short tails and sloping backs. Fossil remains of them have been uncovered on neighbouring Java. They are believed to have died out 10,000 years ago. Could a relic population be hanging on in Sumatra?

The sample results came back after several months from Dr Lars Thomas who was conducting DNA analysis on the hairs.  The smaller grey hairs turned out to be, much as I expected, from the Malayan tapir. The longer brown ones were feline. Lars compared them to the known species of cat found in Sumatra. He eliminated them all except for the golden cat. For a while we hoped we had found some samples of cigau hair, but it was not to be. When Lars final got hold of golden cat hair samples it turned out that they matched the samples we had brought back with us.

This expedition was to concentrate on the “lost valley”. Debbie had told us of this mysterious place on our previous visit. Situated beyond Gunung Tuju, it had never been penetrated by explorers.

We flew out via Bahrain in early May 2004. We caught the connecting flight from Singapore the same day and cut out the depressing island of Batam that we were forced to travel from last year.

Once in Padang we stayed at the Dippo Hotel as we did the year before. The karaoke from the bar was so loud you could not hear yourself think whilst trying to eat. The following day we booked a car and headed out to Kersik Tua. We had arranged to stay with Mr. Surbandi the man who had so kindly looked after Jon last year when he had food poisoning.

We swiftly broke down a few scant miles out of Padang and had to wait for a replacement car. The driver was a maniac. For those of you unfamiliar with Indonesia roads they look like a cross between Baghdad high street and a particularly tortuous alpine back road. Most of Sumatra is mountainous; ergo the roads are 90 per cent corners and twists. The driver took these at a knuckle whitening pace. The nature of the roads means that it takes up to three times as long to get anywhere in Sumatra as it would in Britain. It is about 100 miles from Padang to Kerinci but it takes eight awful hours. I driver was trying to slice some time off the journey. All he did was make Chris feel nauseous. We had to stop on several occasions for poor Chris to have a “techni-colour yawn”. On one occasion we saw a troop of banded langurs (Presbytis femoralis) crashing through the trees beside the road.

We arrived late at Mr. Subandi`s. It is always a pleasure to stay with him. He is a keen bird watcher and naturalist and his wife is an excellent cook. Outside of Padang Sumatran food is truly dire. Mr. Subandi`s is one of the very few places you are guaranteed a good meal.

As luck would have it Mr. Subandi knew of our quest and had uncovered some recent orang- pendek witnesses less than an hour’s drive away in a village called Te Uik Air Putih. By a remarkable stroke of luck a specimen of the titan arum, the world’s largest flower, was blooming in the same area. The titan arum blossoms only once in ten years so this was an un-missable opportunity.

Together with a pleasant Dutch couple who were also staying at Mr. Subandi`s we sallied forth to find these treasures.

The village backed onto an area called “the garden” cultivated land that is used for growing crops. The garden merges with the jungle seamlessly and in some areas is very overgrown. Due to its more open nature one usually encounters more wildlife in the garden than the jungle proper. The titan arum is truly the Godzilla of flowers and looks like some strange surrealist sculpture or something made by the BBC special effects department. It stood seven feet tall. The elephant’s foot of a stem widens into a barrel sized green bowl. This in turn flares out into the petal which looks like nothing so much as a Spanish Flamenco dancer’s red dress. Finally a phallic stamen of bright yellow rises from within the petal’s folds.

The scent of the titan arum is said to be like rotting flesh. It is pollinated by flies attracted to what they think is a cadaver. We could detect no such smell around our flower but, close by, the fresh carcass of a bearded pig (Sus barbatus), was stealing its thunder.

You may recall from my notes on last year’s expedition that Sumatra is a land of giant insects. On our way through the garden Mr. Subandi discovered a giant ant. Whilst not quite as large as those beloved of 1950s B movies it was the biggest ant I had ever seen. At two inches long it was as large in relation to the common formica ant as a whale is to a human. Camponotus gigas, to give it its scientific name, is a truly spectacular sight. It feeds on smaller insects, bird droppings, and honeydew. It’s a damn good job it is not aggressive like the driver, soldier, or fire ants. The prospect of 100,000 flesh eating two-inch ants is unnerving.

We found the house of the witness and interviewed him via Mr. Subandi. His name was Seman. He was a middle-aged man with a young child. Seman had seen the creature in an area of land adjacent to a river at mid-day in February 2004. Back then the area was overgrown. The creature was only visible from the waist upward. He estimated it to be 80cm tall but when we looked at the area ourselves it seemed that the animal must have been over a meter tall. The height he indicated with his hand looked like one meter as well.

The animal had short black hair, a broad chest with pink skin visible on it, and a pointed head possibly indicating a sagittal crest. The ears were long. The creature vanished and Seman said that he had the feeling it had fled to the river and swam across it, though he did not see this. The river was a torrent when we were there but in February it was much lower. It had been in view for three minutes.

On visiting the area we worked out that the creature had been 22 meters away from the witness. Seman produced a sketch showing a powerfully built, ape like creature with broad shoulders, long arms, and a conical head. At no time did it raise up its arms, as gibbons are wont to do on the rare occasions they move about on the ground.

We returned to the same general area the next day to interview another witness. On the way through the garden we saw a couple of flying dragons (Draco volans). These agamid lizards glide by using extended ribs covered with skin. Their “wings” were a canary yellow and made a breath-taking spectacle. At least we could say that we had encounter flying reptiles on our quest for the lost valley.

Another fascinating sight was a hunting wasp. The wasp had stung and paralysed a large grasshopper and was in the act of dragging it into its burrow. The wasp lays an egg on the still living prey and it hatches into a grub that eats the victim alive.

Ata was in his twenties and had seen his creature about three weeks after Seman. He heard a strange cry coming from the same are of the garden were Seman had his encounter. The noises began at 10 am. They were a loud OOOOHA! OOOOHA! sound. Upon investigation Ata found himself only five meters away from a strange beast. It was one meter tall and had short black hair. Its prominent chest made him think it was female. Its lower half was hidden by vegetation.

He noticed that it had large owl like eyes, a flat nose, and a large mouth. It seemed aggressive and Ata said he felt the hairs on the back of his hands rise up in fear.

Ata produced a drawing of a muscular, upright creature, with large round eyes. It lacked the pointed head of Seman`s description.

Back at Mr. Subandie`s another man said that a friend of his had found what he believed to be orang-pendek footprints in his cornfields on three occasions. He promised to send more details to Mr. Subandi.

The next day our guide Sahar turned up. We were all very happy to see him again. He casually told us that he had seen a giant snake captured by a jungle dwelling tribe called the Kubu. We instantly recognized this as the story that had reached the British press of a 49-foot long, 985 lb reticulated python (Python reticulatus) called “Fragrant Flower”. The giant reptile had reputedly been looked on as an elder by the tribe. Imam Darmanto the owner of a zoo in Java had reputedly persuaded the Kubu to part with the giant. It allegedly took 65 men and the blessing of a tribal leader to capture it. The snake was transported to Java were it was put on display and fed a diet of dogs. Unfortunately, when the Guardian newspaper sent a reporter over with a tape measure Fragrant Flower had shrunk to 23 feet. It seemed that the whole story was a scam by Mr. Darmanto to promote his tawdry zoo.

Sahar confirmed that it had only been about seven meters long. He promised to take us to talk to the very tribe who captured it when we returned from the lost valley.

Together with his brother John, another man also called John (making three Johns on the expedition) and another porter called Pak Nadur we began our trek towards the lost valley. From the village of Kutang Gajha (which the Indonesian dictionary insists means elephant’s bra!) we started our journey.

Tough the terrain was not as steep as on last year’s trip it was very muddy. The track had been turned into a quagmire by cattle and rain. The going was slow and tiring. We watched a troop of pig-tailed macaques through binoculars as they snooped around some farm building in search of any food they could pilfer. The garden is extensive and many farmers build huts that they sleep in as temporary homes whilst they are tending their crops of tea, coffee, or cinnamon.

We finally came upon an abandoned hut. It was obvious that no one had inhabited it for years. It stood on wooden stilts and was festooned in cobwebs and fading graffiti. We slept overnight in this malodorous shanty. Sahar`s brother John had not brought a sleeping bag and had to fashion a crude equivalent out of plastic sacking. During the night he was beset by ants. Another unwelcome visitor was a gigantic spider four inches across that Sahar discovered scuttling around the floor. It was, he told us, venomous. Not fatal, but painful. We ejected it from the hut but next morning I discovered it in my sock!

Another troop of banded langurs was observed noisily bounding past the shack.

We sallied on. The path was dull and difficult. The muddy nature slowed our pace to that of a snail and we were beset by flies. Gradually the jungle began to replace the garden. Sahar spotted the trail of a sun bear. The spoor was less than a day old. Sahar asked a man herding buffalo if he knew the general direction we should go. The man pointed us down one of the many paths. We walked for hours becoming more fatigued until night approached and we stumbled across a small and familiar looking stream. Behind the stream was the shanty. We had come full circle and wasted a whole day. We climbed the ladder into the hut and when to bed in poor spirits.

At least we were eating better than last year. After a week of enduring rice, noodles, and bitter fish we had brought some food parcels over from England. Protein bars, soup, dried fruit, and biscuits made all the difference.

Next day we set out along a different path. Once again we became lost. Sahar was not au-fait with this area. By pure chance we stopped by a farmhouse. The people there said that one of their relatives, a man called Pak Suri knew the way to the lost valley. Pak Suri was away that day and would not be back until the morning. The family kindly put us up for the night.

The family had a young boy named Ragui. He had deformed feet that were twisted in such a way as to be literally pointing backward. This was strange as in Islamic law djinn, shape-shifting spirits, can be recognised by this trait. When in human form their feet point backwards. This odd piece of folklore is repeated in other cultures as far apart as South America and the Himalayas. I wondered if the poor child would face a life of being feared and treated as an outcast. He seemed to be able to walk quite well and his family loved him.

It transpired that Pak Suri would not be returning the next day as at first thought but another man Pak En, who knew the way, was contacted. Pak En was a sprightly old man who had ventured into the valley years ago on a fishing trip. He agreed to be our guide for the next few days.

Jon got a craving for coke and wanted to walk back to Kutang Gajha to see if they had any in the shop. He and Sahar headed back. They reappeared over four hours later in the pitch black. The only beverage the shop sold was a locally brewed pop called “Frambosen”. This delightful drink was sold in old Fanta bottles and tasted like flat, old, Vimto with soap powder in it. It seemed that the creators of Frambosen had not quite got the knack of making drinks fizzy. Their efforts just made Frambosen foamy.

The stars, or bentang as they are called in Indonesia, were truly spectacular and unaffected by light pollution. The constellations not visible in England were of great interest.

In the morning we set out for the lost valley with Pak En leading the way. We trekked upward into the jungle. As we progressed the leech problem got worse. Dozens of the micro-vampires silently attached themselves to our legs. Jon has a particular dread of leeches and found it quite distressing. Sahar had a novel way of thwarting the tiny horror. He daubed our boots with damp tobacco. It seems that leeches abhor the stuff.

Leeches were not the only irritation. I was set upon by a swarm of biting ants. Thankfully they were not the titanic species Mr. Subandi had shown us previously.

Towering mesas loomed out of the jungle. Behind them a fat daytime moon was fully visible giving the views an alien feel. Sahar came across the droppings of a sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). Though the smallest of the bears (about the size of a big Saint Bernard dog) they are second only to the polar bear in terms of ferocity. They sport outsized claws used for ripping into rotten logs in search of insects or honey. They can just as easily rip flesh.

Finally we came to the valley. There was a damn good reason why it was lost. Sheer cliffs fell one thousand feet into rapids. The sides of the valley were swathed in savagely thorned rattan. We had no rope. If we wanted to see the bottom of the valley we would have to risk scrambling down by hand.

Pak En found a part of the valley wall that was slightly less than perpendicular and we gingerly began our decent. What looked like solid ground would often be no more than loose topsoil of leaves and would cascade from underfoot. Sturdy looking branches would be rotten to the core and snap whilst being used for support. Half sliding, half walking we made our way towards the bottom.

Walking out into the sunshine of the valley it was astounding to think that I was the first Westerner ever to set foot in the place. It was more of a river carved gorge than a valley. The fast-flowing river dominated the area. Tough not deep or very wide it was fast and its bed was a mass of slippery rocks. The only place large enough to build our camp was in a small area of jungle close to where we had descended. The river looked as if it could flood violently and quickly.

At camp that night Pak En told us that he had seen an orang-pendek in the jungle just above the valley three years ago. He was walking along a jungle trail when he saw it approaching. It was one meter tall, upright, and powerfully built. It had black hair with red tips and a broad mouth. Its prominent breasts made Pak En think it was a female. He noticed that it grasped the vegetation as it moved. It let out an OOOOHA! OOOOHA! sound. He watched it move down the trail for two minutes before it saw him. On seeing Pak En it quickly turned about and walked back the way it hade come.

 

That night the camp was eerily lit up by thousands of green fireflies.

After breakfast Sahar, Jon, Chris, Pak En, John and myself set out to explore the valley. The nature of the valley compelled us to keep crossing the rapids on foot. The banks would peter out into sheer cliffs on one side forcing us to cross to the other. Some areas of the cliff faces were striped clean by landslides. Hundreds of tons of earth, rocks, and trees had fallen into the valley blocking whole areas and making the journey more arduous.

We had to scramble across slick boulders and walk across fallen trees. Such was the environment of the valley that it took hours to walk a distance one could have done in thirty minutes in England.

We saw many small animals. I regretted not having sample tubes with me, as some were undoubtedly unknown to science. But weight was a big concern in the jungle and we found the scan equipment we did bring along quite heavy enough. Tiny fast moving fish, a gigantic toad with tiger like stripes on its hindquarters, oddly flattened tadpoles that stuck to the rocks like sucking loaches. Above us black eagles whirled.

The progress was so slow that we realized that we would not make it to the end of the valley and back to camp before nightfall. We had to turn back about three quarters of the way along the valley. Darkness falls with alarming rapidity in the tropics. The river was treacherous enough by day; in the dark it would be deadly. A broken leg in such a remote area could mean death. Sadly we turned and headed back to camp.

We decided that from were we were camped it would be impossible to reach the end of the valley in a day. The small area was the only part of the valley suitable for camping. We had no choice but to climb up the cliffs to the top again. The valley did not look like suitable orang-pendek habitat. It was too narrow and there was nothing in it worth expending all the energy of climbing down for. I think orang-pendek would have more common sense than to climb down into the gorge.

The climb back up was easier than that going down. We could crouch on all fours making ourselves more stable. Once we had reached the top we found a new place to make a fresh camp and Pak En took us off to where he had seen the orang-pendek. It was a long climb up through harsh jungle. Along the way we say scrape marks left in the earth by a tiger. It was odd to think that we were sharing the forest with such large predators. It is a feeling one seldom gets in Britain. Some people we spoke to had lived their whole lives in the jungle and had never seen a tiger. Sahar had only ever seen one. Mr. Subandi had seen a total of three.

When we reached the area of the sighting Pak En mimed the strange way it was walking, gripping at the plants as it went. He told us that its outsized muscles reminded him of Mike Tyson. Jon filmed his performance for the website.

That night around the campfire Chris, Jon, and I picked 100 leeches off our legs. The camp was alive with cicadas. All over the world the 17-year cicada cycle had reached its apex and they were pupating in their thousands. Our socks and mosquito nets were festooned with their old cast-off exoskeletons, like yellow ghosts.

In the morning Sahar found a long black hair in the camp. It looked human but was far longer than the hair of anyone in the camp. It could have been from the mane of an orang-pendek. We may have brushed past a hair sticking to bush in the jungle and not noticed. Sahar told us of legends of beautiful longhaired women who lived in the jungle. I had secretly been wishing we could have stumbled upon a tribe of oriental amazons whose men folk had died out (perhaps of exhaustion) but no such look. I placed the hair in a sample bag.

Then we trekked down through the garden into what passes as civilization in Sumatra. We took a ride in the back of a lorry to Kersik Tua. Back at Mr. Subandi`s, we made plans to visit the Kubu and enquire after giant snakes. The Kubu live in the lowland jungles of Jambi Province so we would need to travel back to Sungei Penuh, thence to the town of Bangko, and from there into the jungle.

We had an extra day of rest at Mr. Subandi`s. In the evening he took us out bird watching in the forested foothills of Mount Kerinci. The area of woodland we visited was a short car ride away and lay beyond cultivated fields. It was home to a ghostly little bird known as the Short Tailed Frogmouth (Batrachostomus poliolophus). One of Mr. Subandi`s friends could emulate the strange, eerie, drawn out cry of the bird. He called out and began to get answers from the darkness. After a couple of false starts he managed to draw down one of the birds. It was a small, fat, grey, fowl about the size of a little owl. It was strange that such a small bird could make so disturbing a sound. It tarried a while on a branch but flew away before we could get a close look at it. Soon, however, we came upon a larger, tawny coloured specimen, squatting motionless in a tree. We observed it through binoculars. It seemed all mouth and eyes, like a feathered Pac-man. When the great yellow eyes opened it was a shock. Eyes as large as human eyes in a small bird lend it a Hyronymous Bosch quality.

The trip from Mr. Subandi`s to Sungei Penuh was dull. The trip from Sungei Penuh to Bangko was a mind bending eight hours. The tedium was only broken by the appearance at dusk of gigantic ashy headed flying foxes (Pteropus caniceps) with five-foot wingspans that flew alongside the car. They roosted in huge groups like masses of giant umbrellas in the trees.

Bangko itself is unremittingly dull and awful, the Indonesian equivalent of Nuneaton. It has little to recommend it to the tourist. We checked into a hotel and had a look at the ugly town. A nearby super market was selling bird’s nest soup flavoured pop! The soup is made from the nests of cave dwelling swifts that inhabit, Indo-China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They create their nests from special quick-drying saliva. So when you are eating bird’s nest soup, you are eating swift’s spit. The bird’s nest flavoured pop tasted just like you would expect it to, like bird’s spit. I brought half a dozen to take back home as presents.

Sahar found out that one of the men working at the hotel knew the Kubu and could speak their language (quite distinct from Indonesian). He agreed to take us to see the Kubu the day after next.

In the mean time we tried to find something to do in Bangko. We were told that there was a spectacular tower in the local park. It turned out that the twenty-foot tower was part of a local radio transmission mast. It once had coloured plastic attached to it to cheaply emulate stained glass but all except a hand full of panes had fallen out. A collection of goats grazed around it. That evening we managed to find a restaurant shaped like a steam locomotive. It served quite passable food by Indonesian standards. I wondered if anyone in the whole world was doing the same thing as us. Eating in a train shaped restaurant whilst waiting to question tribesmen about giant snakes and ape-men.

We set out the next day together with our translator for a bumpy ride along an ill maintained road into the jungle. The Kubu were once a totally nomadic tribe. Their only weapons were spears. They did not even use blowpipes or bows. These days the Kubu are semi nomadic, spending months in the jungle then returning to live for a while in houses.

We found the chief of the Kubu, a man named Nylam, in a roadside house with his family and several members of his tribe. He had been suffering from malaria and was glad when I was able to give him some medicine. He seemed happy to take us into his house and speak with us.

With us asking questions to Sahar in English, Sahar asking the translator in Indonesian, and the translator asking the Kubu in their language, we conducted an interview. Nylam confirmed that he and his tribe had indeed captured a large snake. It was a python. When asked about its length he stated that it was 23 feet (7 meters) long. This tallied with both Sahar`s estimate and the measurements of the reporter from the Guardian. The snake had been sold to a man in Java. The chief said that they had caught a 26 foot (8 meter) specimen shortly after but they had let it go back into the jungle again.

I asked if any of the Kubu had ever seen a 15-meter snake. They all said that they had never seen one so large. I asked how long the largest snake they had seen was. Nylam and several of his hunters all said they had seen several snakes of 33 feet (ten meters). One in particular had hung around close to their habitations about six months ago. Now came the strange part. All three men were adamant that these 10 meter snakes sported cow like horns. One man called Nueraha had been within 17 feet (5 meters) of one of the giant snakes and confirmed that it had horns. They also said it had a moss like growth on its back. I asked them to draw a picture for me but none of them could draw. I produced a quick sketch of a reticulated python to which I added horns. It met with enthusiastic nods of approval.

Stranger still was their beliefs about these huge snakes. Once a snake reaches a very large size it begins to get fatter and shorter. It grows four legs, each with five toes. Then it swims out to sea. I drew another picture, this time of an Indo-Pacific crocodile. The Kubu all agreed that this is what the great horned snake eventually becomes. In this form they called it a naga. They said it was larger than the common crocodile (or buaya, meaning rascal in Indonesian).

The Indo-Pacific crocodile (Crocodylus porosus ). does inhabit the region and, at its extreme may reach 10 meters. This is the record length for the reticulated python as well. It is interesting that the term naga is used for these creatures. You may recall my 2000 expedition to Thailand in search of the naga described in the previous chapter. In India and Indo China naga specifically refers to a giant crested snake, possibly an unknown species. In Indonesia naga means dragon and appears to be loosely used to describe any monster reptiles.

As far as I know this belief that pythons become crocodiles is unique to the Kubu. Quite where such a queer fancy springs from I cannot think. No one seems to have studied the Kubu or their culture and folklore.

Nylam had also seen an orang-pendek in the area only three months ago. He had been up a tree at the time. The animal was 1.25 meters tall and covered with red tinted, black hair. It had a broad mouth. It walked upright and held its arms like a man. It made a WEEEEHP! WEEEEHP! noise and looked about itself as if it could smell its observer. Nylam watched it for half an hour.

When questioned on the cigau the Kubu had all heard tell of such an animal but none had seen it.

We thanked them and went on our way. Sadly, as time was pressing, we could not venture into the jungle here. We stopped at the Black River to look for crocodiles but not were around. Even my emulation of the call of hatchling crocodiles (guaranteed to bring crocodiles towards you instinctively) drew a blank.

We ate again in the train shaped restaurant. Next day we took the tedious journey back to Padang and spent the evening with pretty girls, drinking beer.

We took several days of R&R in lovely Singapore and visited the excellent zoo and night safari before flying back home.

Once again the hair samples were sent to Dr Lars Thomas at Copenhagen University. They turned out to be human. My conviction that orang-pendek exists was strengthened more than ever, though I felt that the cigau may now be extinct or very, very rare.

What of the horned snakes? Perhaps, along side the reticulated python there could be a second undiscovered species. The horns would probably be modified scales as in several small types of snake such as the horned viper and rhinoceros viper. Maybe the Sumatran snakes are related to the larger nagas of Thailand. Sumatra has more questions than answers.

.It was to be another five years before I returned to the jungles of Sumatra. I had been occupied with other monster hunting projects detailed elsewhere in this book

After the adventures of the CFZ team in the Caucuses Mountains on our 2008 almasty expedition the team members were keen to get together for another trip in 2009. We had worked so well together that it seemed only natural we should rally together for a new cryptozoological project.

Adam Davis, as far as I know the only guy in Britain who has more cryptid hunts under his belt than me, suggested a return to Sumatra on the track of the orang-pendek. I had searched for this upright walking ape, whose name means ‘short man’ in Indonesian, twice before and Adam had been on it’s trail no less than four times so between us we knew the territory as well as any westerner could hope to.

Adam had been to places as diverse as China, the Congo and Norway in search of cryptids. As a field researcher he was second to none and had an excellent technique in interviewing witnesses.

Joining team leader Adam and I were Dr Chris Clark and Dave Archer both of whom had proved themselves time and again on previous expeditions.

Dave was a rank and file CFZ member who wanted to come out on an expedition and could pay his way. I first met him at the Weird Weekend, the CFZ’s fundraising convention. In Russia he had proved himself to be remarkably brave and resourceful as well as very enthusiastic.

Adam had put in months of planning prior to the expedition. He had contacted an Indonesian named Dally who was to act as a ‘fixer’ for us in Sumatra.

For the first part of the trip we planned to stay with the Kubu people that Chris and I had met in 2004. The Kubu or Orang-Rimba are the original inhabitants of the island and are quite distinct, both physically and culturally, from the other Sumatrans whose ancestry lies in Malaya. The Kubu are taller than their peers and have curlier hair. They were once nomadic, living a hunter gatherer lifestyle in the jungle. Now they have houses but still spend much time in the deep jungle. Previously a Kubu chief called Nylam had told us of his encounter with the orang-pendek and with a ten meter horned snake he referred to as a ‘naga’.

For the second half of the expedition we were to return to Gunung Tuju, the lake of seven peaks, a jungle swathed crater of an extinct volcano in Kerinci seblat National Park. There had been a number of orang-pendek sightings here in recent months including one by an ornithologist.

At Padang airport we were met by our old friend Sahar who had been our guide on previous expeditions to Sumatra, and Dally with whom Adam had been in correspondence with.

After a long journey we finally we reached the rangers hut on the outskirts of town where we were to apply for permits to stay in the lowland jungles. There are only around 2000 Kubu left so the Indonesian government are protective of them. Unfortunately the head ranger was away in Java for two weeks and we could not get permits to stay. However we could visit the Kubu and speak with them.

We walked a couple of miles to a meeting point in the jungle. A small number of Kubu were waiting for us. This group seemed shyer than those we had met in 2004. The women and children ran away. There was only one man with the group. The other men were away hunting in the jungle. The man, who seemed afflicted with scabies around his feet would not give his name but just told his story through a translator.

 

Three years previously he had seen an orang-pendek close to the wonderfully named village of Anoolie Pie some 23km away. It was around 4 feet tall and covered with black hair. The creature’s face reminded the man of a macaque, with a flat nose and broad mouth. It stood and walked on two legs, never once dropping down on all fours. It was not a monkey, gibbon or sunbear. The creature seemed afraid of him and walked quickly away whilst looking from side to side.

That had been the last sighting of an orang-pendek in the area. He told us that the Kubu thought that the orang-pendek was half man half animal. He had not seen the giant horned snakes reported by Nylam.

That evening we had a visit from an unassuming man called Tarib. He was the supreme chief of the Kubu. Most of the Kubu were away hunting but he had made a special effort to visit us. He had an amazing story to tell.

Five years ago he had seen an orang-pendek as he was walking in the forest. It was four feet tall, with black hair that shaded into blonde and grey in places. Its face looked like a monkey’s but it walked upright like a man. He took the creature by surprise and it became aggressive. It raised its arms above its head and charged at him. He fled and hid behind a tangle of rattan vines. He watched as it looked for him, turning its head from side to side. Finally it moved away.

This is the only case I am aware of in which an orang-pendek acted aggressively. In all other cases the creature has moved away quickly from the presence of humans.

When asked about the ‘naga’ or giant horned snakes, Tarib told us he had seen a ten-meter snake, two foot wide, with markings on its skin that had reminded him of a crocodile. It lacked the horns of Nylam’s description though. It sounded like a large reticulated python.

Dally told me that the Kubu had said to him that they knew were a giant snake had it’s lair in a cave behind a waterfall. But it was too far away for us to investigate on this trip.

The next day we rose early for the trek up to Gunung Tuju or the Lake of Seven Peaks. Gunung Tuju is a jungle swathed lake that formed in the caldera of an extinct volcano.

We climbed the rim and descended to the edge of the lake. A few fishermen eak out a scant living trapping the tiny fish that inhabit the lake. They have a few decrepit canoes. When I was fist at the lake I thought the canoes looked like they had been made out of bits of the ark they were so old. I was horrified to see that they had not been replaced in the intervening 6 years.

When we reached the shore the guides set about making a shelter from branches, plastic and banana leaves (which are remarkably water proof). This was were the guides would sleep and we all would eat. The four Brits had two tents between them.

As night fell thousands of frogs started a mating chorus and the stars, unhindered by light pollution unwrapped themselves from the night sky.

After breakfast we split into two teams in order to cover more ground. Adam, Dave, Sahar and Doni would take one track to a place were Adam had found and cast an orang-pendek track in 2001. Chris, John, Dally and I would take another track closer to the lake.

Dave had brought four camera traps and Chris had a number of sticky boards. These are actually methods of pest control. They are cardboard strips coated with a powerful adhesive and are laid out to trap rats and mice. We intended to place them on jungle paths, baited with fruit, in the hope an orang-pendek would leave some of its hairs stuck in the solution.

Our trail led for several miles abreast the lake. We came across some orang-pendek tracks. I had seen these before and instantly recognized the narrow, human like heel and the wider front part of the foot. They were impressed in loam on the forest floor and not good enough to cast. We set up two camera traps in the area and two sticky boards that we baited with fruit. In another area we saw a tee stump slashed by the huge claws of a sunbear. Despite being the smallest of the bears, hardly larger than a Saint Bernard dog, sunbears have a reputation for being highly aggressive and they are armed with outsized claws. The claw marks on the tree stump we found were quite old however.

Upon returning to camp we heard amazing news. Whilst on walking through the jungle Adam, who is a mean tracker by his own right, had heard a large animal moving through the forest. In the distance siamang gibbons were kicking up a fuss. Sahar and Dave crept forward and were greeted by an amazing sight.

Squatted in a tree around 100 feet from them as an orang-pendek! They could not see the face clearly as it was pressed against the tree trunk. Dave felt that it was peering at them from the side of its face. The creature had broad shoulders and long powerful arms. The hands and feet were not in view. The orang-pendek had dark brow fur, almost black. The consistency reminded Dave of that of a mountain gorilla. This makes sense as the jungles here are of a very similar type to those inhabited by mountain gorillas in Africa. The shape of the head recalled that of a gorilla as well. The head lacked the long mane of hair described by some witnesses. He could see a line of darker hair running down the creature’s spine.

He was sure it was not a sunbear or a siamang gibbon.

From his vantage point Dave could not get a good photograph as leaves and branches were in the way. As he moved to get a better view Sahar saw the creature climb down from the tree and walk way on two legs. Afterwards Adam said that Sahar had wept for 10 minuets because he did not have a camera to get a picture with. Sahar has been on the trail of the beast since 1997. Wildlife Photographer Jeremy Holden saw the orang-pendek briefly in Kerinci National Park and spent the next 15 years fruitlessly trying to get a photograph of it.

Next to the tree was some rattan vine the animal had been chewing. Adam carefully placed this in a specimen tube full of ethanol in the hope that some of the cells from the creature’s mouth would have adhered to the plant much like a DNA swab.

The following day we checked the camera traps and the sticky boards on the trail near the lake. There was nothing of not on the cameras and the boards had caught nothing except tiny insects. I imitated at deep orang-pendek call that Sahar had taught me in a previous expedition. It was a drawn out “UHHG-UHHG-UHHHHG” sound. In the distance some gibbons began to whoop. We have noted before that gibbons seem to make a noise when the orang-pendek is about. No similar sound answered from the depths of the jungle. We reset the camera traps in another area and laid down fresh sticky boards.

In the morning we re-traced our steps to the camera traps. On route we found more orang-pendek tracks. They were recognizable as the creature; nothing else in the area makes tracks remotely like them. Despite sceptic’s insistence that people mistake sunbear tracks for orang-pendek tracks, the two spoors are totally dissimilar, the sunbear showing long claws. They were not of a good enough quality to cast. The sticky boards and camera traps turned up nothing of interest once again.

Later we hiked to the area were Dave and Sahar had seen the orang-pendek. Here the jungle was higher and more open with larger trees. Here and there were huge fallen trees whose roots, still covered with earth, formed miniature caves. We looked into these but found no sign of habitation.

We heard a “UHHG-UHHG-UHHHHG” sound in the distance briefly. We called out in response but there was no reply. We found nothing on the camera traps or sticky boards so we reset them and returned to camp.

The tracks Adam had found were still visible, the heels on the tracks looked human but the front part was more ape like, wide with a well separated big toe. Unfortunately our supply of plaster of Paris had degraded so we could not cast them. We had to make do with taking a number of photographs with our hands for frames of reference.

Checking the traps in the morning we once more came up empty handed. We decided to split up. Adam and Sahar followed the bed of a stream, Doni and Chris took a path to the right and Dally and I one to the left whilst Dave and John took higher ground.

Dally and I found tapir and golden cat tracks. Later our paths crossed with those of Sahar and Adam. None of us had found anything of note so far. As we were passing a tall tree we all distinctly heard a hollow “WOCK-WOCK-WOCK” noise. Orang-pendek is supposed to use sticks as weapons on occasion, throwing them at whatever it perceives to be a threat. Sahar had told me that they also use sticks to communicate by banging them against the sides of trees. The sound rang out again and leaves fell from the top of the tree. Sahar began to think an orang-pendek might be hiding at the top, over 100 feet from the ground. Indeed there was a dark mass that reminded me of an ape’s nest such as built by an orang-utan. Did the orang-pendek build nests in the same way?

English scientist Debbie Martyr, whom Adam, Chris and I had all met on previous trips and who has seen the creature on four occasions, was convinced that the mainly terrestrial ape took to the trees when it felt threatened.

Checking the traps in the morning we once more came up empty handed. We decided to split up. Adam and Sahar followed the bed of a stream, Doni and Chris took a path to the right and Dally and I one to the left whilst Dave and John took higher ground.

Dally and I found tapir and golden cat tracks. Later our paths crossed with those of Sahar and Adam. None of us had found anything of note so far. As we were passing a tall tree we all distinctly heard a hollow “WOCK-WOCK-WOCK” noise. Orang-pendek is supposed to use sticks as weapons on occasion, throwing them at whatever it perceives to be a threat. Sahar had told me that they also use sticks to communicate by banging them against the sides of trees. The sound rang out again and leaves fell from the top of the tree. Sahar began to think an orang-pendek might be hiding at the top, over 100 feet from the ground. Indeed there was a dark mass that reminded me of an ape’s nest such as built by an orang-utan. Did the orang-pendek build nests in the same way?

English scientist Debbie Martyr, whom Adam, Chris and I had all met on previous trips and who has seen the creature on four occasions, was convinced that the mainly terrestrial ape took to the trees when it felt threatened.

Our excitement grew as more sounds and movement came from the tree. We tried to surround it cameras at the ready. Getting a good vantage point from the forest floor to the top of the tree was not easy as vegetation tended to block the view from most angles. However I found an area and zoomed in with my camera lense as well as I could.

Dave, Chris, Doni and John soon returned and became as excited as us. The ring of investigators grew, well and truly trapping the beast in its arboreal stronghold. Movement and sound were coming on a regular basis now. It sounded like what ever was in the tree was signalling a warning by banging against the tree.

Sahar gathered some pebbles and Dave shot them up with a catapult in order to make what ever was in the tree show itself.

For an hour we watched and waited and steadily something began to dawn on me. The banging sounds and treetop rustling were occurring when a breeze gently rocked the tree causing it to bump into one of its neighbours.

The whole episode had been a red herring. The excitement of a sighting earlier on in the expedition had us all wound up. We had all, even the experienced guides, mistook something prosaic for something fantastic. Hereby hangs a lesson. The orang-pendek ‘nest’ was nothing more than a collection of moss on the branches. Ah, well it was exciting for a while!

We checked the traps again next morning. The still cameras had caught nothing except a bird. However the camera Dave set to the film mode had no less than 70, 5-second sequences. Unfortunately we would have to wait till we got back to England to watch them.

In the afternoon we decided to cross the lake and search on the far side.  Adam had only been there once and the rest of us had never seen the area.

The guides strapped the three canoes together with rattan to for a crude catamaran. The waters of the lake were calm so we made the 40-minuet crossing without incident. The active volcano Mount Kerinci loomed on the horizon like a sleeping dragon. Sahar told us that only five months before it had erupted, spewing magma out in great jets. We waded ashore to steep sided jungle slopes that seemed far less disturbed than they had done on our side of the lake. The lack of areas to make camp means that even the fishermen rarely visited this side of the water.

Only a few yards into the jungle we stumbled across a trackway made by a tiger about a week before. A little further on Adam, whose tracking skills would make Tarzan proud, spotted something that even the guides had missed. Coming up a slope towards the path was a set of orang-pendek tracks that were clearer than any we had seen before. The toes

were all individually visible. We photographed them extensively and curst our lack of plaster to cast them.

We carried on up and along a ridge before time pressed us to head back. On the backward crossing the waters of the lake began to cut up rough and it became apparent that the canoes were not up to withstanding choppy waters. The all sprang several leaks and as the water grew more disturbed the waves began to lap over the sides of the vessels. It swiftly became apparent that the canoes were sinking.

The fishermen carry little bowls to store the tiny fish in. We grabbed these and began to bail out the ever-deepening pools of water at the bottom of the canoes. Four over forty minuets we bailed for dear life as the guides paddled like crazy. The distant shore never seemed to get any closer but at last, with aching arms we reached the little beach by our camp.

After a short rest we went and collected all of the camera traps and sticky boards. We returned to the tree were Sahar and Dave had seen the orang-pendek. We photographed and Dally sitting in the same position. We also, under Dave’s guidance we measured how large the upper part of the creature would have been from buttocks to the top of the head. It was three feet and four inches making the animal, even if it had comparatively short legs, quite large.

The following day we broke camp and packed up our equipment. The holes in the canoes had been patched as best as could be done with black plastic bags. We gingerly began the crossing to the pick up point. Sahar had rang ahead to summons some other porters to help us carry the equipment down from the jungle.

Thankfully the waters remained calm and we got to the pick up point with no incident. Waiting for us were several porters including two of Sahar’s sons.

After a long, long journey via Padang and then Singapore we arrived home.  I sent half of the samples off to Dr Lars Thomas at Copenhagen University. Adam sent off his half to Dr Scott Disotell of New York University. We await the outcome of the DNA tests with baited breath.

Since my return Dally has e-mailed me twice to tell me of further orang-pendek sightings in Kerinci. On October 8th some bird watchers from Siulak Mukai Village saw an orang-pendek near Gunung Tapanggang. They watched it for ten minutes from a distance of only ten meters. It had black skin and long arms. It walked like a man.

On the 18th of October a man called Pak Udin saw an orang-pendek in Tandai Forest. The creature was looking for food in a dead tree, possibly insect larvae. It had black and silver hair, long arms and short legs. He watched it for three minutes before it ran away.

I am totally convinced of the existence of orang-pendek. I believe that it is an upright walking ape. I think it is a descendent of the Miocene ape Sivapithecus and is related by way of the early Pleistocene Lufengopithecus to both the modern orang-utans and to Gigantopithecus the huge ape of mainland Asia that may be the larger type of ‘yeti’. I would like to propose the scientific name Pongo martryi in honour of Debbie Martyr who has done more research into the orang-pendek than anyone else

If you would consider writing for us. Please contact us at editor@archmdmag.com

We are very grateful to Richard Freeman for allowing us to publish his articles. Richard’s recent book – Adventures in Cryptozoology: Hunting for Yetis, Mongolian Deathworms and Other Not-So-Mythical Monsters, is available to purchase here