For hundreds of years, people around the Kerinci-Seblat National Park in central Sumatra, Indonesia have been spotting an unknown bipedal ape, dubbed the Orang Pendek (Indonesian for “short person”). This is significant because the only known ape that walks upright on two feet are humans, Sightings of this creature has caused enough interest that National Geographic funded an expedition to try to capture photographic evidence of the creature.
Both local witnesses for the creature and legends describe the creature as a bipedal ape about three feet tall. It has a strong chest and arms. Short dark grey or black flecked with grey hair covers its body. Legs are short and slim with small feet, usually turned up at a 45 degree angle. The head slopes back into a crest, similar to a gorilla, with a bony ridge above the eyes. The mouth is small and the eyes wide set.
The Orang Pendek has been reported only on two legs. Even when frightened, it does not revert back to four legs. It does not climb trees to escape. Instead, when frightened, the animal will bare its teeth. Villagers claim it is strong enough to uproot small trees.
The Orang Pendek has been spotted by many different types of people. The Suku Anak Dalam are indigenous to the area and the creature has been a part of their culture for centuries. They describe the animal matter-of factually like any other animal and know when they are entering and leaving its territory. They often leave offerings of tobacco to keep it happy.
The local villagers provide by far the most information about this creature. Everyone has either seen it themselves or knows someone who has. Although this group is the most numerous and therefore the most likely to have seen it, they are so wrapped up in their mythological beliefs, it is hard to tell what is part of their folklore and what is true.
Indonesia was once a Dutch colony. The 20th century settlers had several accounts of seeing this strange creature. Unfortunately, their stories are poorly documented.
The Orang Pendek has also been spotted by several Western scientists, most notably Debbie Martyr and Jeremy Holden. They have been working since 1990 to photograph this elusive creature. They have been unable to capture any photographic evidence, but both claim to have seen the animal.
A British team consisting of Adam Davies and Andrew Sanderson discovered an odd footprint and hair samples while searching for the animal. The footprint was later analyzed by scientists in 2001 through 2003. Dr. David Chivers, a primate biologist from the University of Cambridge, said that although the foot print had features similar to those of gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee and human, it did not match any known footprints.
The hairs were studied by Dr. Hans Brunner, a hair analysis expert from Australia. He concluded that they came from an unknown species of primate.
Of course, there is always the case for mistaken identity. Locals claim the footprints of the orang pendek look like those of a seven-year-old child. Sun bears are native to the area. Bears’ footprints resemble a human’s quite a bit and this bear’s would be about the size of a seven year old child’s. There are also gibbons and siamangs native to these jungles. These primates are known to descend from trees and walk on two legs for short amounts of time.
Does an unknown primate live in the Indonesian jungles? New creatures are being discovered every day, so it is possible to one day discover one.