Orang Pendek

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Unknown Primate or Small Hominid of Southeast Asia.

Etymology: Malay (Austronesian), "short man." Said to be the local name around Bengkulu and Palembang, Sumatra.

Variant names: Atu pandek, Atu rimbo, Ijaoe, ORANG Gugu, Orang letjo ("gibbering man"), Orang pandek, Sedabo, Sedapa, Sindai, Uhang pandak.

Physical description: Height, 2 feet 6 inches-5 feet 6 inches. Covered with short, reddish-orange, dark-brown, or black hair but is less hairy on the face. Pinkish-brown skin. Its jetblack head-hair extends in a mane down its back. Recent reports describe individuals with manes of yellow or tan hair. Pointed head (possible sagittal crest). High forehead. Bushy eyebrows. Humanlike eyes. Prominent ears. Broad nose. Long canine teeth. Thick, square shoulders. Large potbelly. Long arms.

Behavior: Prefers walking on the ground but seems comfortable in trees. Walks with weight placed on outer edge of its foot. Runs on two legs, sometimes holding its arms outward. Makes whistling and babbling noises. Distress call is "hu-hu." Food consists of shoots, sugarcane, fruit (especially durian), freshwater mol-lusks, snakes, and worms. Occasionally raids plantations or gardens.

Tracks: Length, 5-6 inches. Like a human's but broader (4 inches wide) and shorter. Some prints show all five toes of equal size; others show a prominent big toe, sometimes semiop-posed. Heel, in some cases, is narrow and well rounded.

Distribution: Southern Sumatra, indonesia, south of the equator. May now be restricted to the Mount Kerinci region south of Padang.

Significant sightings: Edward Jacobson found some curious footprints at the edge of the Danau Bento swamp, southeast of Mount Ker-inci, Sumatra, on August 21, 1915. His Suma-

tran guide, Mat Getoep, said the 5-inch tracks had been made by an Orang pendek.

A plantation manager named Oostingh ran across an Orang pendek in the forest near Bukit Kaba, Sumatra, in December 1917. When the creature noticed him, it stood up, calmly walked several paces, then swung up into the trees.

A Dutch settler named Van Herwaarden got a close look at an Orang pendek in a tree in the jungle north of Palembang, Sumatra, in October 1923. He had the animal in his gun sights, but it looked so human that he felt he would be committing murder to kill it.

Harry Gillmore and Otto Irrgang found small, bipedal, humanlike tracks between the Kampar and Siak Kecil Rivers, Riau Province, Sumatra, indonesia, in 1958. There were no telltale claw marks such as a bear would have made.

in 1989, British travel writer Deborah Martyr discovered Orang pendek tracks in southwestern Sumatra that were about the size of a seven-year-old child's. She sent a plaster cast of one print to the Indonesian National Parks Department, but it has been lost.

After five years of searching, Martyr finally saw an Orang pendek in the Mount Kerinci area on September 30, 1994. Walking confidently on two legs, it paused to look at her from 200 yards away, then moved off into the jungle. She has glimpsed the animal twice more since then.

After a strong earthquake near Liwa in 1995, Claude Petit talked to several local people who reported that animals looking like the Orang pendek came out of the forest, frightened by the seismic activity.

Clumps of Orang pendek hair found in 2001 near Mount Kerinci, Sumatra, by an amateur British team led by Adam Davies were sent to the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine for DNA analysis. Davies also found tracks with semiopposed big toes that were not made by any known primate.

Present status: Investigations in the 1990s by Deborah Martyr, Claude Petit, and Yves Laumonier have uncovered encouraging eyewitness testimony, tracks, and hair samples.

Possible explanations:

(1) An unknown species of primate. It


could be related to the Siamang (Hylobates syndactylus), the largest gibbon, which stands about 3 feet tall and inhabits the same general area.

(2) The Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), also a Sumatran native, is more strictly arboreal. It has long, reddish-brown hair, very long arms, and a large, heavy body. Adult males have large cheek pouches, opposable thumbs and big toes, and long fingers and toes. Adult males stand 4 feet 6 inches tall, while females are 3 feet 6 inches tall.

(3) A Sumatran occurrence of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus), a chimpanzee found only in Central Africa, has been suggested by Deborah Martyr. It has a rounder cranium than other chimps, less pronounced browridges, and less of a tendency to go bald.

(4) Prints of the hind feet of the Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) are similar to small human footprints. However, bear tracks are generally blurred because bears tend to put their hind feet in the prints left by their front feet. This small (4 feet 6 inches) bear often stands on its hind feet, though it does not walk upright. Its short, black hair might lead to misidentification at a distance.

(5) A surviving Homo erectus, though the Orang pendek is smaller and much less robust. No fossil hominids have been found in Sumatra, although the erectus discoveries near Trinil in Java by Eugene Dubois are well known. Not all anthropologists agree on the age of these fossils, though some put them in the Middle Pleistocene, 700,000-250,000 years ago.

Sources: Edward Jacobson, "Rimboeleven in Sumatra," De Tropische Natuur 6 (1917): 69; Van Herwaarden, "Een Ontmoeting met een Aapmensch," De Tropische Natuur 13 (1924): 103-106; K. W. Dammerman, "The Orang Pendek or Ape-Man of Sumatra," Proceedings of the Fourth Pacific Science Congress, Batavia-Bandoeng, Java, Biological Papers, 3 (1930): 121-126; K. W. Dammerman, "De Nieuw-ontdekte Orang Pendek," De Tropische Natuur 21 (1932): 123-131; William C. Osman Hill, "Nittaewo, an Unsolved Problem of Ceylon,"

Loris 4 (1945): 251-262; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track ofUnknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 108-126; Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961), pp. 214-226; Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1989), pp. 111-119; Deborah Martyr, "An Investigation of the Orang-Pendek, the 'Short Man' of Sumatra," Cryptozoology 9 (1990): 57-65; Deborah Martyr, "The Other Orang," BBC Wildlife 11, no. 10 (October 1993): 35-36; Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, Cryptozoology A to Z (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), pp. 189-191; Bobbie Short, "Examination of the Nomenclature of Indonesian Mystery Hominids," Crypto 3, no. 4 (August 2000): 10-16, http://www.strangeark. com/crypto/Crypto8.pdf; Mark Henderson, "Team 'Find Traces of Sumatran Yeti,'" Times (London), October 27, 2001.

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