YaraMaYha Who

Mystery Primate of Australia.

Etymology: Kuri (Australian) word. Physical description: Height, 4 feet. Covered with red hair. Huge forehead and mouth. Toothless. Jaws unhinge like a snake's. Suckers on its hands and feet.

Behavior: Has a slow, wobbling gait. Drops on people from trees. Attacks children with its suckers. Sucks the blood of a victim, swallows it whole, jiggles its own body to make sure it goes down, then vomits it up again; the victim is often still living. Habitat: Fig trees. Distribution: New South Wales.

Possible explanation: An Australian occurrence of a species of Tarsier (Tarsius spp.), a genus of Southeast Asian primates roughly 5 inches in length, with a tail twice as long. The toes on all four feet are slender and expanded at the tips to form suckerlike pads. It moves through the trees at night by taking short leaps. Tarsiers have never been found in Australia, but legends carried by emigrants from Indonesia or the Philippines in ancient times might have contributed.

Sources: William Ramsay Smith [and David Unaipon, uncredited], Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals (London: George G. Harrap, 1930); Gilbert Whitley, "Mystery Animals of Australia," Australian Museum Magazine 7 (1940): 132-139; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track ofUnknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 194-198; David Unaipon, Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, ed. Stephen Muecke and Adam Shoemaker (Carlton, Vic., Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2001).

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