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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Tracking down the 'jungle yeti'
By David Green
BBC News Online, Manchester

Explorer Adam Davies - (c) Andrew Sanderson
Adam Davies took a cast of the footprint which was then analysed
Two amateur explorers hope to prove the existence of the mythical "jungle yeti" by capturing the creature on film.

Adam Davies, of Bramhall, Greater Manchester, and Andrew Sanderson, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, are travelling to Sumatra in Indonesia to hunt it down.

Three years ago, the pair found a footprint and hairs which, when analysed by scientists, did not match any known species.

They believe it is evidence the orang pendek, as it is called, does exist.

The creature - also known as the Little Man of the Forest - was first chronicled by the explorer Marco Polo in 1292 during his travels in Asia.

Although widely believed to exist by islanders, the creature has been dismissed by most scientists as a myth, similar to the Himalayan yeti or the Loch Ness Monster.

The orang pendek - which is reputed to be related to the orang-utan - is said to measure up to 5ft (1.5m) tall and walk like a man.

Is this the footprint of the orang pendek?
Most alleged sightings have taken place in the areas of Mount Tujuh and Mount Kerinci in the west of the island, where the two explorers made their discovery in 2001.

The footprint and two red-brown hairs were analysed by Dr Hans Brunner, who helped clear Lindy Chamberlain of murdering her baby daughter in Australia in the 1980s after she claimed it had been killed by a dingo.

He said they were not from a known species, raising speculation that they might just be evidence of the orang pendek's existence.

"What we want to do now is capture it on film," said Mr Davies, who spends his holidays hunting down mythical creatures.

"I appreciate it is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I'm determined to give it a good go."

"We've proved it exists organically and we're delighted about that," he claimed. "The hairs are organic proof."

Artists impression of Orang Pendek
The orang pendek is said to be 5ft tall and walks like a man
Dr Brunner said they were hairs from an unknown species of primate and that was backed up by a primatologist at Cambridge University who said the prints were also a primate's.

"We're going to publish a scientific paper shortly based on years of research, not only by us but by [conservation group] Fauna and Flora International who have worked out there in Sumatra for many years."

But the future of the orang pendek - if it exists - is threatened by illegal logging which is destroying the jungle habitat, but which many Sumatrans see as their only way of making a living.

Adam hopes that proving the creature's existence will bring the eyes of the world on the island and make the orang pendek a protected species.

"Capturing it on film will light people's imaginations and arouse interest. That's important because that's an area which is under extreme environmental pressure and it will help that area to be preserved.

Map showing Sumatra
"But I would just love to see it. Now I know it definitely exists I want to give it a damn good shout at finding it."

The pair's hunt for the orang pendek is just one of many crypto-zoology expeditions they have been on.

Last year, they searched in vain for the Allghoi Khorkhoi - the Mongolian death worm - in the Gobi desert and were arrested on suspicion of being Chinese spies, before being released.

In 1998 and 2000 they searched - again, in vain - for the Mokele M'embe - a dinosaur rumoured to live in the Congo.

"That was our most dangerous trip," remembers Adam. "There was a civil war going on and rocket launchers at the airport in Kinshasa."

The orang pendek expeditions have been by far their most successful ventures, but the pair are still beset by scepticism from the general public.

"It's very easy to be seen as a nutter," admits Adam. "And so we're very careful that anything we do find is analysed independently by scientists."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Green
"Proving it exists may be the only way to save it..."



SEE ALSO:
Siberia find revives yeti legends
09 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Yeti's 'non-existence' hard to bear
26 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Expedition hunts Himalayan Yeti
11 Aug 03  |  South Asia


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