Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 11th, 2009
The Orang pendek was…promoted in legitimacy when, in 2003, anthropologists discovered the skeleton of Homo floresiensis on an island in Indonesia — same neighborhood. Homo floresiensis, nicknamed “The Hobbit,” is hypothesized to have been a dwarflike hominin that would have lived contemporaneously with Homo sapiens tens of thousands of years ago. So surprising was the discovery of a humanlike species from such a recent time, the editor of the prestigious journal Nature wrote, “The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical humanlike creatures are founded on grains of truth … Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold.”
By Jeremy Holden’s measure, the hunt for Orang pendek is at a rolling boil. Holden, a British photographer who now spends his time in the Far East, claims to have seen the Orang pendek with his own eyes, along with his colleague Debbie Martyr, a British journalist who now spends her time tracking tiger poachers. “I feel my greatest achievement in life was seeing the Orang pendek,” says Holden. “And my great failure in life was not photographing it.”
When he followed Martyr on her quest to find the Orang pendek, he says, he doubted the creature could exist. No hide, skull or other physical evidence had ever been recovered or seen by Westerners. But that skepticism evaporated when a gibbonlike creature passed him, walking upright in a way that seemed to him nothing less than human. He was so shocked, he didn’t get the shot. He froze, afraid that he might see its face, which seemed to him, in his terror, impossible to bear. He and Martyr had nightmares for weeks.
Without a photo, he knew, it was unlikely that anyone would take the sighting seriously, so the two never publicized their experience. Some may roll their eyes at the amateur explorers’ ability to bring home the goods, but to Holden it is not entirely surprising that there is a dearth of tangible proof that the Orang pendek hides in the forests of Sumatra.
“I had spent time in New Guinea trying to photograph a habituated troop of 19 chimpanzees,” says Holden. “They were used to people. But sometimes we would lose them, and our guides [who were indigenous to the area] would say, ‘Well, you might as well go home now, because there’s no way we are going to find them again until they start making noise.’ So imagine if chimpanzees were solitary and they lived on the ground and they didn’t make any noise. Would we ever know about them.”
The above is an extract from a long February 11, 2009, article by Susan Kruglinski, on cryptozoology published in Salon, here.
The article takes an intriguing approach, being open to cryptozoology, in some ways understanding it is related to how zoologists come to discover new species, but it also works in the media mythology that cryptozoology isn’t quite science.
This is shown clearly in how Ms. Kruglinski ends her essay:
It may be impossible to know whether photographer Jeremy Holden saw a mere gibbon who, to an excited witness, projected the illusion of effortless walking, or saw something far more interesting that wants to keep to itself. Those few who are serious about finding improbable lost species insist that they deserve a place at the table with the Goodalls of science. But they also know that most scientists aren’t buying it.
“Until we have the Orang pendek, the animal itself,” says Holden, ”it’s just another cryptozoology story.”
Adam Davies adds this commentary:
It may be useful for readers to get a bit of background on what has been found and scientifically verified, especially in response to the comments made by Cliffhanger.
I have found prints that have been analysed by a number of leading primatlogists/anthropologists, including Dr. David Chivers and Dr. Meldrum, and has been identified as an “unknown primate.”
On the MQ show we did find a Sunbear, but the cast of the unknown primate was also, I think its fair to say, briefly shown and identified as such by Dr. Meldrum.
I have also found hair samples, which again affirm the Orang Pendek to be an unknown primate, (see my Extreme Expeditions for reference).
By way of background, I have been to Sumatra four times.
Jeremy Holden is so much more than being just a “photographer.” He has spent over a decade of his life looking for the Orang-Pendek, and in my opinion, is one of the world’s greatest cryptozoologists. For example, the new species of frog mentioned here in Loren’s blog, as being discovered in Cambodia, was discovered by him, in connection with Cambodian colleagues.
Whilst its useful conjecture to speculate whether Jeremy could have misidentified the Orang Pendek as a gibbon, having met him I am certain he would not make such an elementary mistake.
In any event, eyewitness reports are not difficult to find, aside from Jeremy`s. The Orang Pendek in my opinion, remains the most likely hominid to be discovered soon. That’s why I keep going back, and its cost me thousands of bucks to do so!!