The Cryptid Zoo: Orang-pendek

Reported from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, the orang-pendek is described a red-furred bipedal ape-man about four feet tall. It is supposed to be attractive and graceful, and has been sighted by many natives. Westerners have seen this creature regularly since 1923, but numerous expeditions have failed to find anything better than footprints and hairs that don't test as any known creature. Some people think the orang-pendek is a new species of ground-dwelling bipedal orangutan, while others favor the idea of a very primitive human.

Recently, much more attention has been focused on legends of the orang-pendek because of the discovery of the Indonesian "hobbit" or Homo floresiensis on the nearby island of Flores in 2003. Homo floresiensis is an extremely small species of human that was known to have survived at least until 12,000 years ago, which means it likely co-existed on the island with modern homo sapiens. According to local legend, which names Homo floresiensis the ebu gogo, it survived until at least the year 1900, and may still be alive today. Some researchers think that the orang-pendek is the same species as the ebu gogo. The orang-pendek is often classified as a proto-pygmy, a type of smaller, more human-like hairy humanoid.

This renewed interest, coupled with the extremely remote area the orang-pendek is supposed to inhabit, has caused even mainstream scientists to label the orang-pendek as the hairy humanoid that is most likely to be a real creature. There had been very little investigation of the orang-pendek before 2003. Like many cryptids, it was categorized as a legend early on, without any professionally funded expeditions to see whether there might be any good reasons for the legends. It often happens that when a creature has been categorized as a myth for long enough, everyone just assumes a scientist must have done the work to properly disprove its existence at some point.

Now we know that the earlier investigations were little more than folklore-collecting expeditions, generally self-funded, that nevertheless managed to bring back some circumstantial physical evidence that has proved genuinely puzzling to experts. Now that the spotlight has singled out this little cousin of Bigfoot, there is a chance that it might receive enough attention to settle the mystery once and for all.

You can find out more about the Orang-pendek from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 189-191

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 329-332

Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Pages 22-23, 184

Gale, Thomson. The Real Manimal?

Gee, Henry. Flores, God and Cryptozoology
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Hartford, Hugh. Orang Pendek: The Short Man of the Forest

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 62, 198-199, 354-356, 433

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Page 179

Wikipedia, The. Orang Pendek

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