The Cryptid Zoo: Pongo

According to African folklore, the pongo was a wild man of the jungles. Looking like a cross between a human and a monkey, he was a violent creature with magical powers. He relished the taste of human flesh, often raiding villages in order to carry away captives for purposes of cannibalism or rape.

Sometimes the pongo was a shapeshifter. Female pongos would turn into beautiful women to get close to male victims, then change back to their true forms when it was too late for the men to escape. Pongos and humans could mate and produce hybrid children who looked human, but who had violent, cannibalistic urges from their pongo side.

Pongo reports were understandably met with much skepticism in the scientific community. The pongo had so many supernatural characteristics and behaviors not typical of a biological animal that it just didn't seem like it would ever turn out to be real. These aspects of the pongo from folklore squarely place it within the "big hairy monster" or "hairy biped" category of anomalous cousins of Bigfoot.

The entire world was surprised when, in 1847, the pongo (now known as the gorilla) was officially declared to exist. Of course, it didn't have any of the weird characteristics assigned to it by folklore. The real gorilla is a vegetarian, not a predator. It doesn't capture humans, it doesn't eat humans, and it can't reproduce with humans. Its official discovery hasn't stopped the flow of legends that claim otherwise, but now science can clearly separate the gorilla of myth and the real animal. Still, the animal's outlandish mythical features were acknowledged in its very name: "gorilla" is derived from the Arabic word for "ghoul."

The story of the pongo's official discovery teaches us that any cryptid, however fantastic it seems, might be real. Supernatural or fantastical characteristics are no reason to disqualify a cryptid from further investigation. In fact, European folklore from little more than a hundred years ago assigns many supernatural abilities and odd behaviors to real animals such as wolves, eagles and mice. We now know that these superstitious ideas are false, even though the animals themselves are indisputably real.

You can find out more about the Pongo from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 211

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 169-170

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 207-208
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Keel, John A. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Pages 2-3

Knappert, Jan. African Mythology. London: Diamond Books, 1995. Pages 103-104

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 3, 177-178, 335, 500, 506

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 88-89

Wikipedia, The. Origin of the Name "Pongo"

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