Beast Hunter – Man Ape of Sumatra (Orang Pendek) – S01E01

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Man Ape of Sumatra (Orang Pendek)

In the vast jungles of mystical Sumatra, locals have reported seeing a creature that looks something like an ape, yet it walks just like us. They’ve named it “Orang Pendek” – the little man of the forest. A recent scientific discovery proposes that another species of humans – nicknamed ‘hobbits’ – did once live in Indonesia. So could there be a new great ape waiting to be discovered? Or is it possible we’re not the only human species living on earth? Biologist and beast hunter Pat Spain investigates.

Pat Spain, man of action, Justin Timberlake lookalike. And in the off season, Beast Hunter. He’s taken up the mantle of looking for mysterious creatures that exist outside of our general understanding. In a similar vein to Destination Truth he’s looking for the stuff of legend, the creatures that are widely talked about but rarely seen. Usually the type that attacks a village or strikes fear into those who talk about it. And his search is going to take him all over the globe.

For the first episode Pat is looking for Orang Pendek or "little man of the forest". It’s an ape like creature that still manages to walk upright like a man. He heads off to Sumatra to talk to natives who’ve had multiple encounters with the creature over the years.

He starts things off in the local market where he gets more than a few laughs from the local women who think all men are "little men from the forest". Not having much luck there he goes to visit Debbie Martyr, a Tiger conservationist who’s been living in Sumatra for quite some time (4 earthquake cycles according to her) and claims to have had her own sighting of Orang Pendek. She says it walks on its two legs very gracefully but is still very hairy. She was quite shaken by the encounter and firmly believes there is another set of creatures living in the jungle.

To gather more evidence, Pat goes to visit a Shaman to see about his beliefs in the creature. Is it something real or just the stuff of folklore? The Shaman believes Orang Pendek is real and is far more than myth.

Pat then visits another man who claims Orang Pendek broke into his home and stole sugar. He confronted it, but the animal ran away without hurting anyone. He said it was very strong looking, but short. It walked on two legs and looked quite human.

He finally hooks up with Jeremy Holden, a wildlife photographer who has taken pictures of dozens of wild animals using trap cameras, some even thought to be extinct until he found them once again. He is a firm believer in Orang Pendek and believes it’s just a matter of time before they capture physical and photographic evidence of its existence. He believes it’s good at eluding predators and doesn’t follow the normal migratory and hunting trails used by regular animals. He agrees to take Pat to where he came across Orang Pendek.

Jeremy was out in the jungle when he heard it and managed to come across it just as it was disappearing back into the thick growth. He saw it as it was going away and also says it’s hairy and walks on two legs. He wasn’t able to see the face but firmly believes what he saw was Orang Pendek. He’s been setting out trap cameras ever since to try and capture a photo of it.

While checking out the jungle with Jeremy, Pat recalls an interview he had with Prof. Mike Morwood who found skeletons of a humanoid creature they dubbed the "Hobbit". A creature that could have survived up until the early 1900’s. There isn’t evidence to say this group of humanoids is still running around, but, they did exist and by all accounts only disappeared a little over 100 years ago. Is Orang Pendek related? Could it be a similar group that has just managed to stay in hiding? Is it this same group and they didn’t go extinct at all?

After hearing all the stories and with all the evidence in hand Pat decides to go out into the night with audio dish and thermal imager to see what he can find. During the night investigation he hears plenty of noises and the sounds of animals moving around in the jungle. There are plenty of things tripping the static cameras but in the end Orang Pendek is not caught on film. The sounds of the jungle are mysterious, but are they the sounds of a yet undiscovered humanoid? The evidence doesn’t support the claims, but with such dense forest growth, abundant food sources and limited accessibility by man, could something hide in the trees and elude the prying eyes of man? It certainly seems a possibility.

Orang Pendek didn’t make an appearance, but it’s just as important to find out what Orang Pendek isn’t. Is this simply a case of mistaken identity? Are people seeing other animals and either through fear or excitement getting a distorted image of it? Are the regular ape-like animals of the jungle just coming across as bigger and bolder than before? Or is there something more to it? Is there some other humanoid presence lurking in the jungle trying to stay out of the way or regular man?

While not a replacement for Destination Truth, I was quite entertained and engaged by Pat and his adventures. He does a lot of research about the people and culture as well as the animals of the area. He takes the approach of eliminating mistaken identity and tries to separate facts from the tall tales people tell him. It was a fine adventure from National Geographic and I’m looking to his next trip in the Amazon.

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