Beast Hunter – Nightmare of the Amazon – S01E02

For this adventure Pat heads to the Amazon to investigate the "Nightmare of the Amazon" or the Mapinguari. It’s a huge animal with powerful arms, big claws, a horrible stench and a mouth that may actually be in its chest. Over the years it has become a fixed part of the culture for many. And for some it has changed their lives.

Pat starts off the hunt by talking with locals who believe they actually shot the animal. It was lurking around their village and when they thought it was out to eat their livestock they shot at it. Right after that the villagers moved away and relocated to what they thought was a safer place by the river. It isn’t clear if this was their first sighting or perhaps one of many.

As Pat talks with more natives he understands that outsiders aren’t to be trusted. He doesn’t have the time it would take to develop a relationship over weeks or months so he decides to participate in the initiation ritual of men who will become hunters. This involves hunting for the Bullet Ant which has a potent sting. And not just one ant, but hundreds. Those ants are then woven into a set of gloves the initiate will wear for five minutes. Then the initiate will endure the pain.

Things don’t go fantastically well for Pat. He goes through with the initiation, but the pain is to the point of being overwhelming. He can’t think straight, he’s not entirely sure where he is and doesn’t know what to do to endure the suffering. He seems a little delusional. He might even be hallucinating. Whatever is going on, he’s having a rough time with it.

We catch back up with Pat quite a bit later after the pain the delusions have worn off. What happened during that time we don’t know. I’m sure they weren’t planning for him to stick his hands in a bucket full of venom so who knows if they had any sort of antidote.

But Pat presses on and meets a man who says he was attacked by the Mapinguari. He claims it grabbed him around the throat and broke his jaw. He feels certain it could have killed him and that he would have died if people hadn’t found him quickly. The details of the attack are pretty light. And there is nothing from the people who found him. However, he has never been back in the forest and left his job. Something seems to have changed him.

Pat begins to think that maybe a giant anteater is the cause of the problems. It can attack, it is able to emit a stench and has some of the other reported characteristics. But is the entire country mistaking an anteater for all their attacks?

Pat finds a professor who believes it exists. He’s taken eyewitness statements from nearly 90 people. Some even claim to have killed it. David Orem believes it might be a giant Ground Sloth, a beast that is 10 feet tall with huge claws and massive teeth. The Sloth lived in the area and only died out recently, and by recently he means 10,000 years ago.

Pat meets with another tribe that tells story of the Mapinguari. People firmly believe it exists and people only go into the forest with a silver bullet which is said to kill the beast.

When with the tribe, Pat heads into the forest with thermal imager and megaphone. His plan is to play sounds of animals and see if he can get a response. He even has what he believes is the call of the Mapinguari. As they play the calls there is a response that sounds similar to what they are sending out. Are they getting a true response or just stirring up the forest?

As a final experiment he shows a witness a series of photos on his iPad. The witness is unfamiliar with some animals, since they aren’t native to his area but recognizes some of the others. Even the anteater is recognized but he doesn’t think too much of it. But when it comes to the giant sloth he gets a positive reaction from his witness. He says something that is very similar to the animal in the picture is what attacked him. He believes something very similar is out there.

So what does Pat come away with? There are dozens of stories of people who’ve had experiences and belief in the creature is very strong. Is there a Giant Sloth still lurking out in the forest? Has it managed to survived? Is a relative still calling the forest a home? It lends a lot of credibility to the idea that the Mapinguari is a real creature. Since so much of the area is actually unexplored it is possible that a descendent is alive and well.

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