Writing a crypto-blog makes you feel like a party pooper. I'm an optimistic person, especially about the existence of cryptids-- but fact must dictate BeastPedia's content. I'm not going to post what I'd like to be true; I have to write what the evidence supports. Unfortunately, that means I do a lot of debunking. That's why I've been looking forward to this post-- instead of shutting down an unlikely creature, I get to trumpet its possibility.
The Orang Pendek is a mysterious Sumatran primate. It has been sighted dozens of times, and locals have known of it for centuries. The creature is small-- two to five feet tall, say most sources, with an average of about three. It lives in the forest like an ape, but walks upright on feet resembling a child's. The Orang Pendek has a human-like face, but with a larger brow ridge and prominent incisors. Its feet are bent slightly outwards, giving it a bow-legged appearance.
This cryptid is quite cunning, and locals attribute it an almost human intelligence level. Some say it can use tools, and that it hunts its prey with small axes. The Orang Pendek also obtains its food through thievery-- it's known to raid local farms, stealing crops from villagers. Nonetheless, the locals treat it with respect, and see it as an animal with which they can coexist.
The first westerners to see the Orang Pendek were Dutch colonists in the 1920s. Their reports launched a debate of identity that has continued to this day. There are three basic possibilities, one of which is misidentification. Many believe this primate simply doesn't exist-- and that most sightings can be attributed to the local siamangs. These siamangs are apes of Orang Pendek's size-- and they can walk bipedally, at least in short bursts. The cryptid's "humanoid" footprints, skeptics say, are actually those of a sun bear.
But the Orang Pendek can't be easily written off. The creature is well-documented in local reports, and the locals know a siamang when they see one. They insist that the Orang Pendek is a different animal; a much larger, stronger one that walks upright and has a humanlike face. This doesn't sound like a gibbon relative to me. As for the sun bears, it's true that their prints look like those of humans. However, sun bears also have claws-- which are noticeable in the prints when examined by an expert.
In my opinion, the evidence points to Orang Pendek as a new animal-- not a case of mistaken identity. So what is it? According to one theory, it's a new species of orangutan. Orangutans don't live in central Sumatra, but they do live in the north of the island. These large apes are big enough to pass for Orang Pendek, and do spend some time on the ground. There are some clear differences-- Orangutans are arboreal, and the Pendek lacks orange fur. But perhaps this beast is a ground-dwelling variant.
But the more compelling theory is this-- Orang Pendek might be a surviving hominin. In 2003, scientists on Flores-- a nearby island-- made an incredible discovery. They uncovered the bones of a new prehistoric human; a tiny species they dubbed Homo floresiensis. Commonly called "Hobbits," these diminutive creatures greatly resembled Orang Pendek. They were three-foot ground-dwelling bipeds, and would have been quite intelligent. They had human-like faces, and their footprints resembled a child's. Most strikingly of all, these hominins vanished just 12,000 years ago. Floresiensis certainly interacted with modern humans, and may continue to under the name Orang Pendek.
It's impossible to mention floresiensis without mentioning Ebu Gogo. This is another Indonesian island hominin-- this one from Flores. It's near-perfect match for the "Hobbits", and locals believe it died out a century ago. It was finally killed off by humans, they report, but only quite recently. Was Ebu Gogo the same creature as Orang Pendek? Do both represent surviving "Hobbits?" For now, it's hard to say-- but the evidence is striking. Have faith, crypto-fans! This is a beast in which it's easy to believe.
Read more about the Orang Pendek:
Image, of Homo floresiensis skull compared to a human, from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-KTjkI3ZYBYc/UF6AcRtx0TI/AAAAAAAAAGc/KWMrzUtXLDc/s1600/craneo%2B%2B%2Bhumano.jpg