"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Jul 5, 2006

Lost Valley

Into the Lost Valley

In 2003, Richard Freeman was part of a Centre for Fortean Zoology expedition to Sumatra. In May 2004, he returned for a follow-up visit in search of giant snakes, mystery cats and the elusive orang-pendek. Photographs courtesy of the author.


Illustration: Xavier Lemmens

Of all the mystery primates in the world, none has attracted such attention in recent years as Sumatra’s orang-pendek (the name means "short man" in the local language). Reported since the days of the Dutch colonists and subject of remarkably consistent sightings in recent years – most notably by conservationist Debbie Martyr, who claimed to have seen the orang-pendek on more than one occasion (see FT83:19; 182:37) – it may turn out to be a real creature as yet unknown to science.

In 2003, a CFZ expedition set out in search of orang-pendek and another cryptid reported from the Sumatran jungle – the cigau (pronounced chi-gow), a big cat described as smaller and stockier than a tiger, with a lion-like mane, golden fur and a short tail (see FT182:32-39 for a full report of the expedition). We had hoped that one of the hair samples we had brought back would prove to be from either the orang-pendek or the cigau; Dr Lars Thomas’s tests, though, established that the smaller grey hairs turned out to belong, as I’d suspected, to the Malayan tapir, while the longer brown ones were from an Asian golden cat.

The 2004 expedition aimed to explore the "lost valley" Debbie Martyr had told us about on our previous visit. Situated beyond the lake of Gunung Tuju, it had never been penetrated by Western explorers. Once again, along with Dr Chris Clarke and Jon Hare, I prepared to head into the unknown.

Godzilla Bloom & Giant Snakes

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