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Media Article # 300
Article prepared and posted by Matthew Moneymaker

Friday, May 24, 2002

Bigfoot believers shouldn't be treated abominably

By Lawrence Hall
New Jersey Star-Ledger

Crypto-zoology involves the search for our ancestral missing links and unknown creatures said to exist throughout the world. Researchers in this field enter a morass of unsolved mysteries.

They must possess the tenacity of Indiana Jones and the temperament of Dr. Dolittle, for they are derided by most in the scientific community and a good part of the public.

And yet they are driven to prove the existence of legendary animals or to document those that exist but few have seen. The most important search in this field is the hunt for Bigfoot, a creature believed to be 7 to 8 feet tall and weighing 800 to 1,000 pounds.

Until he died in February, Grover Krantz, a Washington State University anthropologist, was the foremost Bigfoot expert. He brought forensic techniques to bear on the subject and lent academic legitimacy to a topic that had been consigned to the tabloids.

He was ridiculed by his academic peers for suggesting that the source of the modern sightings was a descendant of the ape Gigantopithecus, the largest primate that ever walked the Earth, 9 to 10 feet in height.

Some critics said Krantz's Bigfoot obsession severely damaged his academic reputation. Part of it was his fault. He once said the only way to prove Bigfoot's existence would be to kill one of the creatures and produce its remains.

Krantz wrote a series of works, including "Bigfoot Sasquatch Evidence," and appeared in television documentaries about the topic. His insights gained him many believers as well as detractors throughout the world.

This family of creatures, if it exists, is also referred to as Sasquatch, Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, swamp apes and skunk apes. Researchers like Jeff Meldrum, an Idaho State University professor of anatomy and anthropology, believe that the creature is real. They say it is a species of North American ape inhabiting mountainous forests.

However, sightings of giant apes have been reported around the world, including in this state. Over the past year, such creatures have been seen from Ontario to Kyrgyzia to Texas. They have left strands of hair and a trail of footprints from North America to the Himalayas.

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for Bigfoot sightings and was the primary area for Krantz's groundbreaking research. Two years ago, a body imprint of a primate was discovered in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, heightening interest in the search for Bigfoot.

Meldrum and a team of 13 researchers took a 250-pound cast of what appeared to be the creature's left forearm, hip, thigh and heel, all 50 percent bigger than what one would find in a 6-foot man. They also obtained hair samples for DNA analysis and recordings of the creature wailing.

"While not definitively proving the existence of a species of North American ape," Meldrum says, "the cast constitutes significant and compelling new evidence that will hopefully stimulate further research and investigation into the presence of these primates in the Northwest mountains and elsewhere."

Meldrum and the 800-member Bigfoot Research Organization are aware that he's viewed as a nutty professor. He's spent a great deal of time studying casts of more than 200 footprints said to be the creature's.

Meldrum says that with "these footprints one has to propose a hypothesis. They exist because of a hoax, because someone misidentified them or because they belong to some unrecognized animal."

The search for Bigfoot draws an abundance of ridicule, and it's possible that many who have seen the creature keep it to themselves. However, others are so sure about what they have witnessed that they pay little attention to the scorn.

In the Malaysian state of Meghalaya a few months ago, a trader says he caught a glimpse of a large apelike creature while on a hunting trip in the jungle. Nebilson Sangma claims he saw Mande Burung, a mythical creature akin to Bigfoot.

"After overcoming the initial shock, my brother and I observed this gigantic hairy creature for three consecutive days from afar," he says. The animal, he maintains, walked erect, lived in a house-like nesting place and came out occasionally to eat from a banana grove.

Authorities discounted his tale until a villager a few days later went to the scene and videotaped the creature's nesting place. After that, wildlife experts and biologists discovered footprints measuring 1 1/2 feet.

Even with this evidence, forest officials in the West Garo Hills said that in all probability what Sangma saw was a bear. He insists officials are wrong because, "having read books and watched television, I can differentiate between animals."

Lawrence Hall is a Star-Ledger columnist.

BFRO Commentary:

The article mentions a sighting from Meghalaya. It should be noted that Meghalaya is a state located in Northeast India, not Malaysia.

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