Geographical Index > United States > Malaysia (International) > Article # 500
Media Article # 500
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
[Bloomberg corresp. speaks with V. Chow & F. Long]
By Stephanie Phang
Bloomberg - Asia
March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysia's Johor state government is mounting a scientific expedition next month to track down a gap-toothed Bigfoot, or ape man, in the 248 million-year-old rainforests near Singapore.
The hunt was sparked by reports last year of three strange creatures spotted walking beside a river by workers in Johor, which revived tales of Bigfoot sightings in the jungle among the indigenous people who live in the forests. Discussions on the Internet including the Web site of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization fueled the hype.
``Myths do not leave footprints,'' said Vincent Chow, a member of the Malaysian Nature Society, who has measured and photographed large footprints at the sites of reported Bigfoot encounters in Malaysia.
Tales of Bigfoot from the Sasquatch in the U.S. to the Himalayan Yeti haven't yielded concrete proof of the creature's existence. In the U.S. and elsewhere, no Bigfoot body has ever been found, and many of the footprints and sightings reported over the years have turned out to be hoaxes, the National Geographic said in 2003. Still, the search for the creature in Johor may boost tourism to the state's national parks.
``It has created a lot of excitement,'' said Freddie Long, the chairman of Johor's Tourism and Environment Committee. There is ``great potential'' for tourism.
Finding evidence of Bigfoot in Malaysia will be challenging, given the size of the rainforests in the country, Chow said. The Endau Rompin national park, where the Johor government plans to focus its search, is the size of neighboring Singapore, he said.
Needle in Haystack
It will be like ``looking for a needle in a haystack,'' Chow said. ``If you want to do this kind of research, it must be long term.''
Others expressed doubts Bigfoot exists in the Johor jungle.
``I don't know what to believe, whether it's the government hyping it up so that they'll get more tourism in that area,'' said June Rubis, a 29-year-old researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia, who has worked on primate projects for about five years. ``It just seems so incredulous.''
WWF-Malaysia, the World Wide Fund for Nature's Malaysian chapter, declined to comment on the Bigfoot search, saying it's focusing on its conservation projects.
That won't stop the state government from trying. Next month, it will send an expedition consisting of scientists, zoologists and animal nutritionists from local universities to search different areas of the national park, Long said, without providing more details.
That's after a ``preliminary expedition'' by a team of national park rangers, forestry officials and Orang Asli, or indigenous people, into the state's forest reserves in March, Long said. A report is being compiled, he added.
The hunt follows the discovery of at least 35 previously undocumented species, including frogs, butterflies and plants, in the mountains of Indonesia's Papua province. The discoveries were made during an expedition by a team of U.S., Indonesian and Australian scientists who in December visited the remote Foja Mountains in Papua, the Washington D.C.-based environmental group Conservation International said on its Web site in February.
The government is counting on local accounts of sightings of a Bigfoot-like creature. The Orang Asli of Johor say the lush Endau valley in which they live was once inhabited by a tribe of hairy giants called ``Serjarang Gigi,'' or People with Widely Spaced Teeth.
Modern Malaysian villagers have reported seeing a tall ape- like creature they call the Mawas, an Indonesian name for the orangutan, which is indigenous to Borneo but not the Malay peninsular, Chow said.
Based on eyewitness accounts collected by Chow, a 58-year- old horticulturalist, the Malaysian Bigfoot is six to 12-feet tall and the shorter ones have reddish brown fur while the taller ones are almost black.
``They have an upturned nose, the eyebrow ridge is very high and protruding. There seems to be some depression on the top of the head meaning their cranial cavity is probably rather small,'' Chow said. ``It walks like a very sad old man, and it has piercing red eyes.''
Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman said in February he believed Bigfoot was roaming the jungles of his state because the indigenous people who have reported Bigfoot encounters wouldn't make up stories.
The possibility of an undiscovered ape species is ``really cool and exciting, but whether it's in Johor, I don't know, I'm not too sure,'' Rubis said. ``Based on what we have right now, I can't say for sure there is Bigfoot.''
To contact the reporter on this story:
Stephanie Phang in Kuala Lumpur at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie Phang wrote:
"No Bigfoot body has ever been found, and many of the footprints and sightings reported over the years have turned out to be hoaxes, the National Geographic said in 2003. Still, the search for the creature in Johor may boost tourism to the state's national parks."
FYI, the 2003 article you quoted was written by a Swedish-born freelance writer in West Hollywood who was hired to write an article for the Nat. Geo. web site for a particular purpose. The television division of Nat. Geo. wanted to measure the relative amount of web traffic to that article, in order to determine whether a television documentary on the bigfoot topic would receive good ratings. It was not a well researched article, by any measure, and the implication you cited above was misleading. Although there have been hoaxed tracks and sighting reports, naturally ... *most* of the tracks and sighting reports cited by the BFRO, for example, are NOT hoaxes. We challenge both Nat. Geo. and Bloomberg to demonstrate otherwise.
The 2003 Nat Geo. article, titled "Forensic Expert Says Bigfoot Is Real", turned out to be the second most read article on the Nat. Geo. web site for 2003.
Nat. Geo. does not produce it's own documentaries. They farm out documentary projects to outside production companies, and they typically go with the lowest bidders.
Due to the amount of web traffic to that 2003 article, Nat. Geo. hired an outside production company to produce a show that they could promote as a "bigfoot documentary" but gave them a relatively paltry budget. They couldn't do the sorts of things one would expect from a National Geographic documentary on bigfoots.
During the pre-production phase, Nat. Geo. contacted the BFRO and eagerly sought our involvement. As usual, we did not ask them for money, but we did ask them how much of a serious effort they were going to make with this documentary. Among other things we wanted to know who else they were going to include in the program. When we heard the list of names, which included a few outright crazy people, we declined to be involved, and decided not to assist this documentary at all. Consequently the documentary was uninformed and pathetic, but it *was* cheap to produce, which was Nat Geo's main goal.
National Geographic has evolved into a highly compartmentalized, brand-marketing-driven corporation. There is no "heart and soul" there, not anymore. You will not be able to find anyone at National Geographic who knows enough about the bigfoot subject to offer an "official" opinion.
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