The Orang-Pendek, which means “short person” in Indonesian, lives in the dense mountain jungles of Sumatra. Stories about the Orang-Pendek go back as far as Marco Polo, who wrote about them in his diaries. Even then, these ” little people” were regarded as elusive and shy. The Orang Kubu, the indigenous tribe, have regarded the Orang-Pendek as a real people for centuries.
This ground-dwelling, bipedal primate is normally describes as being short, no more then five feet tall. Its fur varies in color from a dark orange to a chocolate brown. Its “human like” face is said to startle, and even upset, witnesses, such contributes to the intensity of the experience.
Dutch colonists also recounted seeing this creature. One of the most frequently reported is that of a Mr. Van Heerwarden,who described an encounter he had while surveying land in 1923. He quoted:
I discovered a dark and hairy creature on a branch. The Sedapa was hairy on the front of its body,the color here was a little lighter than on the back. The very dark hair fell to just below the shoulder blades or even almost to the waist. Had it been standing, its arms would have reached to a little above its knees, they were therefore long, but its legs seemed to be rather short. I did not see its feet, but I did see some toes which were shaped in a very normal manner. There was nothing repulsive or ugly about its face,nor was it at all apelike.
Locals in Western Sumatra have continued to see the Orang-Pendek right through to the modern day. Debbie Martyr and Jeremy Holden who both had eyewitnesses sightings, both described to me a creature consistent with the descriptions above. Interestingly, Debbie echoed to me the view of Van Heerwarden in 1923 . The most shocking thing about the Orang-Pendek was that it seemed so human.
In 2011, I led an expedition in which team member Dave Archer and chief guide Sahar Didmus also saw an Orang-Pendek. We were moving silently and slowly as possible through the jungle, when we heard a noise up ahead. I and the other guide Donni, branched one way, while Sahar and Dave went the other. According to Dave, the creature squashed its face and body into a tree in order to remain hidden. Dave could see it was blowing out of the corner of its mouth and rolling its eyes, in a clear state of fear, before moving off into the deep undergrowth.
Sahar, who had previously had a direct encounter with a Tiger, found the whole experience so moving that he burst into tears, and I hugged him while he did so.
The Orang-Pendek is a unique and very rare hominid. This project reinforces that there is still a an active population left in a remote jungle area of the Island….
To be continued…