Sunday, July 8, 2007
Smelly, Homicidal, and REAL?
(Above: The Mapinguary. Photo by Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times)
Travel to any remote part of the globe, and you may begin to hear stories of a large, hairy ape-man roaming the wilderness. Sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures cross many different cultures and terrains. The following is merely a short, incomplete list . . .
US – Sasquatch (Bigfoot)
Himalayan Mountains – Yeti (Abominable Snowman)
Australia – Yowie
Florida – Skunk Ape
Southeast Asia – Nguoi Rung
Afghanistan & Pakistan– Barmanou
Malaysia – Mande Burung
Appalachian Mountains – The Gray Man
According to a story in the New York Times, it’s time to add another name to the list. The mapinguary (which means “roaring animal” or “fetid beast” depending on the translation) is an unbearably smelly seven-foot monster that’s said to lurk in the Amazon rainforest. It shares much in common with the American Bigfoot—notably it’s size, abundant body hair, and lack of personal hygiene. However, while Bigfoot is known for his shyness, the mapinguary is a ferocious killer. Locals claim it will hunt down anyone who trespasses on its territory. (Some also say it can make people dizzy, turn day into night, and consume humans through a gaping hole in its belly.)
So many mapinguary sightings have been reported in recent years that a few scientists have started to take them seriously. One, Dr. David Oren, thinks he has determined the creature’s true identity. He believes that Amazon tribes have been encountering the last of the Megatherium—a species of giant ground sloths (shown below) that most textbooks say became extinct around 10,000 years ago.
While Dr. Oren’s suggestion may seem only slightly less crazy than the existence of a homicidal, forest-dwelling ape-man, it deserves careful consideration. After all, the enormous bones that many people once believed belonged to dragons turned out to be the remains of dinosaurs. The mermaids sailors reported seeing were actually an unknown species—manatees. And it was only recently that giant squid made the leap from fiction to fact.
Is it really that surprising that the Amazon rainforest—which covers an area larger than Western Europe—might be concealing an unknown or “extinct” species? The National Geographic Society may scoff, but I think it's worth an investigation.
(By the way, if you've heard of other Bigfoot-like creatures, be sure to send me a note!)