Sunday, August 21, 2016

Manbeasts: The Orang-Pendek (an excerpt)

In April 2011, I again found myself planning another journey to Sumatra, despite my best intentions. Why? I think mainly because I knew that the Orang-Pendek existed, and I had come very close to seeing it the last time I was there with Dave Archer and Sahor Dinus, and lastly and more importantly, because I felt I had to do something, something more substantial, to try and prove its existence.

The following excerpt is from "Manbeasts" by Adam Davies. You can purchase it here here on

So I began to assemble a crew. The CFZ team was obvious: Dr Chris Clark, Richard Freeman, and Jon McGowan. Dave Archer was keen to go again. Rebecca Lang and Mike Williams from CFZ Australia also wished to go, as well as Lisa Malam from the UK. Andy Sanderson would be joining as on this expedition, as well as my Dutch friend and colleague Tim De Frei, who had been to Sumatra the previous year.

Tim had mentioned that while there he had interviewed an eyewitness: a farmer who had disturbed an Orang-Pendek in his barn. He had observed it eating sugar cane, but had been afraid to approach it, seemingly intimidated by its appearance. Most particularly, he described it as having a "huge torso," which was consistent with other accounts I had heard of the creature.

I was keen to explore both areas at the same time with a larger team, to maximize the opportunity of accumulating evidence of the Orang-Pendek. Thus, I divided the team into two groups: one part of the team would be Dave, Richard, Andy and I, who would ascend Mount Tujuh, and the second team, Chris, Jon, Rebecca, Lisa and Mike, who would concentrate on the so-called "gardens" where there had been some recent reports of sightings. Tim would alternate between the two groups, joining us on Mount Tujuh, when the film crew, Morgan and Tara, arrived.

From April onwards, I began planning the expedition. It made life considerably easier this time having Andy on board, as he helped with much of the organizing, especially the laborious financial planning. Chris and Rebecca were also kind enough to send money in advance to Sumatra to pay for our guides and foods.

Glen Vaudrey also launched an appeal on the CFZ website for camera traps, and as well as the ones we brought, our tally neared the 20 mark as we prepared to depart. We had expert trackers on both teams and a whole range of technical equipment with game finders, camera traps, infra-red gear and materials for casts.

I felt that we had some good equipment, and a great team.

I gave a talk to the CFZ in August, where I stated to them that finding evidence of the Orang-Pendek is always a long shot, as it's obviously a very rare creature, but we will try our hardest to achieve results, we will work until we are exhausted, and there can be no better organised or prepared team out there. I did warn the audience not too expect too much of as though; more often than not we don't get results.

I had decided to go in September again, mainly because I had had such success in that month above any other. Andy was due to meet us in Kuala Lumpur, and we were to rendezvous with Tim, Rebecca, and Mike at the airport in Padang.

The journey there was eventful: a short stop in Qatar was as dusty and hot as expected, but as we approached Kuala Lumpur we encountered a tropical storm, causing lightning to hit our plane! I hoped that this was not an omen to come, before I grabbed a few hours of sleep at the airport hotel before our flight to Sumatra.

It was good to rendezvous with everyone in Padang, and it was great to see Sahar and Dally again. I felt much relieved that we had all got there and our little convoy of transports headed off happily on the seven-hour drive up to Kerinci without problems.

When we arrived I briefed those new to Sumatra on what to expect in the jungle; of course we had already had some discussion about this via email, but it was important to let everyone discuss what was happening and to be clear in their minds what was required of them. Daily and Sabor were also present, and we discussed the logistics of each team, as well as outstanding finances.

The following morning, we departed for our respective camps. We would see Tim at some point during our stay, but I did not expect to hear from the others until the end of the expedition. I worried how they would gel as a team, but I had had the opportunity of chatting with Lisa on the way to London, and with Rebecca on the drive to Padang; they were both sociable, so I was confident they would get on.

We now had a job to do!!

Arriving at Sahar's village, we took the opportunity to interview a recent eyewitness of the Orang-Pendek, Pak Santi. He described how he had disturbed one at dusk, four months ago in the gardens area near the village. He described the creature as being fawn or golden in colour. He also said that he was struck by how it walked on two legs, like a man, rather than a gibbon or a monkey. On his approach, it raised its arms, above its head, and made a "wooing" sound before disappearing rapidly into the jungle.

Then it was time to make the ascent of Mount Tujuh. After I arrived, I organised the Sumatrans in getting the canoes ready for transport across Lake Gunung Tujuh while we waited for Richard to arrive, so we could all be across in plenty of time to make camp before dark.

Alter I organised the Sumatrans, I decided to have a mooch around the area, and came across a large spitting cobra, which slithered quickly away from me, back into the undergrowth! Richard arrived a few hours later with Sahar; by then we had sent some of the canoes off with our provisions. That night we made camp and I had an opportunity to reflect upon matters while watching the stars.

The following couple of days were fun, but I was again reminded of the familiar call of the gibbons and we worked very hard setting up the camera traps, encouraged by signs of increased animal activity compared to the last time I was there. We found plenty of tiger and tapir tracks, for example. I also heard what I thought might be the "Ohh Ohh" call of the Orang-Pendek, but it seemed to be quite far away, and 1 couldn't be confident about it.

You can read more of "Manbeastshere on

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