Riley reports a former journalist leaves London today to try to prove
the existence of an elusive species of ape. In an expedition backed by
the Flora and Fauna Preservation Society, in Cambridge, Debbie Martyr,
aged 38, aims to bring back photographic and other evidence, including
hair and faecal samples, of an ape that walks upright.
Ms Martyr, former editor of a south London newspaper, has already spent
two years in search of orang pendek - literally "short man".
At first, Ms Martyr collated information from tales about the 4 foot primate
told by the local population on the jungle-clad mountain that dominates
Kerinci Sablat National Park on the western side of the island, which
until recently was completely isolated.
Her journalist's nose told her she was on to something.
In November, after
stalking the ape and seeing it three times, she returned with plaster
casts of he footprints of what is believed tobe a new species.
Experts were impressed. "Our scientists have reported back to us and they think there is
something in this," said Dougal Muller, of FFPS. "We believe
there is something there or we would not be funding this trip. If it's
what we think, it could be a very significant find."
Ms Martyr, whose expedition is being carried out with the help of the
Indonesian government, will be accompanied by a photographer. She is in
awe of the beast and the task ahead of her.
"The first time I saw
it I was so shocked I didn't take a picture," she said. "I saw
something I didn't expect to see and something so totally new contrary
to what I expected. Here was a generally bi-pedal erect primate." Its colours correspond to those of the forest floor. "It
is beige, tawny,
rust red, yellow tan and dark chocolate brown. If the OP freezes,
The ape's height at 70-75 cm... (
70 - 75 centimeters = 27.5 inches - 30 inches)
She is also aware of her responsibilities. Orang
pendek have been getting along quite nicely for millennia. Local people
have known about them. They don't hunt them and they respect them because
they don't have a monetary significance.
"We are about to produce substantive evidence for a new great ape
in one of the most important national parks in South-east Asia. We have
got a job now, and I have a responsibility now as I have opened the door.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that the animal's future
is not threatened as a result of its discovery." She added: "We have
an opportunity with the orang pendek to put the records right."
We have exploited the other great apes, our nearest relatives. It would
be a dreadful indictment on us to see that continuing with the orang pendek."
The FFPS is also keen to ensure orang pendek is left alone, safe in its
own habitat. It wants to prevent a repetition of what happened in the
case of the last great ape to be discovered, the mountain gorillas in
Rwanda, which now have television camera crews in their territory. "If
there's a new species out there - which the experts think there is - there's
a much bigger question, which is how to protect and recognise the whole
area," said Mr Muller.
Also included with
the article: a photo of Debbie Martyr holding a plaster cast of the alleged
ape's footprint, and an artist's impression (uncredited) of orang pendek.
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