The Batutut of the Mentawi Islands
The term 'Batutut' is a familiar one heard in the Southern Pacific Rim Islands of Borneo, the Mentawi Islands nearby Sumatra and Malaysia.
While on a 1969 trek to Borneo observing orangutans, author John Ramsay MacKinnon unexpectedly came upon strange if not bizarre footprints. In his 1974 book, “In Search of the Red Ape,” MacKinnon describes the following incident:
”The rhino may be rare, but at least it is a well-known and scientifically documented animal, which is more than can be said of the batutut. I was traveling alone along a hill ridge on the far side of the river where I had never ventured before. The path was good, though rather muddy and I hadn’t a care in the world. Suddenly I stopped dead, amazed at what I saw. I knelt down to examine the disturbing footprint in the earth, a print so like a man’s yet so definitely not a man’s that my skin crept and I felt a strong desire to head home. The print was roughly triangular, about 6 inches long by four inches across. The toes looked quite human, as did the shapely heel, but the sole was both too short and to broad to be that of a man and the big toe was on the opposite side to what seemed to be the arch of the foot. Further ahead I saw more tracks and went to examine them. There were imprints of both left and right feet, though which was which I could not tell from their curious distribution. Many of the prints had been obliterated by pigs but a few were quite clear. I made drawings of some of these and notes of their relative positions. I found two-dozen footprints in all, scattered along some fifty yards of path.”
Back at camp, MacKinnon showed his sketches to his Malay boatman and asked him what animal made such tracks? Without a moment’s hesitation, the boatman replied “batutut,” but when MacKinnon asked him to describe the beast, he replied it was not an animal but a type of ghost and continued on describing it’s plaintive call, a drawn-out tootoooooo...tootootooooo, from which its name was derived.
Later, in Malaya, McKinnon saw some casts of footprints even bigger than those he had seen in Borneo, but he recognized them as definitely having been made by the same class of creature. McKinnon stated: "Again natives spoke of a creature with long hair, which walks upright like a man.
Like other free spirits of the forest the creature is very shy of light and fire. The batutut is said to be fond of children, never doing them harm. But to adults, legend says it never shows itself but occasionally men were found, which it was believed the batutut had killed and ripped open to feast on their liver, - this may be folklore but to the forest tribes of the Malays, the liver is the seat of all emotions, analogous to the European heart.
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