Bigfoot Encounters  

The Didi, de Loys Ape,
Maribundas and The Legendary Pe de garrafa

….The cerebral development of new world monkeys as regards both weight and height, is much more remarkable than that of those of the old world, even including the anthropoid apes. As Bierens de Haan, the Dutch psychologist has proven, the intelligence of the capuchin monkey, even though it is no bigger that a tiny cat, can very well be compared to that of the remarkably intelligent chimpanzee. …….Bernard Heuvelmans

If, as in the African and Asian monkeys, the intelligence of the American monkeys is very roughly proportional to their size, the anthropoid's intellectual faculties must be much higher than those of the chimpanzee or gorilla. Even if it were merely a giant spider monkey, its cranial capacity would be much larger than theirs. (Heuvelmans p.189) No doubt it is larger than the Pithecanthropus's and perhaps even that of man. If a spider monkey or a capuchin kept its usual proportions but were as large as a man it would obviously have a larger brain; and the anthropoid (5 feet 1 ¾ inches) is the height of a human Pygmy (5 feet or less) or even a short man. Even though it certainly has an intellect far inferior to the most backward of men (otherwise it would have conquered the world!), a comparative study of its anatomy and physiology, especially that of its brain, with those of a man of the same size would be of immense interest and might enable us to establish for certain the relation between the weight, volume, and shape of the brain and the degree of intelligence.

The zoological problem of Loys's ape demands a solution. Some eminent naturalists, like Sir Arthur Keith, have merely maintained that it is just a variety of ordinary spider monkey and that the tail has been hidden in the photograph thus implying that Loys is a fraud. Quite apart from the size of the animal, which can still be disputed, though unfairly (Heuvelmans) -- it seems to me that the photograph proves that this is an unknown kind of monkey. But Philip Hershkovitz, an excellent American mammalogist, who during the war prospected the area that Loys had explored but found no trace of the anthropoid, even claims to have determined the species of spider monkey to which it belongs, the mulatto spider monkey (Ateles hybridus). Heuvelmans spent a long time in the Natural History Museum in Paris studying the "type" of this species, but I was not in the least convinced. While it is true that the mulatto spider monkey has much thicker limbs than the other spider monkeys (at least it had in this specimen which had been mounted from a skin in poor condition) and fur not unlike the anthropoid's, its size, the length of its thorax, and more especially the shape of its face quite refuted this identification.

Legends of large monkeys are not confined to the Colombo-Venezuelan border, but are found all over the country of the Amazon. The Marquis de Wavrin writes:

They are called maribundas. Their height when standing upright, a position they readily adopt to walk on the ground, is supposed to be about 5 feet. The only civilized man who lives with his family on the Guaviare on the upper reaches of this river, told me he had brought up a young maribunda at his house. It was very friendly and amusing in all its pranks; finally its owner had to kill it because it did too much damage. The maribunda's cry sounds strangely like a human call. On the Guaviare in particular I several times thought at first that it was Indians calling.

Are these rnaribundas the same as Loys's monkey? I think not. In fact maribunda or rnarirnonda is the native name for what in English is called the marimonda spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth) --but this is never more than 3 feet 7 inches high. And Wavrin adds: "According to what the Indians told me, this monkey's body is rather slim. It likewise has a prehensile tail"--which does not agree at all with de Loys's description of his ape.

At first sight Roger Courteville's evidence appears more helpful. He gives a most graphic account of an encounter with a large tailless ape. But, even if many of the details he gives were not suspect, how can he expect his story to be believed when he illustrates it with a photograph of his "Pithecanthropus" waving its arms among the branches, with the caption "Dr. de Barle's document''? This is obviously a crude fake. Loys's photograph has been cut up, its limbs rearranged into a threatening posture and the whole thing stuck on a background of virgin forest. This suspect evidence must not be allowed to cast suspicion on Loys's account, which is supported by an indisputable document in the correct sense of the word.

In 1868, a century after Dr. Bancroft, Charles Barrington Brown heard new rumors on the Upper Mazaruni on the Venezuelan frontier that a sort of hairy men lived there. The first night after leaving Peaimah we heard a long, loud, and most melancholy whistle, proceeding from the direction of the depths of the forest, at which some of the men exclaimed, in an awed tone of voice, "The Didi." Two or three times the whistle was repeated, sounding like that made by a human being, beginning in a high key and dying slowly and gradually away in a low one ....

The "Didi" is said by the Indians to be a short, thick set, and powerful wild man, whose body is covered with hair, and who lives in the forest. A belief in the existence of this fabulous creature is universal over the whole of British, Venezuelan and Brazilian Guiana. On the Demerara river, some years after this, I met a half bred woodcutter, who related an encounter that he had with two Didi--a male and a female--in which he successfully resisted their attacks with his axe. In the fray, he stated that he was a good deal scratched.

"In 1931, Professor Nello Beccari, an Italian anthropologist, Dr. Renzo Giglioli and Ugo Ignesti made an expedition to British Guiana, where one of the secondary objectives was to attack the problem of Loy's ape. For in this area the fauna, flora, climate, and indeed the whole ecological pattern are the same as in the Sierra de Perjaa. On his return from several months in the interior, Beccari met the British Resident Magistrate, Mr. Haines who was then living on the Rupununi. Haines told him that he had come upon a couple of Didi many years before when he was prospecting for gold. In 1910, he was going through the forest along the Konawaruk, a tributary that joins the Essequibo just above its junction with the Potaro, when he suddenly came upon two strange creatures, which stood up, on their hind feet when they saw him. They had human features but were entirely covered with reddish brown fur. Haines was unarmed and did not know what he could do if the encounter took a turn for the worse, but the two creatures retreated slowly and disappeared into the forest without once taking their eyes off of him. When he had recovered from his surprise, he realized that they were unknown apes and recalled the legend of the Didi (di-di), which the Indians with whom he had lived for many years had told him. Beccari was also told of other encounters with pairs of large apes with human features.

The Indians believed that the di-di lived in pairs and that it was extremely dangerous to kill one of them, for the other would inevitably revenge its mate by coming at night and strangling its murderer in his hammock. Beccari did not trust the more fanciful part of this story, but felt that it must have a kernel of truth. Loys had also met a pair, and so had Barrington Brown's woodcutter."

Heuvelmans goes on to note, "most South American monkeys live in largish troops and this habit alone suggests that this is a very peculiar species." Professor Beccari observed, "We may think the Guiana ape is a distinct variety of the Venezuelan species, or even a different but closely related species." He adds, "that orangutans vary in color from a dark mahogany to a bright foxy red, though nobody yet knows whether they belong to different races or species or whether they are merely individual variations."

Continuing on with the South American hominid. In Brazil, the tales of a large manlike ape sometimes become quite fantastic. They are not found in the north of the country near Venezuela and Guiana - - the Ameri-anthropoid's alleged home, but in the southwest in the provinces of Amazonas, Matto Gosso and Goyaz as well as Acre and Guapore on the frontiers of Bolivia. The creature has various names:

Mapinguari, pelobo and pe-de-garrafa or bottle foot, for it leaves footprints that look as if they were made by sticking the bottom of a bottle in the ground. Its tracks are always regularly spaced and exactly alighted. I need hardly say that the attempt to imagine what creature could leave such extraordinary footprints has produced some bizarre results. This is how it was described in about 1954 to Rui Prado Mendonca Jr., a Brazilian hunter, by one of the oldest inhabitants of the Upper Araguaya:

"It is an animal of fair height, distinctly human looking with long flowing hair on its head, and it has only one leg with which it makes enormous leaps always leaving a tract of deep prints like the bottom of a bottle. Hence its name. As it has only one leg, it cannot walk like other animals but always stands erect. It is extremely savage and never crosses obstacles in its path. It always goes around them and is therefore reputed to move in endless zigzags. When it meets an enemy it fixes him with its eyes with such intensity that the victim is quite hypnotized and falls into its claws."

[Sounds like a biped with one leg and a foot missing at the ankle] It is hardly surprising that this monster terrified even such a brace jaguar hunter as the old half-breed himself who told this tale. "There is not the slightest doubt that tracks which look as if they were made with the bottom of a bottle do exist" writes Bernard Heuvelmans. "They have been seen by witnesses whose veracity is above suspicion among them Francisco Meirelles who pacified the Chavante Indians. He thought that the track attributed by the Chavantes to the Mapinguari was made by a deer with a broken leg, though it is hard to see how a limping animal could have left such a regular track or indeed how anything short of a race of three legged deer could have accounted for all the tracts of the pe-de-garrafa seen in the Amazon jungle.

It could be a biped. The few people who have seen a mapinguari describe it much more prosaically than the old half-caste from the Upper Araguaya, as we shall see from an account told to the Brazilian writer Paulo Saldanha Sobrino by a half case called Inocencio, who in 1930 went on a expedition up the Uatuma toward the sources of Urubu. When their boat came to an impassable waterfall they cut across the jungle to reach the Urubfi watershed. After two days Inocencio became separated from the rest of his party. He shouted and fired his gun, but there was no reply except the chatter of monkeys and squawks of angry birds. So he began to walk almost blindly, feeling he must do something in such a critical situation, until night fell, when he climbed into a large tree and settled himself in a fork between the branches. As it grew dark the night was filled with jungle noises, and Inocencio rested happily enough until suddenly there was a cry, which at first he thought was a man calling, but he realized at once that no one would look for him in the middle of the night. Then he heard the cry nearer at hand and more clearly. It was a wild and dismal sound. Inocencio, very frightened, settled himself more firmly into the tree and loaded his gun. Then the cry rang out a third time and now that it was so close it sounded horrible, deafening and inhuman.

Some forty yards away was a small clearing where a samaumeira had fallen and its branches had brought down other smaller trees. This was where the last cry had come from. Immediately afterward there was a loud noise of footsteps, as if a large animal was coming toward me at top speed. When it reached the fallen tree it gave a grunt and stopped .... Finally a silhouette the size of a man of middle height appeared in the clearing.

The night was clear. There was no moon, but the starry sky gave a pale light, which somehow filtered through the tangled vegetation. In this half-light Inocencio saw a thickset black figure "which stood upright like a man."

It remained where it stood, looking perhaps suspiciously at the place where I was. Then it roared again as before. I could wait no longer and fired without even troubling to take proper aim. There was a savage roar and then a noise of crashing bushes. I was alarmed to see the animal rush growling toward me and I fired a second bullet. The terrifying creature was hit and gave an incredibly swift leap and hid near the old samaumeira. From behind this barricade it gave threatening growls so fiercely that the tree to which I was clinging seemed to shake. I had previously been on jaguar hunts and taken an active part in them, and I know how savage this cat is when it is run down and at bay. But the roars of the animal that attacked me that night were more terrible and deafening than a jaguar's. I loaded my gun again and fearing another attack, fired in the direction of the roaring. The black shape roared again more loudly, but retreated and disappeared into the depths of the forest. From time to time I could still hear its growl of pain until at last it ceased. Dawn was just breaking.

Not until the sun was well up did Inocencio dare to come down from his perch. In the clearing he found blood, broken boughs of bushes, and smashed shrubs. Everywhere there was a sour penetrating smell. Naturally he did not dare to follow the trail of blood for fear of meeting a creature, which would be even more dangerous now that it was wounded. Taking a bearing on the sun he at last reached a stream and rejoined his companions, who fired shots so that he should know where they were.

I maintain I have seen the mapinguary [Inocencio said to Paulo Sobrino]. It is not armored, as people would have you believe. They say that to wound it fatally you must hit the one vulnerable spot: the middle of the belly. I can't say where my bullet wounded it, but I know it was hit, for there was blood everywhere.

This story has the ring of truth, and is told in more sober fashion than most Brazilian hunters' tales, true though they often are. Inocencio claims to have done nothing to boast of, and he does not make the animal in the least fantastic. It has two legs like everybody else.

Like the legendary pe de garraIa it emits terrible roars, but they do not send the hearer mad, and likewise it gives off a strong smell, but it is not really asphyxiating. Its behavior is just what one might expect of a powerful great ape--a great ape like the one shot by de Loys in Venezuela and seen by Haines and others in Guiana the only unknown animal of which we have an excellent photograph, and whose existence cannot, I think, be disputed except by the disingenuous and the blind.

© Bernard Heuvelmans "Apes in Green Hell."

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