Fifty year old Liong Chong Shen from Kampung Chennah (Negeri Sembilan province near the district of Jelebu in Malaysia), had an encounter in late December of 1999. Shen was working in his durian orchard (...durian is a type of fruit enjoyed by indigenous frugivores and natives) about 10 miles from Kampung Chennah, when around noontime he smelled a strong animal scent and he heard a grunting sound, upon looking up he spied two hair-covered creatures watching him.
Shen called the creatures 'mawas.'
The larger of the two mawas was 6 feet in height and the smaller was 5 feet in height, they were covered with black and brown hair respectively. Shen watched the Mawas from about 30 feet away for a short spell until they turned and returned to the jungle cover.
What is interesting is that the word mawas is also a regional word from Indonesia for the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) that has a known modern range of areas in Sumatra (Pongo pygmaeus abelii) and Borneo (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) but the orang is not known in Malaysia. Perhaps the mawas were less ape-like but the pelage was likened to orangutans.
The coloration of the orangutan can vary from a reddish-brown to a nearly black coat and with various degrees of hair length. The Sumatran subspecies for example typically has a longer and lighter coat than the Bornean subspecies. These primates are also mainly vegetarian and do eat durians, although the Sumatran subspecies has been seen to eat meat. The size of the orangutan ranges from around 4 to 5 feet, but have been recorded up to 6 feet in size.
These notations on the orangutan are mentioned, becasuse they appear akin to the description given by Liong Chong Shen. He notes that the mawas he saw were 1.83 and 1.52 meters in size (converts over to roughly 6 to 5 feet in size) bipedal (upright walking) and exhibited long shaggy hair. Orangutans are quadrupeds (knuckle walkers or on all four) ...so what were these mawas?
The area of the sighting as well fell within a vegetarian arena of durians. Coupled with no apparent threat by the mawas, the possible explanation lies within the orangutan according to the research of Craig Heinselman who wrote, ..." the area of Malaysia where the report originates, within the province of Negeri Sembilan lies within 200 miles of Sumatra and within 800 of Borneo, roughly in between the two known ranges of orangutan."
Although Heinselman's thoughts are not conclusive, the possibility that Liong Chong Shen saw an orangutan can only be a "very remote possibility." Currently, orangutan reserves claim the only feral populations of orangs are indeed Borneo, specifically the Kalimantan and on the island of Sumatra and they are not known to walk upright.
Lian, Hah Foong, News article: "Village abuzz over sighting of ‘mawas’," Star Publications (Malaysia), January 2, 2000
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