by My Linh
For centuries, Tibetans have reported sightings of a mythical
half-human/half-ape creature known as the Yeti. In the United States, a
similar creature known as Bigfoot has captured the public imagination. And
it seems Vietnam too may play host to such a creature, with numerous
sightings reported across the Central Highland of a 1.8 metre part-human
animal that preys upon the local population.
While most people greet such reports with a healthy degree of skepticism,
one Central Highlands villager was left in no doubt, after being captured by
a female part-human creature who held him prisoner inside her cave for three
years and forced him to have a baby with her. Finally the helpless man was
presented with an opportunity to escape, and ran back home to his village.
But the ordeal was not to end there. After his return, the whole village
would hear the sorrowful sound of a strange crying noise ringing across the
mountains every night. They decided to send out a search party to try to
find the mysterious creature, and eventually located her destroyed cave. On
entering the cave, they were greeted with the heart-wrenching discovery of
the little baby's body which had been torn apart. The female creature,
however, was no where to be found. Other villagers from the Central
Highlands tell stories of a strange gorilla-like creature living in remote
parts of the jungle that hunts humans and holds them captive. The ape-man
then stands staring at the sky, laughing hysterically until night fall. The
creature then eats its victim. So convinced are the locals by these stories
that it has become a custom for them to wear bamboo tubes around their arms
so that if they are caught, they simply have to slide their hands out of the
tubes and run away while the gorilla is occupied with its ritualistic laughing routine.
Vietnam National University biologist Doctor Professor Tran Hong Viet was
told many such stories by local villagers during his first trip to the
Central Highland in 1977. Together with other studies, his objective is to
find evidence of the mythical creature existence. Viet said he had also
talked with workers in a jungle in the Central Highlands who had stumbled
across footprints like those of a gorilla. They were so frightened by the
discovery they refused to work in the area, and dubbed the region "the
gorilla jungle". Numerous other locals told Viet of regular sightings of the
strange brown hair-covered animals.
"People living in those remote areas have never heard or seen anything
describing part-human creature in other parts of the world, but all of them
described the animals they saw in the exact details of what has been written
in books," Viet said. Vietnamese archaeologists have discovered teeth of people living in Vietnam
250,000 years ago, as well as relics found in Yen Bai Province dating to
70,000 years ago. Viet believes the creatures may be remnants or sub-species
of these prehistoric communities. "Those relics show that there were people
living there at the same time as the ancient people living in China," Viet
said. "Moreover, in Vietnam the kinds of plants which were categorized as
ancient plants which were found in places where ancient people were found."
Despite spending ten years searching the Central Highlands, Viet failed to
encounter the elusive creature. He recalls endless months of living in basic
conditions waiting for the creatures to appear, spending sleepless nights
with his camera at the ready.
"They live mainly in remote areas where there is no human life at all," he
said. "They live individually, or in a small family. I was told people found
steps of these small animals, two steps have similar size, one is much
smaller. It would have been a family band, wife and a little kid." But he
did find and photograph a footprint he believes belongs to an ape man. "I
have seen the trees those animals broke to find insects to eat and left the
mark of their teeth on the leaf," he said. "And around this area there are
many foot-prints. The teeth have the same structure as humans, which must be a sign
of a part-human creature." Gathering together all the stories he has heard, along with the physical
evidence he encountered himself, Viet believes there is little doubt the
part-human creatures live in Vietnam. "However, in the last ten years, I
could not do much to continue my study," Viet said. One trip to look for
jungle people cost between VND30 million and VND40 million, and there has
been little invested into his study since 1986. "It's urgent and necessary
to continue the study now, before all those animals die out," he said.
"In the Northeast of Vietnam, where relics of the ancient people were
found, most of the jungles have been logged. In the next few years, those animals
will have no place to live," he said. "I want to make people aware that what
I am doing is for the whole world, not just of Vietnam."
Source: Vietnam Investment Review (Time Out Supplement) September 9-15, 1996 p.18.
Note: Vietnam National University biologist Doctor Professor Tran Hong Viet
has advised that this is a poor translation of his interview. Scientific concepts were
not reproduced faithfully, he says.