The Orang Pendek: Do the Jungles of Sumatra Conceal an Unknown Species of Primate?

The Orang Pendek Do the Jungles of Sumatra Conceal an Unknown Species of Primate
Many jungle people fear the orang pendek because of its great strength. (Image source: Public Domain)

Tales of mysterious humanoid creatures have been reported all over the world. From Bigfoot in America to Yeti in Siberia. In the remote jungles of Sumatra, people have been recorded witnessing a different type of unknown hominid –  the orang pendek.

Described as being about three to five feet tall, orang pendek means “short man” in Malay. The elusive creature is said to be ape-like, bipedal and covered in hair. Sightings also suggest that the creature is powerfully built, with broad shoulders and a powerful chest. For many villagers in the area of the Kerinci Seblat National Park, the creature’s existence is indisputable. When describing their encounters with the orang pendek, villagers speak in awe of its strength, stating that it can uproot small trees and break thick vines with its bare hands. 1

Certainly, many orang pendek sightings have occured in the area of the national park. The landscape there comprises dense jungles and an active volcano, making it an ideal location for a hitherto unknown creature to live in mystery.

The director of the park, Pak Mega Harianto, when interviewed in 1993, confessed that the park has been overwhelmed with reports of the orang pendek.

“We now have too many sightings, from all over the national park. It is always the same animal. Always the same description. I think there is a strong possibility that we have an unknown animal here.” 2

Debbie Martyr’s search for the orang pendek

Debbie Martyr, a former London journalist, moved to Sumatra to discover more about the orang pendek. A sceptic of Bigfoots and other large cryptid apes, she was initially unsure as to what to believe about the orang pendek. However, one day, everything changed.

“It walked straight across the valley in front of me, thirty meters away. So close! I didn’t expect it. I certainly didn’t expect to see it so clearly. It was walking between two trees, vegetation to about hip level. This gorgeous, graceful, very strongly built primate, a big ape, walking out of a legend and into broad daylight, lit up by the sun. If I’d seen it concealed in undergrowth, I could have said, “Well, I saw ‘something’.” But I didn’t see “something”. I saw an orang pendek…” – Debbie Martyr3

The other orang: the orang pendek is proposed to be a relative of the orangutan and other great apes. If the orang pendek exists, this new species of ape may shed light on our own evolution. (Image source: Public Domain)

During her time in Sumatra she has collected hundreds of eye witness testimonies of the elusive animal, from villagers and visitors alike. All of them are very consistent in their description of the orang pendek. When she has showed pictures of different types of apes to the witnesses, they all reported that the orang pendek’s face was not only more human-like, but also more “handsome”, than typical apes.4

Based on the reports she collected, Martyr has found that the creature is typically very shy, and when sighted tends to run away, always on two legs.5

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Debbie Martyr claims to have seen the creature several times, and continues to research the jungle by placing cameras in the trees in the hope of capturing a photograph of it. As for her credibility, asides from her work in tracing the orang pendek, she also directs her efforts to help save the endangered Sumatran tiger, and has been awarded the prestigious Order of the British Empire for her achievements. 6

Orang pendek caught on camera?

Whilst quick to run away, that does not mean that the orang pendek is altogether elusive. Asides from the vast number of eyewitness testimonies, there are also instances of it having been caught on camera.

Uploaded to the internet in 2017, the following video was captured by dirt bike riders in Sumatra. It alleges to show an Orang Pendek.

The creature in the video does indeed appear to match many of the descriptions given by eyewitnesses – it is small and fast, walks on two legs, and flees when sighted. Could this be tangible evidence of the existence of a new species of ape, one which walks on two legs alongside humans?

Scientific analysis of the orang pendek

Asides from Debbie Martyr, there are other experts studying the orang pendek. Between 2001 and 2003, scientists analysed hairs and casts of footprints claimed to belong to the mysterious primate which were retrieved by three British men – Adam Davies, Andrew Sanderson and Keith Townley – who were travelling in Sumatra. Dr. David Chiviers, a primate biologist at the University of Cambridge has confirmed their authenticity.

“The cast of the footprint taken was definitely an ape with a unique blend of features from gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee, and human. From further examination the print did not match any known primate species and I can conclude that this points towards there being a large unknown primate in the forests of Sumatra.” 7

Cast of an alleged orang pendek footprint
Cast of an alleged orang pendek footprint, made by Adam Davies in 1999. (Image credit: CFZ)

Hans Brunner, an Australian hair analyst, compared the hairs to those of other primates and local animals and suggested that they originated from a previously undocumented species of primate.

In more recent years, others have sought out the orang pendek. In 2011, zoologist Richard Freeman set off on an expedition in an attempt to find the elusive ape.8

With respected experts and journalists gaining more of an interest into researching the creature, it may only be a matter of time before the orang pendek steps from the pages of folklore and into documented, scientific reality.

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About Erik 25 Articles
A life-long dabbler in the paranormal, Erik researches other-worldly phenomena to sate his curiosity. A habitual fence-sitter, he is of the opinion that only through science can the reality of the paranormal be confirmed. Some of Erik's main interests are demonic possession, occult groups and the possibility of parallel dimensions.