Orang Pendek: The Hidden Hominid Of Sumatra

In the western part of Indonesia, there lies an enormous island called Sumatra (the 6th largest in the world, in fact).

With its dense forests and mountainous landscapes, Sumatra is still largely untroubled by human expansion.

Because of this, the island hosts a plethora of thriving animal species, including 201 different mammals, 580 birds, and 300 freshwater fish.

At least, those are the ones that have been found so far…


According to various settlers, explorers, and natives, there lives another creature on Sumatra that has yet to be officially discovered.

This highly-elusive being has been given the name “Orang Pendek” — simply meaning “short person” in the Indonesian language.

When analyzing the reported descriptions of this being, it seems to closely resemble other “hidden hominids” like Bigfoot, Yeren, and Barmanu.



Reported Descriptions

The Orang Pendek is said to be some sort of intelligent ape species.

Though its name is closely related to the orangutan (which means “person of the forest”), the Orang Pendek is said to have a more human-like appearance.

It allegedly stands between 3 to 6 feet tall, with a muscular torso and longer legs than most other apes.


The cryptid is nearly fully covered in golden, brownish or greyish hairs — perhaps indicating its age.

According to eyewitnesses, it’s able to walk comfortably on two legs.

However, it will occasionally hang onto trees or crouch while moving, much like a chimpanzee would.



Behavior & Diet

Generally speaking, Orang Pendek are not believed to be dangerous to humans.

Still, in the few cases they’ve come near people, they’ve been known to act defensively.

More specifically, they’ve thrown their arms into the air while making grunting noises — a common behavior of primates (and even humans) who want to ward off a threat.


The mysterious ape-men seem to mainly subsist on plant-based foods like fruits, roots, and shoots, in addition to various insects.

Sometimes, the Orang Pendek have been accused of stealing the harvest of nearby villagers — mostly corn and different kinds of fruits.



Orang Pendek In The Eyes Of Indonesians

Throughout much of the Sumatran forests lives an indigenous group called the “Orang Rimba” (translated to “people of the forest”).

They’re also known by the name “Suku Anak Dalam” (“children of the inner forest”).

Many of the Orang Rimba live completely self-sufficient lives deep inside the forests.

Because of this, they are intimately familiar with the local flora and fauna.


According to these indigenous people, the Orang Pendek is very much a real creature.

In fact, they claim to have a very relaxed relationship with the cryptid.

The elders of the Orang Rimba are well aware of the ape-men’s territories and will sometimes leave food for them.

Based on the tribesmen’s oral traditions, the Orang Pendek have lived in the Sumatran wilderness since before humans arrived.

They don’t see the creatures as scary or enigmatic, however.

To the Orang Rimba, the upright apes are just co-inhabitants of the large, dense forest.



Reputation Among Villagers

The Indonesians living in the villages of Sumatra don’t share the Orang Rimba’s views regarding the ape-men.

Generally, they see Orang Pendek as mysterious and unpredictable — with an almost-magical capacity to stay hidden from humans.

If they have to venture into remote parts of the wilderness, they make sure to watch their backs in case they’ve entered ape-man territory.



Early Western Accounts Of Orang Pendek

Westerners first became aware of the Orang Pendek during the early 1900s.

At this time, Indonesia was a Dutch colony, commonly called the “Dutch East Indies”.

The first reports of an unfamiliar, ape-like creature were received by the Dutch Sumatran governor in 1917.

Among these, we find the interesting account of one Mr. Oostingh — a Dutch plantation owner.



Oostingh’s Sighting

Oostingh wrote that he was walking in the forests near Bukit Kaba (a large Sumatran mountain) when he saw an unknown creature about 30 feet away.

The strange being was sitting on the ground with its back turned towards him.

He described the creature as being around the same size as an average Indonesian.

However, it had a more muscular physique — strong, squared shoulders and a barrel chest.

Furthermore, the cryptid was almost fully covered in greyish, hairs.


Oostingh recounted his experience as follows:

“He obviously noticed my presence.

He did not turn his head, but stood up on his feet: he seemed about as tall as I am, about 1.75 meters.

Then I realized that this was not a man, and I started back away since I was not armed.

The creature took several paces and then, with his long arm, grasped a small tree, which seemed to almost break under his weight, before quietly springing into a tree, swinging in great leaps to the right and to the left.

My main impression was, and still is, ‘what a huge beast!’

It was not an orangutan — I had seen one of those apes before at the Artis (the Amsterdam zoo).

It was more like a monstrously-large siamang; but a siamang has long hair, and there was no doubt this one had short hair.

I did not see its face since, indeed, it never looked at me once.”



Van Heerwaden’s Encounter

In 1923, 6 years after the initial reports of the Orang Pendek, another stunning encounter took place.

A Dutch settler by the name of Van Heerwaden was walking through Sumatra, looking for trees he could use for timber.

During his time there, he spent some days tracking hogs in the forests.

While he was unsuccessful in that regard, he did stumble upon something else.



An Unexpected Sight

On one of his hunting trips, he was sitting in a bush waiting for wild pigs to appear.

Suddenly, he noticed something peculiar in the corner of his eye:

A hairy, ape-like figure sitting in a tree right above him — unlike anything he had seen previously.


He described the being as follows:

  • Muscular body covered in dark hair.
  • Facial features that were “neither ugly nor ape-like in appearance”.
  • Long arms that would reach just above its knees if standing.
  • Short legs and human-looking toes.


Van Herwaaden figured this was the Orang Pendek natives had been speaking of.

After observing it for a while, the Dutchman tried to carefully climb the tree to get a better look.

However, as he approached the creature from behind, it quickly slid off a branch and vanished into some nearby foliage.



Debbie Martyr Arrives

In modern times, many people have attempted to track down the Orang Pendek.

Among these, Debbie Martyr is the most distinguished.

A former journalist from England, she traveled to Sumatra to do research and conservation work on behalf of Fauna & Flora International — a global non-governmental organization.

While she was on the island, Martyr managed to interview several hundred eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the elusive ape-men.

Based on this information, she and her team could pinpoint were the Orang Pendek were most often sighted.



Setting Traps

Among Martyr’s crew was Jeremy Holden, a professional wildlife photographer.

He went to the potential hotspots and carefully set up a number of camera traps.

Unfortunately, they were all avoided or triggered by other animals.


Still, despite the Orang Pendek’s no-show, they did get a nice shot of another slippery creature:

The muntjac — a rare species of deer that had not been sighted since 1930, and was thought to be extinct.



A Glimpse of the Ape-Man

Overall, Martyr’s research and conservation efforts on Sumatra were successful.

However, despite spending over two decades working on the island, she and her team never managed to capture a photo of the Orang Pendek.

Nevertheless, several of them claimed to have caught a glimpse of the hominid cryptid.

Martyr herself had a sighting already in 1990 — just a year after arriving at Sumatra.

Back then, she described it as a non-human primate with a powerful physique resembling that of a boxer.

She said it moved around efficiently on two legs, much like a human with slightly different proportions.


The photographer, Jeremy Holden, also had a brief look at the elusive being while it was going over a hill in the forest.

Like Martyr, he also noticed that it moved quickly while being mostly, if not fully, upright.



Later Investigations

In late September of 2001, Andrew Sanderson, Adam Davies, and Keith Townley traveled together to Sumatra.

They were all passionate cryptozoologists and explorers from England, excited by the thought of tracking down the Orang Pendek.

During their 3-week stay at the island, they failed to catch a glimpse of the hominid.

However, potential evidence of the creature was found in the lush forest near the volcano Kerinci.


The Englishmen were going through the area for clues when they spotted some footprints in the mud.

Not being able to identify the strange print, they decided to make a cast they could inspect later.

Near the mysterious footprints, the men also collected several long strands of hair.



Examining the Footprint

Eager to investigate their findings, Sanderson and co returned to Britain.

There, they handed over the cast of the footprint to Dr. David Chivers — a professor at Cambridge University.

He went through the database of known Sumatran species in search for a match, but failed to find any.

Still, he could tell it had a clear similarity to humans and other known apes.

Dr. Chivers concluded:

“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”.



Examining the Hairs

The long hairs found near the footprints were delivered to Dr. Hans Brunner at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

An expert regarding mammalian hairs, he did extensive DNA tests of the samples.

After looking over the results, he deduced that the hairs didn’t come from any known animal.

His final statement was that they probably belonged to an unknown species of primate.



Still A Cryptid

Despite the fascinating footprint and hair samples, the Orang Pendek has still not been captured clearly on camera.

Still, eyewitness accounts continue rolling in and handheld cameras (including mobile phones) are more accessible than ever.

Because of these factors, many cryptid researchers believe the elusive ape-man of Sumatra may soon be revealed to the world.



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