January 27, 2006
Scientists to hunt
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia plans to send two teams of scientists to scour its southern rainforests and track down a huge ape said to have been spotted there, a government official said Friday.
"Bigfoot" fever has dominated Malaysian newspaper headlines for several weeks now, with several dramatic sightings of a hairy, gorilla-like creature reported in the thick forest in the southern state of Johor.
"Yes, the state government has decided to send teams of scientists to try and track it," said a state official who declined to be named. But he gave no further details.
The country is home to the orang-utan, a large red-haired ape that can grow the size of a small man, but they are not found in peninsular Malaysia -- although monkeys and gibbons are common.
National news agency Bernama has said the Johor state government intends to set up two expedition teams, one to explore the forests and a second to try and study the animal itself.
"We hope the expedition will be able to prove its existence," the agency quoted Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman as saying.
Bigfoot sightings across the world have featured mysterious and reclusive animals such as the north American sasquatch or the Himalayan yeti, whose existence has never been proved, but the Malaysian sightings are worth investigating, an environmentalist said.
"The national park is as big as Singapore island," said Vicent Chow, who works in the area and has often lobbied the state government to investigate past sightings. "It's quite possible there is something there."
The Endau-Rompin national park, where the sightings were reported, sprawls over an area of about 49,000 hectares.
"Natives who live in the jungle have seen it for generations and their legends call it the 'snaggle-toothed ghost'," said Chow. "Now we need forays by scientists to find it."