January 27, 2006

Scientists to hunt “bigfoot” in rainforest

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.

One local man said he saw a 10-foot (three meter) tall ape
standing on two legs beside a river, according to one report.

"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

"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