Back in 2006, this international reporter got a chance to do what every bigfoot researcher would love to do, hit the Malaysian jungle and look for a Mawa. This is her original article of that adventure, from The Independent, and I’ve also added below some prints, witness encounters and articles. Enjoy!
Byline: Jan McGirk
At first glance it might have seemed like nothing. A four-inch impression in the mud of the Malaysian rainforest. On closer inspection, however, it seemed as if it might be the astounding find the expedition had been hoping for. A footprint of the creature known variously as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the tropical Yeti or – to locals – the Mawas.
Said to grow up to 10- feet tall, with an awesome arm span, a trio of these undiscovered hominids were at the centre of a flurry of unconfirmed sightings by frightened plantation workers three months ago. And in the fading light of the Bukit Lantang woods on the fringe of dense forest in Johor state, a single splayed print appeared to offer the most compelling evidence yet that we were on the trail of the mighty beast.
The Mawas appears to have grabbed for support when it teetered off-balance, because tree branches 11 feet overhead had been damaged, directly above the spot where the animal’s left heel had sunk four inches into a muddy puddle. A stick had snapped beneath one of its toe depressions.
A second fresh footprint proved impossible to find but recent damage to a rotting log, located a couple of strides away, suggested it had might have borne a prodigious weight.
For the excitable team of Yeti hunters, mainly a mix of Singapore enthusiasts and volunteers from the capital Kuala Lumpur it was vindication. Even the sceptics, including this reporter, were secretly impressed.
As with the two extremely faded footprints that had been found preserved in fresh tar on a nearby road, this print measured nearly a triple handspan across, roughly 11 by 19 inches. The Australian tracker Tony Burke, part of the Singapore team, estimated that to make such a print, an animal would have to weigh at least 240kg.
“I’m a cynic, but if we could see a right footprint as well, we could at least measure its gait. Maybe if we had some scat, I could be totally convinced,” he said. “I am about 50 percent there. Let’s see what the lab results are.”
An official government committee of research scientists, appointed by Abdul Ghani Oth-man, chief minister of Johor state, has been trying to verify Bigfoot’s existence since late January, by interviewing witnesses, setting up camera traps in its likely haunts, and collecting evidence from tribal informants in the national parks.
But our paranormal investigators’ search party, tailed by an excitable science-fiction film crew from Los Angeles, was anything but stealthy. Kong Kam Choy, a 40-year-old construction worker who likes to trek through the jungle in his free time, convinced the gaggle of researchers to tramp through a leech-infested grove near a palm plantation where he had come across unusually big tracks that he could not readily identify.
It was just two hours before dusk, thunder was rumbling and the group was disappointed, having made a futile afternoon voyage upriver to examine a set of tracks discovered on 10 January near the Tanjung Sedili creek. These had since been washed away by tropical downpours and overrun by wild boar.
Then we struck gold. Kenny Fong, an e-commerce professor who founded Singapore Paranormal Investigators five years ago, came running when Josh Gates, a sci-fi documentary maker, summoned him to check out the peculiarly large footprint.
Professor Fong considers himself a debunker who is keen to spot a hoax. Using a police crime scene kit designed to preserve footprints for court evidence, he set about the job. A technician required three full bags of plas ter (at about 1lb a bag) to fill the huge depression made by the single footprint. The muddy size 20 footprint was doused with hair-spray before quick-setting plaster was poured into each crevice.
As the group gawked and cameras whirred, the print took on that unmistakable and almost comically ominous Bigfoot shape – the flat foot with four rounded digits, plus a gorilla-like big toe jutting out from the side. “People say Bigfoot doesn’t exist, and I have had my doubts. But what else could it be?” asked Profes sor Fong, who promptly toppled off a hillock in his excitement to photograph the group in front of the fresh paw print.
According to Vincent Chow, a Malaysian bio-diversity expert, this area of diverse rainforest has been rife with Bigfoot sightings all month. “An elephant has been foraging in those woods for food, so farmers set off explo sives to frighten it away from their fields,” he said. “But animals get accustomed to these blasts and ignore them. Now we think a Bigfoot family of three may be shadowing the elephant, who clears the way.
“Fourteen large footprints were found nearby on Saturday. Then at 4am, workers were awakened by 10 minutes of weird hooting, a kind of call and re sponse session, while they were asleep at a palm oil plantation.” The planter, Abdul Rahman Ahmad, said his terrified workers at Komping Lukut described the eerie night cries as long drawls in three distinct pitches. “They said it sounded like squeals of wild pigs mixed up with the deep barks of gibbons – but not like owls,” he recounted. They also heard heavy crashing through the underbrush. Mr Chow speculated that at least three different animals, which the local tribes call Hantu Jarang Gigi, or “snaggle-toothed ghosts”, must have been involved in this curious chorus.
Historical records show eight claimed sightings of enormous apemen in southern Malaysia that date back to 1871, and the Orang Asli tribes who inhabit the forest famously dread an encounter with these shy, over sized apes, known variously as Sasquatch in Canada, Yowie in eastern Australia, Bigfoot in the western US or the Yeti in the Himalayas.
The creature is almost ubiquitous and many cultures throughout the world have legends about man-beasts. Recorded sightings in North America date back to the early 1800s. According to some Native American tribes, the Sasquatch are not flesh-and-blood creatures in the first place but spirits which appear to humans in times of crisis. But despite numerous sightings, photos and footprints of often questionable origin, there has never been conclusive proof that these creatures exist. No droppings, no bones, no hair and no bodies found – alive or dead.
So far the same remains true of the Malaysian Mawas.
A photo of the clear new footprints preserved in tar ran in Kuala Lumpur’s leading English daily, the New Straits Times, last Sunday. One group of local Big-foot-stalkers claimed to have unearthed evidence that up to 40 of the reclusive black-furred Mawas hominids were roaming the rainforest feasting on rambutan, durian, mangoes and fish. The animals are said to range all along the dense jungle that connects Endau Rompin, Kota Tinggi and Tanjung Piai districts and are not exclusively vegetarian. Their huge bulk must also be maintained by hunting jungle fowl and mule deer near the swamps.
Some scientists theorise that these enormous Malaysian apes might have descended from Gi-gantopithecus, a huge primate that roamed southern China more than 300,000 years ago.
Jane Goodall, probably the most distinguished primatologist in academia, is an unabashed Bigfoot enthusiast and recently confessed: “I’m a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist. Peo-ple from very different back grounds and different parts of the world have described very similar creatures behaving in similar ways and uttering some strikingly similar sounds … so the existence of hominids of this sort is a very real probability.”
In Malaysia, Mawas-mania is building, fuelled partly by television. The plaster cast from Bukit Lantang woods will be presented to government scientists by Syed Abdullah Alattas, a Malaysian celebrity bet ter known as “Uncle”, who stars in a popular reality show called Seekers. Every week he tracks down the paranormal on cam era, invariably surrounded by a group of female acolytes armed with daggers, who squeal fetchingly whenever they en counter the unknown.
For our trip, the Seekers crew had brought in an array of are cane equipment, including re mote control robot cameras, in frared goggles and sound-en hancers, but the fresh footprint was found by chance. During a demonstration of the sound-boosting sensors before we left for the jungle, it was easy to distinguish whether restaurant diners were chewing on breakfast croissants or toast. But, during a 12-hour monitoring period in the forest, no aural trace of the bigfoot was detected.
Lack of evidence is not likely to slow the bandwagon building momentum in Kuala Lumpur though. Cartoons show a giant ape straddling the landmark Petronas Towers and grinning rubber-ape masks are being hawked at traffic lights in the city centre. Despite the growing ex citement, there have been no urban sightings of Bigfoot. So far, the only sign of the primates has been found in the southern wilds, usually close to the water.
The Johor National Park director, Hashim Yusof, is scepti cal about the existence of giant apes, but will not rule out the pos sibility. “The Endau-Rompin National Park covers 500 square miles. We only have information on half of the flora and fauna in side it,” he admitted. The area lies in roughly the same latitude as Borneo, where thousands of species unknown to science have recently come to light.
Environmentalists are concerned that the craze to market Bigfoot as a peace-loving new-age monster may put the entire rainforest ecology at risk – and indeed some think that the sightings may be linked to environmental changes in the first place.
Hamid Mohd Ali, a frog-catcher from the Orang Asli tribe, claims he came eye to eye with a giant ape, which his people call the “Siamang”, late last year. Other locals allege that they saw the giant creature cross the road at twilight or leap down from a river bank.
“We believe that people can only see it once in a lifetime,” Hamid told reporters. “But in this year alone, four villagers have seen it [the Bigfoot] and we think this is because of the shrinking jungle.”
Hamid Mohd Ali, a frog-catcher from the Orang Asli tribe, claims he came eye to eye with a giant ape last year
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 Independent Digital News and Media Limited
Here are a few prints found in Malaysia;
Adnan Pungut, 48, claimed he discovered the footprints when he was clearing rubbish and wood at his rubber estate at 3pm on Saturday June 15, 2013
A few significant sightings:
In 1959, a mining engineer
named Arthur Potter was sleeping in his
boat by the side of Lake Tasek Chini, Pahang
State, Malaysia, when something lifted off part
of the roof of the boat. He switched on a flashlight
and saw a huge, red eye. The next day, he
found 18-inch tracks in the mud.
Apelike footprints 18 inches long, 6 inches
wide, and 5 inches deep were found near Segamat,
Johor State, in early August 1966.
In 1970, Harold Stephens and Kurt Rolfes
photographed giant hominid tracks, 19 inches
long and 10 inches wide, on a sandbar in the
upper reaches of the Sungai Endau River, Pahang
Students at a vocational institute near Lumut,
Perak State, reported seeing 10-foot hairy creatures
at night during the second week of August
Huge, four-toed footprints were found near
Cape Tanjung Piai, Johor State, on January 12,
January 13, 1995, on the Malaysian newspaper Deseret News:
Kuala Lumpur – As the hunt for a massive hairy creature called ‘Bigfoot’ entered its sixth day Thursday, Malaysian trekkers stumbled upon fresh footprints indicating they were close to its hide-out, investigators said. Army and police units, wildlife experts and jungle tribes joined the search dubbed ‘Operasi Kaki Besar’ in Malay, or ‘Operation Bigfoot’. They combed several thousand square miles of dense jungle surrounding Tanjung Piai in Johore, the southernmost state of the Malaysian peninsula, where reports of sightings were first received. Tension mounted when superstitious villagers and jungle tribes feared that the fresh ‘footprints’ could belong to another ‘Bigfoot’, despite government efforts to assure them that there was only one ‘Bigfoot’, not two. Tribesmen burned twigs and dried leaves, banged tin cans and gongs, performed ritual dances and kept a 24-hour vigil with spears in an attempt to drive away the creature, which they said had been sent to Malaysia by evil forests. The eight-foot-tall creature’s fresh footprints, found in dense undergrowth, measure about 1 1/2 feet long and display only four toes, investigators said.”
Another report, this one from the last week of 1999, tells of a man from a tiny village on a remote area in the southern state of Negeri Sembilan. Liong Chong Shen, age 50, was working on his orchard when he suddenly sensed a strong animal scent and heard grunts nearby. He then saw two Mawas — a tall one and a shorter sidekick — standing near some rubber trees. Fearing an attack, the villager moved away, but with a last glance noticed that the creatures were also departing the area into the thick growth. He described the beasts as being 6 and 5 ft tall respectively, exhibiting long shaggy hair, the larger specimen shinny black colored, and the smaller one brown
A recent article on the Mawa