In search of Bigfoot, scientists may uncover unknown biodiversity in Malaysia
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
February 1, 2006
Malaysian scientists are scouring the rainforests of Johor state in search of the legendary ape-man Bigfoot, supposedly sighted late last year. But they are more likely to encounter some less fantastic but unique creatures that dwell in these still unexplored ecosystems.
Such is not the case with another species discovered last year. The kha-nyou, a bizarre long-whiskered rodent, was first described by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientists after it was found on a table at a hunter's market in central Laos. The animal has since been classified in its own taxonomic family.
|Frontal view of mysterious fox-like animal found in the rainforests of Borneo last year by WWF scientists. © Stephan Wulffraat / WWF|
Orangutan in Sumatra. Orangutans are increasingly threatened due to habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade. WWF estimates that 3 percent of the world's population of these apes are lost to poachers each year. Photo by Jen Caldwell.
Background on the recent Bigfoot hysteria
Bigfoot has been big news in Malaysia since November when three day laborers claimed they saw a family of Bigfoot on a riverbank in Kota Tinggi reserve. The witnesses ran but later returned with an "educated colleague" to photograph the footprints which measured 45cm - equivalent to a man's size 20 shoe.
Skeptics have noted that the timing of the Bigfoot sighting coincides with the release of Peter Jackson's movie "King Kong" in cinemas of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Further, the idea of a wild Bigfoot in the forests could help attract ecotourists to the country which has seen a drop in tourism since 2001.
"Skeptics might say that if we are still discovering such amazing new animals, why are people worried about wildlife loss," said Dr. Robert Timmins, a WCS researcher, at the time of his Lao rodent discovery. "But of course it is an indication of how little we know, and a window onto what we could be losing without ever knowing."
For more information on current research in Malaysia's rainforests, take a look at the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) Asia, the WCS-Malaysia Program, and the WWF-Malaysia.