MAPINGUARI: LEGENDARY MAN-EATING CRYPTID OF THE AMAZON RAINFOREST - PART 3
Legendary Sloth-like Creature Might Exist in Amazon Rainforest
EXPEDITIONS: THE SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
First Mapinguari Expedition
Paulo Aníbal G. Mesquita was the first to enter the interior of the Amazon region with the knowledge of the Mapinguari legend and the intent to investigate the possibility that this cryptid still exists—perhaps the last representative of the megafauna of the Brazilian Amazon. Bolivian folklore in the more mountainous areas includes a bipedal creature called the Jucucu (who COO coo), which may have some connection.
Mesquita's group investigated reports of the "mapi" in some remote points of the Amazonian bush in the states of Amazon, Rondônia, Pará and Mato Grosso. In the latter, they collected many stories of the indigenous people, some gold panners and others who reported observing this beast during the night. The stories were similar in several distinct points.
Witnesses affirmed that when they startled a Mapinguari, the mapi assumed a threatening position, rearing up and showing its robust claws. Some natives told of it emitting an extremely foul odor from its belly. The mapi possessed long brownish to dark brown fur, and some still claimed that its skin was similar to that of the Caiman. It was said to possess a flat snout and, normally, it was quadrupedal. The group was given to understand that a mapinguari violently attacked a landlord one night in a village in the extreme north of Mato Grosso, and that he was now missing.
The efforts of the expedition were focused on the possible existence of a creature called the Glossotherium (literally "Tongue Beast"), a genus of ground sloth. It was a heavily built animal with a length of about 4 meters (13 ft) snout to tail-tip, and could potentially assume a slight bipedal stance.
Fossils of this animal had been found in South America. It was considered to be closely related to Paramylodon of North America, whose specimens have often been confused and assigned to Glossotherium. The earliest Glossotherium specimens were known from South America and were represented by the species, G. chapadmalense. All specimens were typically lumped into G. robustum and a few other questionable species. (Research is ongoing at the species level.)
Due to its size and strength, Glossotherium would have had few natural enemies apart from saber-toothed cats such as Smilodon. It is believed by evolutionists to have died out sometime during the Pleistocene (1.8 million—12,000 years ago). Other scientists date its extinction to as recently as 4000-1000 years ago.
The Glossotherium harlani, which stood about 1.8 meters (six and a half feet) tall, had an inter nona skin covering, a type of dermic plate, that formed a kind of carapace or shield that served for protection against predators. Some people affirm that the "mapi" had a hide similar to that of an caiman. Could the mapi be a living fossil, a relic or direct descendant of the Glossotherium? Innumerable fossils of these herbivores of the Endedata-Pilosa group of giant ground sloths have been found in all of South America, some of which had become extinct recently, in geologic terms (6000-4000 years ago), mainly in the Western Amazon region, in the Brazilian Northeast, north of Argentina and in innumerable grottos in some regions of the country. According to research, at the time of the megafauna the Amazon was not a dense forest, but a region of savannas, where the forests were confined only to the longest of the main rivers.
Perhaps a great climatic change was one of the factors that contributed to the extinction of the giant sloths. Since this extinction was very recent, why could not some relict population survive currently? Might it not be the Mapinguari?
Comparing the Mapinguari, the Glossotheria, current sloth biology, etc., the idea doesn't seem far fetched.
However, the evidence, including that collected by the expedition, and so far analyzed was unconvincing, since claw marks on trees do not prove the reality of the Mapinguari myth. Unquestioned evidence or a live specimen was needed so that the "mapi" could leave the realm of Amazonian folklore, where it still terrorizes even the bravest of men in the darkness of the rainforest night.
QUEST FOR THE GIANT SLOTH: AN EXPEDITION
By John Lewis
Note: John Lewis is a geneticist and president of the Cincinnati Bigfoot Research Group and Cincinnati Skunk Ape Research Group. The expeditions in search of the Giant Sloth in South America were supported, financed and led by S.C.O.P.E (the Society for the Search for Cryptozoological Organisms and Physical Evidence) and the Cincinnati Skunk Ape Research Group.
This is the itinerary for our expedition, and how we can be reached. Remember, we have a few ways it can be done, but you will prefer the satellite phone. I have a special arrangement to ring through the...number, so the calls will be forwarded to us. This keeps you calling us a local call. In addition we can be reached through normal email...
March 4: Leaving for anthropology conference in Rome, Italy.
March 7: Meet up with team in Brazil. Meet up with guides, travel inland.
March 13: Expedition starts, web page updated daily, journal posted, interviews available at your convenience.
March 13-25: Set up remote camera locations.
April 10: John Lewis returns, team stays until September 4.
The Amazon is the world's second longest river. Only the Nile, in Africa, is longer. If you measure a river by the volume of water that flows along it, however, the Amazon is the world leader. About 20 per cent of all the water that the world's rivers pour into the oceans comes from the Amazon. It collects water from about 40 per cent of South America's land area along over 1000 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1600 kilometers long. From Iquitos in Peru all the way across Brazil to the Atlantic, the Amazon is between six and ten kilometers wide. It is even wider when it is flooded.
The first European found the Amazon because he was 200 miles out to sea and noticed that he was sailing in fresh water. He turned toward shore and found the Amazon river. Later ships would anchor in the outflow of the Amazon to kill all the marine life attached to their hulls before hauling the ships out to clean them (salt water organisms can't live in fresh water).
The Amazon River is 6280 km long (3902.21 mi) and its source is located in Calillona, Peru. The Mouth is located in North Eastern Brazil.
It is in this fertile Amazon basin where the worlds largest number of species live. It has the highest level of species diversity on the entire planet. It is here that our quest to find the Giant Sloth begins. In the past, stories have been handed down from generation to generation of a giant forest walker, with enormous claws and brute strength to topple trees. A horrible smell was also often associated with this animal. Many tribes considered him a God, a guardian of the forest. Recent genetic samples taken by the Cincinnati Bigfoot Research Group have come to be found as unknown, and most closely related to the sloth family. Further physical evidence has led us to believe that these giant creatures, which existed as little as 8,000 years ago, may still be alive today. Before you scoff, keep in mind there are many new species of mammal found in the last decade, some very large. A new species of camel in Mongolia in the last year, and a new species of elephant two years ago in Asia. It is possible. Our area of focus will be between the Rio Negro and Jau Rivers, bordered by the Amazon.
March 18, 2001
Our team consisting of six (including myself) were almost into the area of study when we were "detained" by some locals. Needless to say this was a tense time, and though only one member of the four people we hired to help us trek through the jungle could communicate with them, we made out alright. It was a rainforest tribe, and we learned that they had only had contact with one other outsider with white skin (we are Caucasian) in their lives. We were informed that it was a sign of rudeness to not stay a few days, which set us back drastically on our schedule. What else could we do? Unfortunately we were talked out of a few rolls of film and some instant thermo packs (what they would do with the film I had no idea) and our Polaroid camera. (The film was for a 35mm). They were amused at our Polaroid camera and liked to take photos of their group, which, while it pleased them and saved us, we were down to our 35mm cameras and a video unit.
On the interesting side of things, while we were there we were treated to many fantastic stories of a giant of the forest, treated as a Spirit of the forest by these people. They spoke of a huge fur-covered creature, with long claws, reddish fur, and immense size and strength. They were willing to talk about it, but believed it was bad luck to hunt or track the creature. They called him the guardian of the forest. They did inform us of the direction and time of year which the creature was seen, and it went along with what our earlier data had suggested, that we were near the feeding grounds of what we believed to be the Giant Sloth.
March 19, 2001
It would be a two day hike to the next valley where we would begin, and we were now four days behind. We went for half a day to the area we wanted to set up our first monitoring station, which included a motion sensing digital camera, and a solar powerpack. (We had twenty of these units, and enough mobile wireless modem units for four of them, which were left with the most remote camera sites) We planned to set up all twenty along what we believed to be the trails which the Giant Sloth was using, and the sixteen without wireless capability would be checked periodically by the remainder of our team for the duration of the expedition, which was 18 months in total. The units themselves are simple, and though they sell for thousands of dollars as complete sets, you can find instructions on how to assemble them for under $100 U.S. each on the internet. It's not that difficult, but they are highly effective.
March 20, 2001
We decided to split up to save time, since we lost four days, and the going through the jungle is much harder than I thought. The denseness of it overwhelms you when you get here, and the growth rate is fantastic. You can double back on a trail you cut two days ago, and you find that is grown up again with vegetation. It is truly amazing. The diversity of plants and insects is awe-inspiring as well. The insects don't make sleeping at night any easier either, I might add. I once had a professor of Entomology who insisted you could take a butterfly net to the area of Central America and pass it over some brush, and of every ten insects you caught, 7 would be new species. I thought this was exaggeration until now.
March 21, 2001
Just finished setting up the second station, and Jason got the satellite phone to finally start working. We are answering email questions from people while time allows. There were amazing sounds from all kinds of animals through the night. Today we will hike to the region where the creature was last seen as little as two months ago by a local tribe, and relayed to a traveling missionary. It is supposed to be rich in natural salt formations which draw the mammals of the area, so hopefully it will draw the one we are looking for.
March 22, 2001
Today we stumbled across perhaps the best find we could hope for aside from the actual animal itself. We found two sets of tracks and a dung pile, neither of which matches up with the known fauna of the area. Samples were taken with the hopes of finding some cells from the wall of the intestine for DNA analysis. I will start to return in a few days with the samples for analysis while the team stays here on the trail. Judging from the water content, and the print age, we are roughly two and a half days behind the creature.
FINALLY: INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF OF A LIVING GIANT SLOTH?
Tristater Searches for Giant Sloth
Thursday, May 31, 2001
Not to be making a big deal out of, uh, doo-doo, but gracious hello, it is.
That from geneticist John Lewis, president of the Cincinnati Bigfoot Research Group and Cincinnati Skunk Ape Research Group. Both are affiliates of i-S.C.O.P.E. (Society for the Search for Cryptozoological Organisms and Physical Evidence), an international outfit that investigates everything from the Loch Ness monster to space visitors.
So anyway, Lewis is trekking around South America looking for a giant sloth everyone thought was extinct for thousands of years. But apparently isn't, because Lewis, well, stepped in it. Fresh Doo-doo.
He still hasn't seen the sloth, a creature about the size of a small elephant—how does something that size hide out for a couple thousand years?—but he had the droppings analyzed. The DNA was an exact match with dung from extinct sloths.
Lewis and his researchers will be in Brazil the rest of this month, trying to get video of the animal. Whatever happens, he'll report back on the group's Web site: http://skunkape.veryweird.com. [Cryptozoologist's Note: Unfortunately, this web site no longer exists.]
The main focus of his group, for the record, is investigating bigfoot and skunk ape (a bigfoot-like creature native to the Florida Everglades) sightings.
HOWLING AMAZON MONSTER JUST AN INDIAN LEGEND?
By Axel Bugge
BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters)—Imagine this: a hairy, six-foot monster, howling and stinking of death, crossing your path in the semi-darkness under the canopy of the mighty Amazon jungle.
Among Amazon Indians, legend has it that such a creature stalks the forests like a tropical Abominable Snowman—never photographed or captured.
The animal species called "Mapinguari," or giant defenders of the forests, by the Indians, is also known to the thousands of hunters that brave the forests every year. One such person, Joao Batista Azevedo, says he saw a Mapinguari 20 years ago after a 45-day canoe ride from the nearest village." I was working by the river when I heard a scream, a horrible scream," the now 70-year-old Azevedo told Reuters by telephone from his remote Amazon village.
"Suddenly something looking like a man came out of the forest, all covered in hair. He was walking on two legs and thank God he did not come toward us. I will always remember that day." Veteran Amazon ornithologist David Oren takes such stories very seriously. So much, in fact, that since 1988 he has been on a quest to find one of the creatures in the name of science and has led several expeditions into the depths of the world's largest rain forest to hunt for it. "It's still being sited regularly.
Several people think they came face to face with the Devil in the forest," he says of people like Azevedo who have helped guide him on his search. He believes there are dozens left. Oren's theory is that the beast could be the world's last living giant ground sloth—a distant relative of existing tree sloths—that became extinct more than 10,000 years ago.
That belief has cost him dearly, he says, in the often conservative scientific community where reputation is everything. The National Geographic (news—web sites) Society turned him down and he has funded his expeditions largely with his own money. Paul Martin, a Meritus Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and leading expert on the theory that humans were responsible for the extinction of such animals as the giant ground sloth, is one skeptic.
"I think he is 13,000 years too late. This sure does sound like the hunt for a Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster," Martin said. "The part of me that is completely romantic is rooting for David Oren. But where the science part of me is concerned I don't give him a chance." Oren argues that a kind of giant ground sloth could still be alive in the Amazon because the forests offer huge, remote areas providing the necessary isolation to survive. Thick and impenetrable, the Amazon's continuous forest covers an area larger than all of Western Europe and is home to up to 30 percent of the world's animal and plant life. Scientists say giant ground sloths were in abundance across the Americas, evidenced by fossil finds of such creatures in places as far apart as Patagonia in the south to the northwest of the United States.
The beast could have moved to the Amazon to escape hunting and encroachment of man on its natural habitat elsewhere. Claudio Padua, a doctor of ecology who teaches at the University of Brasilia, is one of the few scientists prepared to believe Oren, because the Amazon is still hiding thousands of undiscovered species. "It would be the find of the century, it would have an extraordinary impact" if found, said Padua.
He points out that 10 species of monkeys were discovered in the Amazon in the last decade. "As a scientist I accept that everything is possible until there is proof to the contrary," he said.
Generally a well-respected scientist, Oren is originally American but now carries a Brazilian (news—web sites) passport. He first came to the Amazon in 1977 and for years worked for the Emilio Goeldi Museum in Belem—one of Brazil's foremost Amazon research centers. While he plugged away mapping the biological makeup of the Amazon, his fame may be best-connected with the Mapinguari. Oren moved this year from Belem to take up a post with U.S. environmental group Nature Conservancy in Brasilia, thousands of miles from the Amazon, making it very difficult for him to hunt the Mapinguari. So has he lost his belief? Not at all, he says.
Indeed in June, just after leaving, he wrote his second scientific article in a decade on the beast, presenting all his evidence. "When I wrote the 1993 paper, I had never interviewed anyone who had claimed to have killed one of these supposed animals," he wrote in the newsletter of the World Conservation Union's Edentate Specialist Group.
He has now talked to seven hunters who claim to have shot the animal and another 80 people who have seen it, he says. "What they describe: a creature approximately two meters (six feet) tall when standing upright; a very strong, unpleasant smell; extremely heavy and powerful build; capable of breaking thick roots with its footsteps," the article says. Most likely a defense mechanism, the smell is described by some witnesses as a truly vile stench, 'something like commingled garlic, excrement, and rotting meat', which, the Indians say, is strong enough to suffocate any attacker."
The creature loves tobacco and twists off the upper skulls of its human victims so as to suck up their gray matter. Dr. Oren believes this description is very close to that of the extinct ground-sloth called a mylodontid, known only to science from fossils, preserved fecal droppings, and from mummified individuals several millennia old. The mummies are still covered in reddish-brown fur.
Oren says the beast has long coarse fur, four large teeth and that it moves on two or four legs. It also has an "extremely loud, roaring vocalization... similar to a human calling loudly, but with a growl at the end." In fact, on his expeditions, Oren says he himself yelled into the darkness and it howled back to him.
In his Brasilia villa, Oren keeps more evidence that includes a clay mold of a footprint, about an inch deep, with three large toes. The toes face backward because the creature walks on its knuckles, he says. A series of pictures includes a photo of claw marks on a tree, eight of them about a foot long and an inch deep. But there are big holes in the story.
For one, the hunters who say they shot it did not keep any fragment of the creature, apparently throwing the parts away due to the strong stench. Oren remains convinced though, arguing that the story needs to be widely published to ensure that if one is shot again its remains are inspected by scientists. And despite the skepticism of many, there's no doubt scientists are fascinated by Oren's hunt.
"I'd be thrilled out of my mind if he (Oren) succeeded, it would be in my wildest dreams," said Martin.
"We (humans) resonate with these large animals, so everybody in town is going to feel the emotion of such a find."
This video was shot on one of the expeditions of Pablo Aniba G. Mosque in the Amazon jungle. It shows what is purported to be the track of a Mapinguari, a type of giant sloth that could stand and walk on two legs and is presumed to still exist in the Amazon region. Claw marks, believed to have been made by the beast, are shown on trees at the height of a human being. These were found at the spot where a prospector had supposedly encountered a Mapinguari during the night.