Orangutan Research Predicts What Bigfoot Research Will Look Like

 Animals, Anthropology, Apes, Biology, primates  Comments Off on Orangutan Research Predicts What Bigfoot Research Will Look Like
Jan 172017
 

A male Sumatran orangutan challenges a rival by baring his teeth and shaking branches. Now recognized as a distinct species, Sumatran orangutans number around 14,000 in the wild.

The below article is one of the best short articles I have read in a long time about the trials and tribulations of doing research on orangutans.  While reading it, I was struck by the similarity between what orangutan researchers put up with and what bigfoot field researchers deal with, and what professionals biologists will have to deal with after species recognition.  Long excursions to desolate locations, listening for howls and calls to locate the creatures, and difficulty visually observing the animals are all commonalities while doing field work on these elusive and solitary apes.  

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve chosen the most difficult thing in the world to study,”  
– Cheryl Knott, biological anthropologist

I’m sure it feels like this to Cheryl Knott, but bigfoot research after the species is recognized by science will be even harder.  Like orangutans, sasquatches seem to live mostly solitarly lives, or if they do travel in groups, they do so at a distance from one another.  Orangutans also have large territories and wander widely, but being a terrestrial species rather than the arboreal orangutans, sasquatch range would be much larger, and they would move much faster.  

Keep these challenges in mind as you read the below article.  Also, note the behavioral similarities between sasquatches and orangutans, such as the long calls and pushing down of trees in territorial displays.  Articles like this leave me wondering about what unknown sasquatch behaviors they share with orangutans and the other apes that are waiting to be observed.

Inside the Private Lives of Orangutans

 

Scientists are gaining vital insights into the red apes at a time when they face a precarious future.

Sasquatch Field Guide Review

 Biology, Data, Education, Meldrum, Researchers  Comments Off on Sasquatch Field Guide Review
Oct 312016
 

 

Below is my reposted review of Dr. Jeff Meldrum’s Sasquatch Field Guide (Folding Pocket Guide):

 “Finally, a concise and well-written field guide has been published to help the bigfoot field investigator document various types of evidence in an appropriate way. Dr. Jeff Meldrum has put together a field guide on heavy-duty, waterproof card stock that literally fits in your back pocket or backpack, adding little weight to those ounce-sensitive backpackers with an interest in collecting data from the backcountry.  Seemingly thinking of everything, Dr. Meldrum has even included a ruler along the top margin of the Guide so the researcher will always have a scale item for any photos taken in the woods.  The Sasquatch Field Guide not only helps researchers with identifying possible spoor left by bigfoots, but it also helps him or her reduce the possibility of misidentifying signs of other animals for those of sasquatches.  Also included in the Field Guide are easy-to-understand directions on how to gather and store data in the field in preparation for future analysis.  The Guide uses colors and diagrams making it easy to read and understand, which could be the difference between successfully gathering data and blowing it when under the pressure of dealing with the real thing out in the field.  Sections in the Sasquatch FieldGuide include information on visual identification, footprint identification, track casting, gathering footprint metrics, hair samples, scat samples, tree breaks, nests, cultural signs, stacked rocks, habitat and distribution, diet, vocalizations, possible origins, and taphonomy.  This hefty brochure-style guide is densely-packed with valuable information that all field researchers should be intimately acquainted with.”

To purchase, click here:  Sasquatch Field Guide (Folding Pocket Guide)

Feb 152014
 

Ranae Holland, the skeptical co-host of Finding Bigfoot, is hosting a night of science and entertainment on Tuesday, February 18th.  Featured that night will be ten naturalists doing short slide presentations of six minutes or less apiece.  The night will be a fast-paced whirlwind of entertainment and information.

For more information about this fun event, click this link.

Ranae Holland posing with a cast of what would
 later be shown to be a black bear footprint.
Sep 202013
 
Yellow-bellied legless lizards, one of four new species of
Anniella discovered in California.

While not directly bigfoot-related, this news item goes to show how little we humans know, though we assume to know so much. Right in the middle of almost 13 million inhabitants, literally on the grounds of one of the world’s busiest airports, a new species of legless lizard (which are different than snakes) has been documented.  This species is only one of four new species of legless lizards that have now been newly documented in the most recent issue of Brevoria, the Harvard University journal of comparative zoology.

I bring this news item forward not only because I’m a fan of cryptozoology in general, but also to point out to the “they don’t exist because we would have known about them by now” crowd that perhaps that argument has some weaknesses. Think of how many biological surveys must have been conducted on the grounds of Los Angeles International Airport over its 85 year history. All of those missed this creature. I find this fascinating.  

How much more elusive would a nocturnal, intelligent being who is actively trying to avoid us be?

It conjures to mind the following quote:

True wisdom comes to each of us 
when we realize how little we understand about life, 
ourselves, and the world around us.
-Socrates 

Enjoy the article from Discovery News:

New Species of Legless Lizard Found at LAX
SEP 18, 2013 04:54 PM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS

A bustling airport would hardly seem the place to find a new species of reclusive animal, but a team of California biologists recently found a shy new species of legless lizard living at the end of a runway at Los Angeles International Airport.

What’s more, the same team discovered three additional new species of these distinctive, snake-like lizards that are also living in some inhospitable-sounding places for wildlife: at a vacant lot in downtown Bakersfield, among oil derricks in the lower San Joaquin Valley and on the margins of the Mojave desert.

Click here to read the rest.

Jun 222013
 
Snowflake the Gorilla in September, 2003

If you are a fan of apes, then you probably have heard about the famous albino gorilla, Snowflake.  He was euthanized in 2003 to alleviate his suffering from skin cancer, but recently some genetic tests were done on his remains that found the most likely cause of his rare albinism was inbreeding.

For some time now, it has been a concern among bigfoot researchers that perhaps human development has cut off populations of bigfoots from one another thus forcing them to breed with their own kin.  Often held as evidence of this hypothesis is the prevalence of three-toed footprints.  I would disagree that footprints showing three or four toes indicates inbreeding, though.  I think that these footprints either strongly illustrate the flexibility of the sasquatch foot, or are the results of outright hoaxes.  However, perhaps the prevalence of albino bigfoot sightings might be an indicator of inbreeding, especially in the light of the above revelation about Snowflake?

“Pinkie” and a friend at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sancuary
A quick search using John Green’s excellent (and searchable) online database indicated that there were 99 reports of white or off-white bigfoots on record.  Certainly, many of these sightings are reporting the same individual bigfoot having been seen multiple times in a certain area.  Also to consider is that Green’s database includes sightings from many decades.

To explore the possibility of albinism being an indicator or possible inbreeding by bigfoots, I undertook a thought experiment.  I plotted Green’s white bigfoot reports on a Google Maps layer, and then tried to attribute the sightings to individual bigfoots.  I took into consideration the sighting locations, their proximity and connectivity via mountain ranges and river systems, the years the bigfoots were spotted combined with the life expectancy of apes, and some size estimates as well (bigfoots would obviously not get smaller as time passed, so strongly differing size estimates where the creature got smaller over time were attributed to multiple individuals).  I color coded the sightings in a way to show what I think might be reasonable to show the same individuals showing up in various locations.

A map showing sighting reports for white bigfoots

I admit that the above process is pretty speculative, but it gave some interesting results.  I have plotted encounters with over thirty white bigfoots since 1955 (there was one outlier from 1938).  It is very possible that some of the sightings I attributed to more than one individual are actually the same bigfoot with either a longer lifespan than I used as a base, or with a stronger wanderlust than I expected.  So, to be more conservative in my estimates, I will cut this estimated number by more than half to just fifteen.

Albanism is pretty rare in any species, but in great apes it is extremely rare.  In humans, about 0.0059% (1 in 17,000) of the population has albinism.  However in the other great apes, the only known examples are Snowflake the gorilla and Pinkie the chimpanzee, both of whom are now dead.  (Certainly there either are other albino individuals in the wild, or have been in the past, but I”ll ignore this for our purposes.)

Snowflake casting the camera a sidelong glance.

Looking at the population estimates of the the three great ape species with documented albinism might give us some vague insight into whether or not this could be an indicator of inbreeding in bigfoots.  Using the numbers for humans (1 in 17,000), the 15 individual bigfoots hypothesized above would give a population of bigfoots as around 255,000.  This is clearly way off the chart as far as a reasonable population estimate for bigfoots.  

Using the other apes gives us no better estimate for bigfoots, as albinism is even rarer in those species.  The world populations estimated are 100,000 to 200,000 for chimpanzees, and an estimated 100,000 for the lowland gorilla (the species Snowflake was).  There are no known examples of albino mountain gorillas nor orangutans.  Again, using 15 individual bigfoots and applying the population numbers for other apes, the calculations yield over a million bigfoots.  Obviously way too many for an obviously rare species.
I suppose it is possible that albinism is more common in bigfoots than in any other species of great ape, but this seems unlikely.  Also possible is that my numbers are way off due to incorrect speculation on my part, hoaxing or misidentification on the part of witnesses, or any number of errors.  Also to consider would be these “white” bigfoots actually being of the more blonde variety which would be far more common, or even that bigfoot hair turns increasingly more grey or white as they grow older as humans do.  However, I also believe that not all witnesses who have seen white bigfoots have reported them, further confusing the matter.  
From my efforts to reverse engineer a reasonable bigfoot population estimate from the number of white bigfoot sightings, it seems that these individuals are being seen way too often to indicate a normal ratio of albinos in their population.  It seems that there are way too many individual bigfoots with albinism than there should be.

I see no way around the idea that inbreeding could possibly be affecting the bigfoot population.  Inbreeding seemed reasonable even before this thought experiment due to the species’ rarity, as well as the possibility of human development cutting off breeding populations.  If my assumption that bigfoot genetics generally should follow the same pattern as the other apes (including humans) is correct, even one albino bigfoot report should be extremely rare, and there are dozens of sightings describing white bigfoots.  

As always, seeking answers about bigfoots yields more questions than answers.

Apr 202013
 
Regional Accent of humans map by William Labov

One commonly-used field technique for bigfooting is call blasting.  Back in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, this was usually done with loudspeakers and amplifiers hooked up to CD players.  The most common calls used were the Tahoe Scream (there is no public source for this recording) and the Ohio Howl.

While John Frietas is often recognized as the godfather of call blasting, it was Roger Patterson himself that tried this method first to my knowledge.  He not only recreated bigfoot sounds by yelling into church bells (to add resonance), but he also blasted calls off of a tower on a property in Tampico, WA.

Call blasting sounds purportedly made by bigfoots brings a number of questions with it.  First of all, how does one know the sounds are bigfoot sounds unless somebody saw the creature make the noise?  Even if the recordings are in fact bigfoot sounds, what are the bigfoots saying?  After all, they could be saying, “Stay away!  There’s a human here!”

One interesting question that has arisen is if bigfoots have regional accents.  Would a Southern bigfoot (possibly with a drawl?) answer or ignore one of its Yankee brethren?  Would a Midwest bigfoot shun or welcome a Canadian sasquatch’s greeting?  I would hope that bigfoots would be above stereotyping based on accents…

I ran across this article that brings to light a precedence of regional accents in primates.  Sure, these are gibbons and not bigfoots, but if one ape species has this characteristic, perhaps others do.  After all, humans have accents…

Enjoy the article:
Apes Found to Have Regional Accents
by Jake Richardson

A group of researchers has discovered that crested gibbon apes have regional accents. The scientists studied the singing of over 400 crested gibbons in 24 different locations in Asia.

The gibbons studied live in the rainforests of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. “Each gibbon has its own variable song but, much like people, there is a regional similarity between gibbons within the same location,” said lead researcher Van Ngoc Thinh. (Source: UPI.com) (Their study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.)

Gibbon songs are made to travel over long distances in thickly vegetated areas by having a single frequency. It was found the songs that were most similar came from species that genetically were very closely related. Identifying gibbons by their songs is easier than by genetics because obtaining physical samples is difficult, whereas the songs are constantly being emitted and can be heard from some distance. Also, the songs can help identify where the gibbons are from, sort of like regional accents for humans.

Apr 122013
 

Orangutans are deeply interesting to me, partly because it is my opinion that they are probably the closest living relative to the sasquatch (though I admit this is little more than speculation).  There are so many parallels in behavior and morphology between orangutans and sasquatches that it seems clear to me that to study one is to gain insight into the other.

Orangutans are now an endangered species, mostly due to habitat destruction.  One of the species’ last refuges is on the island of Borneo.  There are an estimated 3000 to 4500 orangutans live on the island, and these apes are constantly at the mercy of the three countries’ governments that hold power over the island.  When a species’ survival depends on the wisdom of government, especially three third-world governments, those are some bleak prospects for their future.

The topography of Borneo

However, apes are amazing things.  People strongly underestimate them, referring to them as “dumb apes” or “monkeys” without an understanding of their intelligence, stealth, and kinship with ourselves.  They can literally live under our noses without being detected, as the sasquatches have done successfully forever now. Every once in a while a new ape species, or an unknown population of a known ape species, is stumbled upon.  This very thing recently happened, and it is good news indeed.

A pocket of orangutans was discovered where none had been known to exist before.  There are approximately 200 individuals in this area, and they were found to be there by their nests they left behind.  The below article discusses this further, but when reading it consider a few things.  The population was discovered by the signs they left behind.  We have those same signs left behind by sasquatches.  The local people already knew that the orangutans were there, it was the scientists that were oblivious.  This is also true of the sasquatch.  And finally, the governments are now considering protecting the population by forming new national parks, or in other words, they are protecting the land so the apes can use it.  If we in North America protect the land, we protect the sasquatch.  That’s “conservation before discovery” at its core.

Enjoy the article:

Secret Population of Orangutans Found

By Live Science Staff | LiveScience.com

A population of 200 of the world’s rarest orangutans was found tucked away in the forests of the island of Borneo, according to theWildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

All subspecies of Bornean orangutans are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But scientists estimate just 3,000 to 4,500 individuals are left in the subspecies known as Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, making them the most severely threatened.

Two-thousand of those live in the Malaysian state of Sarawak inBatang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, researchers say. The previously unknown population was found by conservationists near the Batang park, in an area covering about 54 square miles (140 square kilometers).

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Apr 092013
 
A gelada baboon in Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.
Photo by A. Davey via Flickr.

While clearly not humans, bigfoots are extremely human-like in many ways.  They’re bipedal, they seem to travel in small family groups, and they are extremely intelligent.  There are other possible similarities that are as of yet uncertain, but could very well be present, including the capacity for speech.

If bigfoots can in fact speak to each other using language, or perhaps some proto-language, then many interesting questions arise.  These questions concern evolution, vocabulary, and even morphology that could give rise to speech.  For example, does bipedalism somehow contribute to the brain or throat structure in some way that helps enable language?

Due to my interest in the possibility that bigfoots are talking to each other, I keep my eyes open for language ability in primates.  I was recently sent this article about sounds made by a species of baboon.  These sounds contain patterns and “wobbles” that closely resemble human speech.  Please keep in mind, this is not evidence of language use by baboons.  It only shows a similarity between the sounds the baboons make and the sounds we make.  To quote the article:

“What it’s showing is this possibility for rhythmic expression and vocal output,” Ghazanfar said. “This possibility exists and geladas have exploited it. But it doesn’t show a direct relationship between what we can do and what geladas can do.”

Still, I think it’s cool, interesting, and pertinent to what I do. Here is the article for you to enjoy:

Babbling Sounds of Monkeys Share Rhythms with Human Speech
BY: JENNY MARDER

Scientists studying the evolution of speech have long puzzled over why there are no good models in primates. While primates share many traits with humans — they’ve been known to play, grieve, fight, even laugh — speech isn’t one of them.

With one possible exception. A group of wild monkeys from the Ethiopian highlands called geladas, which are closely related to baboons, make gutteral babbling noises that sound eerily human-like. And they do it while smacking their lips together. The combination of lip smacking and vocal sounds is called a “wobble.” A study in this week’s issue of the journal Current Biology analyzed the rhythm of the wobble and found that it closely matched that of human speech.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Mar 282013
 

The Sasquatch Field Guide
by Dr. Jeff Meldrum
Finally, a concise and well-written field guide has been published to help the bigfoot field investigator document various types of evidence in an appropriate way. Dr. Jeff Meldrum has put together a field guide on heavy-duty, waterproof card stock that literally fits in your back pocket or backpack, adding little weight to those ounce-sensitive backpackers with an interest in collecting data from the backcountry. Seemingly thinking of everything, Dr. Meldrum has even included a ruler along the top margin of the Guide so the researcher will always have a scale item for any photos taken in the woods.
The Sasquatch Field Guide not only helps researchers with identifying possible spoor left by bigfoots, but it also helps him or her reduce the possibility of misidentifying signs of other animals for those of sasquatches. Also included in the Field Guide are easy-to-understand directions on how to gather and store data in the field in preparation for future analysis. The Guide uses colors and diagrams making it easy to read and understand, which could be the difference between successfully gathering data and blowing it when under the pressure of dealing with the real thing out in the field.
Sections in the Sasquatch Field Guide include information on visual identification, footprint identification, track casting, gathering footprint metrics, hair samples, scat samples, tree breaks, nests, cultural signs, stacked rocks, habitat and distribution, diet, vocalizations, possible origins, and taphonomy. This hefty brochure-style guide is densely-packed with valuable information that all field researchers should be intimately acquainted with.