Not much is known about the orang pendek, but some inferences about range, description, diet, and behavior can be made based on observations and eyewitness reports. This page presents various essays by researchers that are pertinent to the species. Clearly, some of this is speculation, and might very well prove to be incorrect in the coming years, especially after the species is recognized by academics and further studies are done.
About the Orang Pendek
by Adam Davies
The orang pendek, which translates to “short person” in Indonesian, lives in the dense mountain jungles of Sumatra. Stories about the orang pendek go back for centuries. Even then these ” little people” were regarded as elusive and shy. The Orang Kubu, the local indigenous tribe, have regarded the orang pendek as a real people for centuries.
This ground-dwelling, bipedal primate is described as being short, no more then five feet tall. Its fur varies in color from a dark orange, chocolate brown, black, or even grey. Its face is often said to be “human-like.” The creature’s appearance tends to startle and even upset witnesses, such is the intensity of the experience.
Dutch colonists also recounted seeing this creature. One of the most frequently reported sightings is that of a Mr. Van Heerwarden, who described an encounter he had while surveying land in 1923: ” I discovered a dark and hairy creature on a branch. The sedapa was hairy on the front of its body, the color here was a little lighter than on the back. The very dark hair fell to just below the shoulder blades, or even almost to the waist. Had it been standing, its arms would have reached to a little above its knees, they were therefore long, but its legs seemed to be rather short. I did not see its feet, but I did see some toes which were shaped in a very normal manner. There was nothing repulsive or ugly about its face, nor was it at all apelike.”
Locals in Western Sumatra have continued to see the orang pendek right through to the modern day. Conservationalist Debbie Martyr and photographer Jeremy Holden, who both had eyewitnesses sightings, both described to me a creature consistent with the descriptions above. Intrestingly, Debbie echoed to me the view of Van Heerwarden in 1923. The most shocking thing about the orang pendek was that it seemed so human.
In 2011, I led an expedition in which team member Dave Archer and chief guide Sahar Didmus also saw an orang pendek. We were moving silently and slowly as possible through the jungle, when we heard a noise up ahead. Our guide, Donni, and I branched one way, while Sahar and Dave went the other. According to Dave, the creature squashed its face and body into a tree in order to remain hidden. Dave could see it was blowing out of the corner of its mouth and rolling its eyes in a clear state of fear before moving off into the deep undergrowth. Sahar , who had previously had a direct encounter with a Tiger, found the whole experience so moving that he burst into tears.
The orang pendek is a unique and very rare hominoid. It is quite unlike the North American bigfoot, the Himalayan yeti, or even the ebu gogo of Flores. This project reinforces that there is still a population of these creatures left in at least one remote jungle area of the island.
Are Orang Pendek Relict Forms of Homo floresiensis?
by Cliff Barackman
When I first traveled to Sumatra for first-hand investigations of the orang pendek, I was working under the model that these creatures were simply a relict form of Homo floresiensis, the recently discovered “hobbit” species from the nearby island of Flores. However, the Orang Pendek Project has conclusively shown that this is not the case.
The foot structure of the orang pendek is dramatically different than that of Homo floresiensis. In orang pendeks, the hallux, or big toe, is divergent from the rest of the lateral toes as is the case in the other great apes. In Homo floresiensis, the hallux is adducted, or straight in line with the lateral toes. This clearly indicates that we are dealing with multiple species, and relict Homo floresiensis could not be the same creature as the orang pendek.
Interestingly, there are reports from the island of Flores, where the fossils of Homo floresiensis were found, that might indicate that a small number of hobbits have survived until the present day. The small, humanoid creatures found on Flores are locally known as the ebu gogo. Additionally, the commonly reported “brown jack” of Australia is likely this same species, based on the footprint reports that I have heard from that continent which also have an adducted hallux, or a big toe that is in line with the rest of the digits.. Whether or not Homo floresiensis has persisted until the present day is open for debate, but the question of that species being the orang pendek has now been answered with a resounding “no.” The hallux, or big toe, of each species shows that these must in fact be two different species.
The two photos below compare a footprint cast of the orang pendek with a reconstructed foot skeleton and femur of a fossilized Homo floresiensis. In the orang pendek footprint cast, the hallux is clearly abducted, or out to the side like a human thumb. In the reconstructed foot skeleton of Homo floresiensis, the hallux is in line with the rest of the digits, as it is in humans.