Yowies – Fact or Fiction?
Yowies – Fact or Fiction?
By Gary Opit
I have a regular Wildlife Talk-back Radio Program, on 2NR Regional ABC, Northern New South Wales, Australia, where I talk about the seasonal behaviour of local wildlife and identify fauna species for listeners from their descriptions of physical features or calls. On 11 February 1997 I received a call from John Morrison from Coffs Harbour which made the local news service.
On 15 January 1997, whilst on a family picnic between Station Creek and Dundurrabin in the Guy Fawkes National Park, Northern New South Wales, his daughter found a trail of footprints, each of which was 60 cm (23.6 inches) long. He described them as something similar to a human footprint, with obvious left and right prints, one to one and a half metres (3.2 to 4.9 feet) apart. The big toe was distinct from a group of other toes that impressed together so that one could not really count them. The heel made the deepest depression at about 2 cm (0.7 inches).
The prints were in a dry creek bed in sandy alluvial soil covered with scattered shrubs and John and his family followed the prints for about one kilometre up the long, narrow gully until it reached a rocky outcrop. There were no fallen leaves or other debris within the prints so they were fresh and it appeared to the family that a large, heavy, bipedal animal had recently walked up the gully. John had heard stories about an unknown animal called a Yowie and wanted to know if the creature was generally regarded as real because he was, until then, under the impression that they were just fanciful stories.
I told John and the other listeners that I had never really believed in the reports in newspapers about giant furry bipedal primates lurking within bushland. That was until I was fortunate enough to hear at close quarters three different sets of calls that proved to me that there really was something unknown out there. I gave forth with approximations of the calls that I had heard. I would imagine that those calls were the first Yowie territorial calls ever uttered over the airways.
In 1973-74 I was studying the fauna of the Papua New Guinean rainforest with biologists at the Wau Ecology Institute, a field station of the Bishop Museum of Hawaii. Over a one-year period I recorded fauna species, primarily birds, and their behaviour, with an ornithologist on the slopes of Mount Missim in undisturbed Castanopsis Oak rainforest at Poverty Creek, at an elevation of 1500 metres (4,921 feet).
On 6, 14 and 19 December 1973 and on 16 and 25 October 1974 we heard during daylight, very loud and powerful mammal calls. These consisted of a series of deep, base notes repeated without variations over a period of 5 seconds that produced a bellowing-roar clearly audible through the rainforest from perhaps a kilometre (0.6 miles) away. At one instance I was standing on a rock outcrop above the trees and clearly heard the calls emanating from a forested valley approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) below me. We had particularly specialized in the identification of fauna from their calls so were surprised to hear powerful calls that sounded to my ears as primate-like.
Having spent some time listening to the vocalising of chimpanzees, gibbon and other primates at Taronga Zoological Gardens in Sydney, I was forced to the conclusion that I was listening to the calls of a very large and powerful primate. As Papua New Guinea has an Australian faunal assemblage with no primates I found it hard to believe that such a creature as I was hearing could exist.
On 25 November 1973 at Vickery Creek, Mount Missim, at 1,200 metres (3937 feet) elevation, I was walking along an old logging track towards a bird hide in which an ecologist was observing nesting superb fruit dove. It was then that I observed a dark bipedal figure crossing the track 200 metres (656 feet) in front of me. I took it to be a native Melanesian but was surprised to see no sign of clothing at this high altitude, no weapons and the unusual fact that the figure did not walk or even glance along the track but instead moved through dense vegetation travelling down the slope.
The ecologist had not observed the figure even though it was moving towards the hide. It was a great mystery to me as to the identification of a human-like figure swinging its arms and paying no attention to the track that it was crossing. We never encountered any other individuals during the many months of fauna surveys in this remote, high altitude, undisturbed environment. Even after hearing the subsequent calls it did not occur to me at the time that the figure that I had observed might have been responsible for the calls. I had read newspaper articles of Yetis and Bigfoot in the Northern Hemisphere but had never heard of unknown primate bipeds in this part of the world.
It was not until I returned to Australia that I first read about Yowies and was particularly interested in a close encounter in early 1978 on Springbrook, in Southeast Queensland, by a national park ranger. The witness was a work colleague of a naturalist friend of mine who was able to relate to me a detailed description. A bipedal, gorilla-like primate standing 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) high was clearly observed in Antarctic Beech rainforest at 2 p.m. in good light from a distance of 4 metres (13 feet). It had a distinctive odor, a grunting voice, a body covered in long black hair, a flat, shiny-black face, large yellow eyes, a sagittal crest, and huge hands. Several other previous sightings on the same mountain and in surrounding districts were reported in local newspapers.
I found these reports extremely difficult to believe. I had spent years studying the flora and fauna in the forests of Southeast Queensland. I had read widely on historical and natural history subjects and had neither suspected nor found any trace that would lead me to conclude that such a remarkable animal could inhabit the district. Even more difficult to explain was the fact that an unknown primate was definitely not an expected member of the Australian faunal assemblage. A deep channel of open ocean known as the Wallace Line has always divided the fauna of Southeast Asia and Australia. This explains why Asian monkeys, apes, squirrels, cats, deer, rhinos and elephants, to name just a few, where never able to cross over to this continent. Only humans in watercraft and their pet dingoes (dogs) where successful in undertaking such a hazardous journey.
Then in June 1978 at 3 a.m., on a very quiet night with a full moon, I was awakened by a very powerful, continuously repeated roaring-bellowing call. The voice came from lowland subtropical rainforest in Joalah National Park on Tamborine Mountain 300 metres (984 feet) from our house at an altitude of 500 metres (1,640 feet).
The call was similar to those that I had heard in Papua New Guinea though the animal was much closer and the call was therefore even more powerful. It was a deep-throated, booming "Yee-yee-yee-yee-yee" that continued without a break for 5 minutes and so was much longer than the calls that I had heard in Papua New Guinea. I could clearly hear the sounds being pumped out of a massive chest and the vocalization sounded more like a big primate call than anything else did.
It was much more powerful than the roaring grunting of a Koala or even the bellowing of cattle. After approximately 2 minutes three Dingoes (Australian wild dogs) broke into their characteristic howling as they regularly did when ever the nocturnal silence was broken by the occasional backfire of a car travelling down the mountainside, a tree falling in the rainforest or the mail plane travelling overhead. Two of the Dingoes were approximately 80 metres (260 feet) to one side of the mysterious animal and the third was howling at a similar distance on the opposite side. The sound of these 4 animals in full cry was the most remarkable natural sound that I have ever heard. Even more important though was that I was able to accurately judge the call of the unknown animal with the calls of the Dingoes that I regularly heard.
The yowie’s call, if that was what it was, for I could equally refer to it as a bunyip, was at least twice as loud and much more powerful than the dingoes and after their howling finished the yowie continued its repetitive bellowing for perhaps another minute. Then only the sound of Curtis Falls, Cedar Creek and the chirping of the crickets remained.
That experience proved to me that there was indeed a very large and powerful animal dwelling in the locality no matter how implausible it seemed. It also provided an answer to a couple of mysteries that I had pondered for some time.
The first was a local mystery surrounding an unknown carnivore that was preying on Red-necked Pademelons, small wallabies that had always been common on the mountain where they fed on lawns adjacent rainforest. Our neighbor Frank Field was a retired jackeroo, drover, tracker, naturalist and farmer. On several occasions he had encountered kill sites on an adjacent property where a pademelon had been attacked, leaving traces of fur and scuff marks on the ground and then several metres away the entrails of the wallaby, torn from the body and left on the grass and leaf litter. These trailed back towards the forest as if the animal had been gutted as it was carried away.
"It definitely wasn’t a Dingo which I spent years hunting when on the land. It was as if the predator had simply lifted the wallaby off the ground each time and carried its prey instead of dragging it off and leaving traces on the ground as a Dingo always does. I have no idea what animal would be powerful enough to carry a wallaby away and rip its intestines out as it went." he told me.
Having spent years searching for physical traces of wildlife behaviour so as to identify what species were in a locality, I knew that an unknown herbivore would have left traces of vegetation disturbance while feeding and large, distinctive faeces. However, if the Yowie was a nocturnal carnivore that remained hidden during the day and carried larger prey items to secluded locations to feed and defecate, evidence of its activities were unlikely to be noticed.
The second mystery occurred when I was working as a national park ranger at Green Mountains in Lamington National Park in 1971. One Saturday night, when only one ranger was in attendance at the National Park ranger’s office and residence, a series of heavy thumps heard on the outside wall startled the officer. When he got to a window and yelled out to whoever was outside, to identify themselves, another noisy commotion began beneath the house. He was amazed to see large numbers of our heavy working tools, shovels, hoes, rakes, axes and brush hooks, used in the maintenance of the walking tracks and stored under the house, flung with great force onto the back lawn. The sound of heavy grunts amongst the crash of tools terrified him and believing that a madman was attacking the cabin he ran for his life up to O’Reilly’s Guest House for help.
Campers also arrived at the guesthouse informing the staff of the terrible noises coming from the ranger’s house and so a group walked back to see what was going on. No one had seen people or vehicles near the house so rampaging louts were discounted and although dozens of tools now lay in the dark on the grass no sign of the madman was found and no explanation for the incident could be determined.
I arrived on Sunday night to hear about the incident and the next morning we picked up all the tools and stored them away as before. Then I walked into the rainforest immediately below the backyard and was surprised to find that our enormous woodpile had also been attacked. Approximately 7 metres (23 feet) in length, a metre and a half (5 feet) wide and 2 metres (6.5 feet) high, it was composed of very heavy pieces of timber. These had been neatly stacked and held in place by strong timber stakes that had been sledge-hammered into the ground. It now lay completely scattered and most of the stakes pulled out of the ground.
It took us the rest of the day to rebuild the woodpile and we had absolutely no idea what was responsible for its dismantling. No human had the power to move so much timber, the re-growth rainforest above and surrounding it was undisturbed, the weather had been fine and we knew of no lifeform that could perform such a task. But the call and the reports of a powerful nocturnal primate at large in the locality now provided an answer. A Yowie had attacked the ranger’s cabin.
Having personally heard the territorial call of an unknown nocturnal mammal I then began to further research the subject and soon discovered that several researchers were working on the problem of this Australian bipedal primate. A biologist, Rex Gilroy, with a natural history museum in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, was probably the first person to successfully bring to the attention of the general public the evidence for the existence of this animal. He and other researchers discovered old government reports and newspaper articles going back to the early years of English settlement in the late eighteenth century and that continued throughout the nineteenth century that described a large bipedal primate that was well known to the Aboriginal people.
However, because the animal was so rarely observed and never collected by zoologists, the reports of its occasional interactions with humans were forgotten. The populations of this remarkable animal probably crashed along with so many other native species as the natural environment was extensively cleared and modified with the rapid spread of agricultural settlement across the Australian continent. Remnant populations appear to have survived within the more inaccessible portions of the Great Dividing Range along the eastern coast. This extends from the alpine and temperate regions of Victoria in the southeastern portion of the continent to Cape York Peninsula in Queensland in the tropical north.
With the cessation of the extremely efficient Aboriginal hunting methods, the eradication of dingoes and protection of large areas of wilderness as national parks, competition for prey species has diminished and this large carnivorous, nocturnal primate appears to have regained its numbers. After almost 200 years of European settlement the animal began to be observed frequently enough for the public to begin to read reports of it in newspapers and magazines in the late 1970’s. By the end of the twentieth century dedicated individuals were joining together in an attempt to prove the existence of this animal and a group in southeastern Queensland have created a web page at www.yowiehunters.com.au
The number of yowie sightings has increased in recent years, though for my own part, years of bushwalking and flora and fauna surveys have yielded not the slightest trace of their existence. Another Tamborine resident, Larry Edwards heard similar calls from Guanaba Gorge just after dark on 7 September 1992. They reminded him of the loud resonating, shrill roaring calls that he regularly heard as a youngster at Blunder Creek, southwest of Brisbane, Queensland, between the years 1961 to 1972. His family always heard the calls at the beginning of spring each year at about 9 p.m. on full moon nights. The call would last for about 2 minutes, increasing in volume as the animal ran down a dry creek bed in the gully below the house with the sound of its feet making huge leaping steps and then the call would decrease in volume as it continued on its way.
He told me that the man that was in charge of the Blunder Repeater Station nearby tape recorded the calls and made plaster casts of the footprints that were 3 metres (9.8 feet) apart when it was running. The prints were human-like but 30 cm (11.8 inches) long, 10 cms (4 inches) wide with circular claw marks 5 mm (0.3 inches) wide that were 4 cm (1.5 inches) deep into the soil. With the commencement of suburban development in the area the calls were no longer heard.
The first person that I talked to that had actually observed a Yowie was a Victorian Government surveyor. John Macey and workmate Sid Griffith were surveying a road in bushland at Murderer’s Hill, near Walhalla in Gippsland, Victoria. During misty weather at 11 a.m. in September 1979 they saw, 5 metres (16.5 feet) away, an ape-like animal 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) high standing on its hind legs with its back to them. They noticed that it was a powerful animal with wide hips and buttocks visible as it threw its long arms over a 1.3m. (4.2 foot) high fallen log then clambered over to disappear into thick vegetation. They noticed a patch of pale skin on the back of the neck beneath the black hair that covered all of its body. It did not appear to be a chimp, gorilla or an orangutan, which they had seen in zoos, but was definitely another species of ape that had no tail.
From that earlier record in the southern area of the yowie’s range we head north to a more recent report. In August 1999 Les Holland was collecting rattan cane, with which he makes baskets, near an Alexandria palm forest in a swampy depression in the rainforest near Tully Heads, northeastern Queensland. He heard a very strange, loud "umph" grunt nearby though he couldn’t see anything in the thick vegetation. He knew that it wasn't a cassowary, a giant man-sized flightless bird with a spectacular horn on its head, which he has regularly observed all of his life in the forests of north Queensland. These curious birds have often come up to him whilst he has been engaged in pulling cane in the rainforest for his baskets and he well knows all of their calls and drumming, grunting noises.
He continued working pulling cane when he began to hear calls unlike anything he had heard before. There was a series of high-pitched whining calls that ended with a thump and an even faster high-pitched sound. He could tell that it was an animal call but it sounded like an outboard motor from a boat that had suddenly hit an underwater object knocking the engine propeller shaft out of the water so that it began running at very high revs before being switched off. Since he was far from water he knew that it had to be something else but couldn't decide what it might be. So he climbed up a large tree, that had been blown over by Cyclone Winifred 2 years earlier and was now leaning at a 45-degree angle, to get a look over the thick vegetation.
The unknown animal was still hidden from view though he was surprised that it was much closer than what he had imagined and he could see the vegetation moving as it circled partly around him still making the strange sounds. Then it moved off into the palm thicket so he climbed down the tree and followed it. As he approached the still obscured animal a sudden powerful series of very aggressive, loud and rapid grunts and the shaking of vegetation shocked him and for the first time in his life he felt afraid of being in the forest and ran for his life back to his car.
He told his Aboriginal friends and neighbors about the incidents and they warned him not to go there again and that they themselves had encountered yowies in that locality 20 years ago. He was then telling his friend, Billy Jepson, about the encounter whilst having a drink at Mount Mackay and Billy informed him that he had also seen the animal. Billy had a farm at Mission Beach and began hearing high pitched calls like a woman screaming and in the morning found some of his goats dead, crushed as if they had been made of foam rubber, by some very powerful animal.
The next night he heard the sound again and crept out to the goats with his flashlight and his pig-hunting dogs and was horrified to see a huge animal walking on all four legs towards his goats. He sent the pig dogs at the animal and they ran up to it and then turned and ran away. This amazed him because of their normal savage hunting instincts and willingness to attack any animal. The four footed black hairy animal then rose up onto two legs and moved off into the forest and he did not see or hear it again.
Years before, Les Holland remembered, he had found 3 big mysterious footprints in a banana plantation where he was working. They were shaped somewhat like a human footprint but had only 4 distinct toes that did not range at an angle from big toe to small toe as in humans but were squared off in front. The prints also lacked a distinct instep.
He also remembered a very remarkable incident that had occurred to a friend, Stan, when they were both working on King Ranch further north up the Cape. Stan had driven off to check on the cattle and in the afternoon, much to Les’s surprise, came walking back to the farmhouse. He told Les that he was just driving back from his stock work 2 miles away along a dirt track in his jeep when a huge hairy ape-like creature rushed out of the vegetation and grabbed the side of the car and pushed it over onto its side. Stan jumped out of the car and ran for his life and continued on foot for the house to get help. He and Les then went back for the jeep in Les's car and found the jeep on its side as Stan had described it. There were dusty scuffmarks adjacent the track but no sign of the animal responsible.
Another friend of Les Holland, Nathan Moilan, has told him of various experiences that his family has had with a smaller species of bipedal primate known as Junjadee. Before the Federal Government halted rainforest logging, Nathan's father often mentioned to his son that he regularly observed little hairy men standing beside the road as he drove the last load of timber down the gravel roads of the Kirrama Range behind Tully at 10 pm. He was always quite disturbed at the sight of these small upright ape-like creatures though he felt perfectly secure locked in his big truck. He said that he would never stop when he saw the creatures though he would always drive past slowly so as to have a good look at them. However he eventually had a much closer encounter with one of the animals.
Nathan’s father and uncle regularly slept in a well-built bush hut with 3 rooms situated in the forest in the Kirrama Range whilst working as timbermen. One night a little hairy man entered the hut and attacked his uncle as he lay on his bed. Nathan's father rushed in when he heard cries for help and together they wrestled with and overpowered the hominid. Together they were able to hold the creature so that it couldn’t move and they described it as shorter than themselves, covered in dark hair and it was very strong and had a powerful grip. It then suddenly broke free and jumped straight out of the window and fled into the night.
I encountered this smaller species in bushland behind a house that we were renting on the slopes of the Koonyum Range at an elevation of 200 metres (656 feet) at Main Arm in northeastern NSW, at 3-30 a.m. on the 1st. June 1996. I didn’t observe the animal though was fortunate enough to hear its territorial call. There was a full moon illuminating a crystal clear night with no air movement so that sounds like the crowing of a rooster could be heard for some kilometres. Approximately 200 metres (656 feet) away near a dry creek bed, in eucalypt forest, a series of some 90 loud bark-like calls rent the air. The calls were usually in a series of three, the first was a start up call which was not as loud as the middle call which was climactic and which was followed by softer call "arroo-ARROO-arroo."
The beginning of each of the three barks "ARR" was sudden and intense while the final "oo" portion was cut short as it fell off in volume. Between the sets of three barks, a time of about 5 or 6 seconds, a disturbingly strange soft gurgling call, "gu-gu-gu-gu," could be heard. It continued with very little variation for about 5 minutes with the last couple of series of calls appearing less loud as if it had begun to move off. It was quite unlike the calls of foxes or barking deer that I had heard in south-east Asia and once again had more of a primate feel to it.
The next day I found 3 toe prints in the earth of a creek bank where it had climbed up the slope and each toe was about the same size as a human big toe, slightly reducing in size as if it were a right foot. Nearby, on a ridgetop covered in dry eucalypt forest, 5 square metres (54 square feet) of native grass had been disturbed in that each clump of grass had been pulled up with the roots and then placed back exactly where it had grown. Two weeks later a distinctive brown patch of dead grass was evident. It looked as if an animal had been carefully feeding on insects under the grass roots.
The calls of this animal were similar in some respects to the call of the first animal that I heard in 1978 in that it was a series of unvarying or repeated calls occurring continuously for about 5 minutes and quite powerful. The call that I heard on Tamborine Mountain though was even more powerful with a very base note as if uttered by a very large animal. This second call was higher pitched and sounded as if it came from a smaller animal. Strangely enough this accorded with the sighting of an unusual animal some months before by some friends.
Lynn Clark and her 12-year-old son Joshua were on their way to our house in the late afternoon to attend one of our daughter’s birthday party on 23 March 1996. Because they were concerned that their old car may not be able to climb the steep kilometre long hill up to the house they decided to walk up the driveway. Joshua was in front and half way up he was surprised to see what appeared to be one of the children from the party dressed in dark clothing and running headlong down the steep slope.
He was amazed that a child would run downhill at such a pace and even more remarkable was that the child was not running down the concrete driveway but was running down a slope thickly covered in large clumps of kangaroo grass and scattered shrubs beneath a eucalypt canopy. He was sure it was a child because of its posture, it was bent slightly forward as is normal in a person running down a hill, and he expected to see the child trip and fall at any moment. But the child ran down towards him without any difficulty until it saw him and stopped about 30 metres (100 feet) away.
He was even more surprised now because although it was shaped very like a child and it was 1.25 metres (4 foot) tall, about the same height as a 10 to 12 year old, it was covered in thick black hair with only its dark face visible. He rushed back to get his mother and pointed the creature out to her as it was still standing in the same position. Lynn found it difficult to see at first because it was very well camouflaged, until it began to move. From a bipedal position it dropped down to move off slowly downhill knuckle walking as a quadruped then as it gathered speed it stood erect and ran off down the hill. Afterwards she described to me what she had observed, a dark-furred animal with a round head, no tail and running on 2 legs like a person.
I was naturally extremely skeptical as I had not observed anything unusual in my explorations of the area and told her that it could only have been a swamp wallaby, a common species often seen on that slope. She insisted though that it didn’t hop but ran on 2 legs. It wasn’t until I heard the unexpected calls at close range that I was able to believe that Lynn and Joshua really had seen a very remarkable animal.
The calls that I heard can be used to provide a provisional identity for these unknown animals. The calls were typical of a territorial call, being loud, powerful and repetitive and uttered on quiet, windless nights so that the calls were far-carrying and could reach the ears of other territory-holding adults. The small bipedal primate observed and heard in 1996 is unlikely to be an immature or half grown specimen of the much larger bipedal primate observed and heard calling in 1978. This is because immature animals do not hold territories or give territorial calls. If they did it would be an immediate invitation for a fully-grown animal to locate the brash, young usurper and drive it off.
Because both territorial calls were similar in their makeup, a series of loud repetitive calls, and were given under similar conditions, still moonlit nights in June, it can be inferred that both animals are closely related. This also agrees with sighting descriptions of unknown bipedal primates. However both territorial calls also infer that 2 different species are involved.
The 1978 call was a continuous series of extremely powerful bellowing roars as would be expected from a large bipedal primate 2.5 metres tall. The 1996 call was a continuous series of powerful, high-pitched barks in series of 3 with a softer gurgling call included. These latter calls were associated with a sighting of a small bipedal primate 1.25 metres tall inhabiting mountainous dry sclerophyll forest. One can speculate that an immature individual of the 2.5 metre tall species would not be running around during daylight on its own.
It is a common occurrence within closely related animal species inhabiting a similar ecological niche and utilising a similar food resource that a major size difference evolves so that one species is half the size and weight of the other so as to reduce competition amongst them. This is perfectly shown in the observed size difference in these 2 undescribed bipedal primates. Different territorial calls also evolve in closely related species that further reduce competition amongst them.
The Aboriginal people and European settlers, particularly those working in the bush, knew both species. Aboriginal people in southeastern NSW knew the larger species as Doolagarl, Doolagard, Gooligah, Thoolagal, Moomega and Yaromah depending on their language group. Aboriginal people from Sydney inland to the Blue Mountains and Bathurst and down to Batemans Bay and Bega appear to have used the word Yowie or Yourie for ghosts and evil spirits. This word then appears to have been applied to the large bipedal primate by early settles along with the word Yahoo. After European settlement Aboriginal people also used both Yowie and Yahoo and Europeans also used the term Hairy Man and Australian Gorilla. Yowie has become the accepted name in recent years. (1)
Scientists and cryptozoologists researching reports of similar large bipedal primates, usually known as Wildmen, across Africa, Eurasia, South-east Asia and the Americas agree that the animal appears to be Gigantopithicus, known only from half a million year old fossils from China. Descriptions of the physical appearance and behaviour of the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Yeren of China, the Sasquatch or Bigfoot of the Americas and the Doolagarl or Yowie of Australia are all so similar that it would appear that they are all members of the same species or at least closely related. (2)
All appear to be extremely cryptic, solitary, nocturnal hunters that have adapted to a wide range of different habitats, have naturally low population numbers and very large territories, as is typical of many large carnivorous mammal species. Competition with another similar-sized bipedal hunting primate, humans, may have been partly responsible for humans existing in large, diurnal, social populations and Gigantopithicus existing as scattered, solitary, nocturnal, cryptic populations so that competition is reduced.
The small bipedal primate was known to the Aboriginal people as Junjadee, Junjuddis, Dinderi, Winambuu, Waaki, Nimbunj, depending on their language group, and, since European settlement, Brown Jacks. This smaller species made newspaper headlines in March 1979 when individuals were observed on Tower Hill at Charters Towers in Queensland. There have been many reports of small bipedal primates from Africa, Asia and in Sumatra where they are known as Orang Pendek. (3)
So how did these originally Asian animals get to Australia? The answer is evident in the documentation of sightings of these and similar animals elsewhere. In Australia the large bipedal primate has been observed swimming in rivers and lagoons and in such a situation has been called a bunyip. Sightings of seals far upstream in freshwater rivers and billabongs, perhaps along with the last survivals of aquatic megafauna, were probably responsible for most bunyip reports.
The Aboriginal people of the lower Murray River know of an ape-like creature that swims in the river and is named Mooluwonk. On 18 July 1848 the Angus reported the sighting of a huge humanoid swimming in the Eumeralla River. The Melbourne Herald of 29 October 1849 reported the observation of a bunyip beside a lake on Phillip Island described as being half man and half baboon that dived into the lake when it was shot at. The Sydney Morning Herald of 24 August 1872 reported that a party of surveyors observed a bunyip at Cowal Lake that resembled a human being. It was covered with long dark hair and was swimming, rising out of the water so that they could see its shoulders and then diving as if in chase of fish. (4)
A Yowie has been observed wading ashore from Lake Dulverton in Tasmania in 1987 and Sasquatch have been observed doing likewise in Lake Winnipegosis and the Klamath River in North America. (5) These reports show that the Yowie is an excellent swimmer in small bodies of water and investigations by Bob Titmus, one of the very early Bigfoot investigators, operating from a boat among the islands and inlets of British Columbia over several years, proved that the Sasquatch was capable of swimming through stormy seas. Fresh sets of tracks coming out of the water and into the woods on small islands proved that the Sasquatch is perfectly capable of swimming across open ocean to reach distant hunting grounds or to colonize new territory. (6) Yowies therefore appear to have entered the Australasian region from Asia by swimming from island to island.
Accidental rafting could also explain this Asian animal’s presence here. It is believed that Asian mice reached Australian shores in this way over millions of years and once here have diversified into endemic species. (7) Larger mammals would have enormous difficulties surviving such a voyage, adapting to the new environment and arriving in large enough numbers to begin a genetically diverse population. However an adaptable, semi-aquatic carnivorous primate, humans, made the journey so perhaps a similar, though fur-covered, species could do like-wise.
Before human domination of Southeast Asia the islands were thickly vegetated and richly populated with a diverse fauna. Riverside rainforest torn loose near a river mouth during cyclonic weather to form rafts of trees floating towards Australia with a complement of animals preyed upon by a family of castaway yowies could just be possible.
Many researchers of undescribed cryptic animals are not biologists and often come to the conclusion that these animals must be paranormal because they are so elusive and impossible to capture. They state that the existence of the animal can only be understood by looking for explanations that go beyond the understanding of modern physics. These statements are absolutely preposterous and show little understanding of physics, biology, ecology or animal behaviour. It is most unlikely that the entire understanding of physical reality falls apart whenever an undescribed animal is reported. It is also unlikely that the only evidence of other dimensions intruding into our own is represented by a cryptic animal and by no other aspect of natural phenomena.
It is to be expected that the general public would have little knowledge of, or belief in, undescribed fauna. Most people’s experience with wildlife comes from television documentaries, museums, zoos and the picnic areas of national parks. It is only natural that people believe that, if an animal has not been regularly observed then it cannot possibly exist. Field biologists, however, know from years of experience that many species are incredibly difficult to observe, trap, photograph or obtain any evidence of their existence what-so-ever until they come up with an innovative method to do so. This particularly applies to solitary nocturnal carnivores.
The Eastern Puma or Mountain Lion (Puma concolor couguar), which ranged from New Brunswick in Canada to the Carolinas in the USA, has been considered extinct by all American state wildlife agencies and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for most of the 20th century. Despite numerous fauna surveys no evidence for its existence had been found in almost 100 years and yet dozens of eyewitness reports have been made in almost all Eastern states every year.
A Canadian wildlife biologist, Bruce Wright, director of the Northeastern Wildlife Station of the University of New Brunswick, was convinced from sighting reports from the late 1930’s that the eastern puma survived in cryptic, remnant populations but was never able to convince his fellow zoologists or provincial officials. After over 50 years of investigations of Eastern Puma sightings by biologists, fresh tracks in snow and a fecal scat was found. Analysis of the droppings revealed the remains of consumed prey, snowshoe hare, and indisputable eastern puma hairs from the feet and legs, presumably ingested during grooming after feeding. On 1 March 1993 the New Brunswick Minister of Natural Resources officially acknowledged the presence of an eastern puma population. (8)
The eastern puma is still regarded as extinct in the USA despite the eyewitness reports and its official rediscovery in Canada. The eastern puma is now understood to have survived all of that time that it was definitely thought extinct even though not a photograph or a specimen has been obtained. Unlike what some researchers thought, the sightings did not represent an entity from another dimension but an ordinary animal that could easily survive and reproduce without revealing any evidence of its existence.
If a carnivorous animal is hunted into apparent extinction, what is probably exterminated are all those members of the population that have been the most successful competitors for territory and therefore hold the prime habitats, are more self-assured and are more obvious to human hunters. The survivors are probably those that have always been forced to live in the poorest habitats and through competition with more dominant individuals have been forced to become cryptic. When humans clear the prime habitat of the species the cryptic individuals survive in remnant habitat and pass on their genes for cryptic behaviour to their offspring.
If the eastern puma can survive as an almost invisible entity in such a heavily populated area as the eastern portion of North America, how much easier is it for cryptic species to survive undetected in less heavily populated localities. In Australia, several carnivorous species, the mainland Thylacine, Tasmanian tiger, feral pumas and black panthers, the yowie and the junjadee are all regularly reported. When biologists point out that Thylacines were easily trapped and hunted in the early part of this century and so could not possibly have changed their behaviour to become cryptic, it is possible to understand that the cryptic members of the population always avoided the hunters and continue to do so now.
With the increasing technological advantage that we humans possess it may eventually be proven that we were extremely arrogant and that cryptic species that we swore could not possibly exist without us knowing all about it, have been observing us all along.
(1) Healy, T. and Cropper, P. Out of the Shadows, Mystery Animals of Australia, Ironbark by Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 1994.
(6) International Society of Cryptozoology, The ISC Newsletter Vol.12, No. 2, 1993-1996.
(7) The Australian Museum, (Ed. Strahan, R.) Complete Book of Australian Mammals,
Angus and Robinson Publishers, Sydney, 1983.
(8) International Society of Cryptozoology, The ISC Newsletter Vol.12, No. 2, 1993-1996.
Gary Opit retains the sole copyright © 2000 for this article.