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India 'bigfoot' sightings prompt official probe

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Stacy Dohm
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« on: June 21, 2007, 10:02:00 pm »

India 'bigfoot' sightings prompt official probe

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Authorities in India are to investigate claims by terrified villagers that "bigfoot"-type hairy giants are roaming the jungles of the remote northeast, a local official said.
The creatures have apparently been spoken of, and occasionally spotted, for years, but a rise in the number of sightings over the past month has prompted authorities to look into the matter further.

The bizarre sightings have reportedly been made in the Garo hills area of Meghalaya state, close to the borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Villagers have dubbed the mysterious creatures "Mande Burung" -- or Jungle Man.

"A team of wildlife officials and other experts will conduct a study to find out if there is any truth in the locals' claims about these hairy giants," said Samphat Kumar, a district magistrate in the West Garo Hills district.

One local farmer, 40-year-old Wallen Sangma, claimed he had seen an entire family of the creatures -- possibly a lowland relative of the Himalayan Yeti, or perhaps a distant cousin of the North American bigfoot known as Sasquatch, or Australia's Yowie.

"The sight was frightening: two adults and two smaller ones, huge and bulky, furry," he told an AFP reporter who visited the remote area on Thursday and Friday.

"Their heads looked as if they were wearing caps, and their colour was blackish-brown," he said, adding that the four "monsters" were about 30 to 40 metres (100 to 130 feet) away from him as he looked for firewood in a forest area.

"The four of them quietly vanished into the undergrowth," he said of the recent sighting.

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Claims to have sighted such bigfoot creatures are treated sceptically by scientists because of lack of solid physical proof, but there are scientists and researchers who believe they could exist.

One Garo Hills group, the Achik Tourism society, has been trying to verify the creature's existence for the past 10 years, photographing footprints and thatched "nests" reported by locals.

"The descriptions given by people who saw the creature point to Mande Burung," said its head, T.K. Marak, a zoology professor at the state-run university in Tura, 323 kilometres (200 miles) from state capital Shillong.

"There is no trace of any gorillas or other unidentified animals inhabiting here."

The group says footprints it has photographed are approximately 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 centimetres) long. It also says it has collected tufts of hair.

"We shall send these samples for DNA and other forensic tests," said Dipu Marak, also of the society.

In the meantime, some of the more intrepid villagers have begun their own investigation, venturing into the forest in the hopes of spotting the hairy creatures as their neighbours have done.

"Maybe only the fortunate ones have the chance to have a glimpse of the Mande Burung," said Abu Marak, a Garo local who claims to have seen a jungle man about three weeks ago.

© 2007 AFP

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