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Thursday, November 25, 2010


On Thursday I received a message from the person calling themselves `The Highland Tiger`. He wrote hoping that we took his comments on this occasion "as a genuine observation". In that spirit, therefore, I reproduce what he had to say:

"From what I can gather from the conclusions made by both Lars and Richard Freeman, it appears that the DNA results of being close to human are being ignored, largely in favour of the hair analysis. I find this very worrying as it appears on the surface to be a case of trying to fit the evidence to the theory.

Hair analysis is very subjective process and is literally in the eye of the beholder. Different experts may come to different conclusions in investigating hair samples. DNA results are less subjective.

The reason the DNA samples claim to be almost human is more than likely through contamination. Yes I know the researchers claim they did not touch the hairs, but to be honest it is hard enough to prevent contamination in a laboratory, let alone obtaining clean samples in the field, is hard and I don't blame the field team for this.

I understand Karl Shuker has given an example of the king cheetah to explain a possibilty of both DNA and hair analysis being correct. However, this is only one case and we can in no way extrapolate this example in order to fit the evidence to the theory again, as Richard seems to have done.

I am actually in agreement with Dr Dan Holdsworth in that I feel the DNA results have probably been compromised by contamination.

The hairs are interesting in that I have no problem in accepting them as orangutan hairs, (and as such in finding a new population of orangs you have had a success)

Now this find is more exciting to the wider zoological world. Are you intending to contact orangutan researchers, and allow them to look at the hairs themselves. To find and confirm a new orangutan population is very important on a wordwide conservation scale, and needs to be released to mainstream zoological research and not kept in the restricted confines of cryptozoological research".

The most important thing about these DNA results are that whatever the hairs are, they are NOT from an orang utan. I would like to stress this. If there had been evidence suggesting that there was at least one orang utan living in that stretch of jungle, we would of course have made the hairs available to the relevant authorities. If there is any chance that there is a hitherto unsuspected population of these increasingly beleagured great apes then it is our sacred duty to do what we can to save them, and the discovery of a new population would be immensely important.

But the hairs, whatever they are from, are NOT from an orang utan.

However, we are not claiming that they are from an orang pendek either. Neither Richard nor Lars is ignoring the startlingly human-like DNA, and yes, the possibility of contamination is something that is always a possibility.

But as Lars writes, the results are inconclusive, although as a zoologist with many years experience, the hairs, together with all the anecdotal evidence that has been collected, Dave Archer and Sahar Didmus's eyewitness testimonies, and the various hair samples and footprints secured over the years have convinced him that there is an unknown species of higher primate living in Sumatra.

But no. Both Richard and I agree with Lars and HT that the DNA evidence - though interesting - is far from being conclusive, which is why we intend to go back to Sumatra with more equipment and more manpower to continue the hunt.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

The last statement is a fair assessment: the results are equivocal and therefore need to be backed up by better samples.

I for one can handle the possibility of the hairs being from an unknown ape OR an unknown hominid: you have Orang Pendek reports and alleged tracks which fall into EITHER category. However if you can't tell which, then you're still basically left at the starting gate.

And basically the results of "possibly human" ARE the results that have come from Orang Pendek samples historically: Ivan Sanderson mentioned that in 1961.