Thursday 5 November 2009

The Agogwe -the Homo Floresiensis of Africa?

The Agogwe is said to be a small humanoid biped living in the forests of East Africa. It is 1 to 1.7m tall with long arms and long rust-coloured woolly hair and a yellowish-red skin under its coat. It has also been reported as having black or grey hair. Its feet are said to be about 12cms long with opposable toes. Differences between it and known apes include a rounded forehead, small canines and its hair and skin colour.The Agogwe goes by other names in other areas : Kakundakari or Kilomba in Zimbabwe and the Congo, on the Ivory Cost they call the creature the Sehite and the Agogure or Agogue in Tanzania and Northern Mozambique It is similar in description to the Orang Pendek of Sumatra.

The first recorded sighting by a European was in 1900 by a Captain William Hitchens but who didn’t report it until this December 1937 edition of Discovery magazine :

Some years ago I was sent on an official lion hunt in this area,” to which he was referring the Ussure and Simibit forests on the western side of the Wembare plains, “while waiting in a forest glade for a man eater, I saw two small, brown, furry creatures come from the dense forest on one side of the glade and then disappear into the thicket on the other side. They where like little men, about 4 feet high, walking upright, but clad in russet hair. The native hunter with me gazed in mingled fear and amazement. They were, he said, Agogwe, the little furry men whom one does not see once in a lifetime,”

Captain Hichen’s story was criticised and ridiculed by some but then a British Officer Cuthbert Burgoyne wrote a letter to Discovery magazine in 1938 recounting his personal sighting of something similar in 1927 while travelling Portuguese East Africa aboard a Japanese cargo boat. His story went as follows:

“We were sufficiently near to land to see objects clearly with a glass of 12 magnifications. There was a sloping beach with light bush above upon which several dozen baboons where hunting for and picking up shell fish of crabs, to judge by their movements. Two pure white baboons were amongst them. These are very rare but I had heard of them previously. As we watched, two little brown men walked together out of the bush and down among the baboons. They where certainly not any known monkey and they must have been akin or they would have disturbed the baboons. They where to far away to see in detail, but these small human like animals where probably between 4 and 5 feet tall, quite upright and graceful in figure. At the time I was thrilled as they quite evidently no beast of which I had heard or read. Later a friend and big game hunter told me he was in Portuguese East Africa with his wife and three other hunters, and saw mother, father and child, of apparently similar animal species, walk across the further side of a bush clearing. The natives loudly forbade him to shoot.”

Then there was another report from a different area of Africa. Charles Cordier, a professional animal collector who worked for zoos and museums, followed the tracks of what the locals said was the kakundakari in Zaire in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Once, said Cordier, a Kakundakari had become entangled in one of his bird snares. "It fell on its face," said Cordier, "turned over, sat up, took the noose off its feet, and walked away before the nearby African could do anything".

Other stories from several countries in the western part of the Africa talk of a race of pygmylike creatures covered with reddish hair. Europeans have also encountered them: "During one of his expeditions in the course of 1947, the great elephant-hunter Dunckel killed a peculiar primate unknown to him; it was small with reddishbrown hair and was shot in the great forest...between the Sassandra and Cavalry rivers" (Sanderson 1961, p. 189). Natives are said to have bartered with these red-haired pygmies, called Sehites, leaving various trinkets in exchange for fruits (Sanderson 1961, p. 190).

Could these creatures be a relative of Homo Floresiensis? The descriptions are similar and as there have been no recent sightings, they could also now be extinct. Maybe someone will find some bones that will confirm their existence one day. It would also back the case for Homo Floresiensis , as I believe there is still dispute over the find in some scientific circles.

Sanderson, Ivan T. Abominable Snowmen: Legend Comes to Life. New York: Chilton, 1961

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