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The Mysterious Little People of Madagascar

There are plenty of reports of enormous hairy hominids from all over the world, and indeed they seem to be a phenomenon that spans across cultures. Yet equally as curious and bizarre are the stories of smaller, miniature versions of these man-like beasts. One place that has long has a tradition of curious little forest people is the island nation of Madagascar, which is a majestic land full of spectacular mysteries both known and unknown.

Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa lies the island nation of Madagascar, or officially the Republic of Madagascar. The main island is the fourth largest island in the world, and broke off from the Indian peninsula approximately 88 million years ago, after which the flora and fauna went on to evolve in complete isolation. It is due to this unique geological history that the island has a wealthy abundance of completely unique species and ecosystems seen nowhere else on Earth, with many more thought to remain undocumented. Considering this remote isolation, the swaths of pristine, uncharted wilderness, such a plethora of unique wildlife, and the strong possibility of lost, unidentified species, it should come as no surprise that Madagascar also has its share of bizarre and elusive mystery monsters.

One of the more intriguing of Madagascar’s alleged strange denizens is a creature most commonly known as the Kalanoro, which is said to roam isolated pockets of rain forest and lurk in dark caverns all over the country. Known by a myriad of other names depending on the local tribe, such as the Kotoky or Vazimba, these odd beings are said to stand around 2 feet in height, with somewhat ape-like features and hooked fingers endowed with extremely long fingernails. They are mostly said to be covered in long hair, although it is often said that they also have some sort of quills or spines on their backs, and the eyes are typically said to be formidable and fierce. The creatures are often reported as loving water, and can supposedly be seen cavorting about in rivers or lakes. More unusual details include that they have only three toes that face backwards or that their eyes glow in the dark.

The Kalanoro are said to be for the most part shy and hiding from mankind, but will come forth under the cover of night to steal food from villages and even on occasion abduct children, and they are known to be rather aggressive if encountered. They are most often described as having prodigious strength for their size, and it is usually recommended to avoid them if at all possible, although sightings are remarkably rare. Interestingly, most of the lore and descriptions of the Kalanoro are remarkably consistent amongst the myriad tribes scattered about Madagascar, which prompted the great cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans to once muse, “These legends may be fantastic, but they are found all over Madagascar, and it would be odd if they were utterly without foundation.” Indeed, far from just a completely folkloric legend there have been a few supposed sightings and encounters with the diminutive beasts on occasion. Some interesting early reports were written of in 1886 by a G. Herbert Smith within the pages of the Antananarivo Annual, where he said:

We next come to the forest, and from there we get endless stories of the Kalanoro, a sort of wild-man-of-the-woods, represented as very short of stature, covered with hair, with flowing beard, in the case of the male, and with an amiable weakness for the warmth of a fire. An eye-witness related that once, when spending a night in the heart of the forest, he lay awake watching the fire, which had died down to red embers, when suddenly he became aware of a figure answering to the above description warming himself at the fire, and apparently enjoying it immensely. According to his story, he put a summary end to the gentleman’s enjoyment by stealing down his hand, grasping a stick, and sending a shower of red-hot embers on to his unclothed visitor, who immediately, and most naturally, fled with a shriek. Another tells how, on a similar occasion, the male appeared first, and after inspecting the premises and finding, as well as a fire, some rice left in the pot, summoned his better half; the pair squatted in front of the fire and – touching picture of conjugal affection – proceeded to feed one another!

One must confess that the creature described looks suspiciously like one of the larger sorts of lemur; but in a village near Mahanoro, and on the verge of the forest, the inhabitants say that very frequently these wild people come foraging in their houses for remnants of food, and may be heard calling to one another in the street.

One very well-known account is that of a Kalanoro that was allegedly captured in 1889 and then reported to the Royal Geographical Society. It is unknown what happened after this. In later years there was a 1924 sighting made by the American politician, newspaper reporter and explorer Chase Salmon Osborn, who claimed to have seen a pair of the dwarfish creatures engaged in a bout of rather noisy and rough mating. Bizarrely, similar creatures have been reported from other regions of Africa, such as the Congo, where they are called the Kakundakari. It is here where one of the most incredible reports of these hairy little people originates. In 2007 the cryptozoologist Loren Coleman came forward with a rather bizarre report indeed of a Navy SEAL team encountering the creatures in the jungles of the Congo while on patrol. Coleman said that the source was reliable but confidential due to the sensitive nature of their intelligence work, and wrote of the encounter:

What the former SEAL relates is that he was involved in covert operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1997 and 2002. According to his account, his team observed a group of thirteen “chimpanzee-like” creatures between 4.5 to 5 feet tall, uniformly gray all over their bodies, with rows of seemingly porcupine-like quills running the length of their backs.
The unidentified apes walked bipedally and were observed by the SEAL team in the act of killing another animal. When the creatures became excited or agitated, the quills or spines stood erect from their bodies.
According to this informant, the US Navy SEAL team took three minutes of video footage of these creatures, but this tape apparently has been classified, due to their mission. This SEAL member still has his mission maps and is able to pinpoint the area of the encounter with this large group of bipedal apes.
The involvement of a US Navy SEAL team would indicate that their activity employed water as a means of transportation, and/or they were working in an area involving a lake, river, or swamp.

This is all very interesting, but one does wonder what happened after this, and more importantly where that supposed video went. It is worth mentioning that supposed physical evidence of the creatures has been found in the same vicinity as the purported SEAL sighting, such as animal collector Charles Cordier purportedly finding tracks from the beasts there in 1961. It is unclear what relation, if any, these creatures could have had to the Kalanoro of Madagascar but it is a curious anomaly nonetheless.

Of course there has been much speculation as to what the Kalanoro might be. One is that it is a type of undiscovered or presumably extinct species of outsized giant lemur. Another is that we could be looking at some sort of relic population of a tiny extinct human relative or hominid such as Homo floresiensis, the fossils of which were discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua, on the island of Flores in Indonesia. These creatures were on average under 4 feet in height and were the smallest species of the genus Homo, and it is speculated that they could have possibly inhabited other areas of the world, including Madagascar. Still another idea is that these are not flesh and blood creatures at all, but rather some sort of fairy folk similar to the elves, gnomes, and trolls of Europe. In the 1964 volume of Western Folklore, Vol. XXIII, author and researcher Bacil F. Kirtley published an article called Unknown Hominids and New World Legends, in which he speculates that the Kalanoro are a type of regional fairy folk, and indeed the natives of Madagascar do not see these creatures as animals but rather more as mystical earth spirits of a sort.

So what are we dealing with here? Is this some sort of unidentified primate? Are these creatures a relic population of human ancestors or protohumans? Are they some other type of animal still unclassified by science? Are they nature spirits or some other type of supernatural entity? Or do they exist merely in the realm of folklore, legend, and the human imagination? The only thing we know for sure is that the natives of the regions where these creatures appear see them as very real. Whether they truly are or not remains to be seen, and Madagascar holds one more mystery close.