Most people know that the Hobbit movie trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. However, few people know that New Zealand’s closest neighbor, Australia, is home to a mythical hobbit-like ‘hairy man’ creature. Cryptozoologist Gary Opit knew of the myth, but now he and his daughter aren’t so sure it’s a myth after a recent encounter with what appeared to be two four-foot-tall hairy men known as the Nimbinjee. The what?
"Our daughter and her partner when staying with us over Christmas saw a Nimbinjee or little hairy man jump up onto our roof at 2am and from their description was exactly like a gibbon in all respects.”
Well, then ... it must have been a gibbon that Gary Opit’s daughter saw, since Opit is also a zoologist who should know a gibbon from a – what was that creature again?
"Of course there are no gibbons here and there have never been nocturnal and terrestrial gibbons known. They said that there were two of them calling quietly to one another. We have an audio recording of the calls and a coloured illustration of what they saw.”
If that’s not enough, Opit resides in Nimbin, a village in far northeaster New South Wales known as the "Rainbow Region" to the Indigenous Bundjalung people, who believe the Nimbinjee spirit people protect the area. Was the creature his daughter saw a physical manifestation of a Nimbinjee spirit person? (Drawing of the creature here.) It turns out the locals also speak of a Nimbinjee that is a three to four feet tall, upright-walking humanoid with brown skin and covered with dark brown or red hair. Wait a minute …that sounds like a Hobbit, doesn’t it?
“(It makes a sound like) “arroo, ARROO, arroo” interspersed with a gurgling, “gu-gu-gu-gu.”
Cryptozoology researcher Andrew McGrath agrees that the Nimbinjee looks like Hobbit but it is not as articulate as J. R. R. Tolkien’s beings – making grunts and howls instead of movie-worthy dialogue. Opit knows his Nimbinjee because he has had his own close encounters with them, as he explains to The Daily Star.
"Twice at dusk I heard within 100 metres of the house a loud and powerful call - "ruuff" - of an animal that I could not identify. I did not observe the animal but was fortunate enough to hear what I believe was its territorial call. Approximately 50 metres away near a dry creek bed, in eucalypt forest, a series of some 90-loud bark-like calls rent the air. In the same locality, I have had an animal approach to within a few metres of me through dense vegetation cracking two sticks together over several minutes, even as my dog barked at it and then it silently disappeared. Could these be evidence of a Hobbit living in my locality?"
That encounter was in 1996 in Koonyum Range bushland in far northeastern New South Wales. Opit knew this wasn’t a Yowie, since he’s best known as one of Australia’s leading experts on that country’s Bigfoot. He also knows the approximate size of a Nimbinjee after another encounter.
“On Saturday 9th August 2008 Ray Westrap and I found small child-sized footprints that led from a wallaby track on our property onto the Jones Road track where it had walked through shallow water in the large depression and I photographed them. Small child-like footprints for 3 metres were visible along the rut and on the two lumps of mud that had been scooped out and thrown down. This showed lots of activity of little feet walking back & forth along the rut pushing mud onto previous footprints."
(Footprint photo here.) OK, “small child-sized footprints” could easily be made by a small barefoot child. Jones Road is an hour drive from Nimbin, so they could also have been made by a similar creature to the one on Opit’s daughter’s roof. It should be noted that Opit has his own Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio wildlife and cryptozoology show, and the discovery of a cryptid – even one as obscure as a Niminjee – would help the all-important ratings. However, he also has a good reputation as an expert in both, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he finds more concrete evidence of the Nimbinjee so we can all yell:
“Arroo, ARROO, arroo!”