Ahool

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For a long time the Indonesian islands have been home to many unique and rare animals found no where else in the world. These islands, Java in particular, supported a rich biodiversity, including the Javan Rhino, Javan Leopard, and Javan Silvery Gibbon. Unfortunately the island of Java is also home to an ever expanding human population, which has transformed much of the islands lush tropical rain forest into farm land and rice paddies. The rising population of Java has placed many of the islands endemic animal species on the verge of extinction, and in sad cases like the Javan Tiger, it has already snuffed them out completely. Despite becoming the world’s most populated island, Java has managed to set aside several national parks in recent years, including the Gumung Halimun National Park, which is one of the last stretches of lowland rain forest left on the island. These national parks support a wide variety of Java’s wildlife, and according to natives of the forest, it may also support a large, unidentified, winged creature known as the Ahool.

One of the first documented sightings of the Ahool was in 1925 by Naturalist Dr. Earnest Bartels. He was exploring the Salek Mountains in Java. According to Dr. Bartels’ report, he was exploring one of the many waterfalls in the mountain ranges when a giant bat flew directly over his head. Some sources indicate that he had a second encounter with the creature two years later in 1927, reportedly while bedding down for the evening along the Tjidjenkol River in Western Java. As the retelling of this encounter goes, at roughly 11:30 that evening, whilst listening to the sounds of the jungle, Dr. Bartels was startled by a noise coming from directly above his hut, a sound that seemed to cry, Ahool! Although he never saw the creature during his second encounter, he was sure it was the creature he had encountered years earlier, the Ahool. It may be of interesting note that while researching for this article, no record of the Tjidjenkol River could be located, in Java or otherwise, and while names of places are subject to change during the course of history, it does give some concern to the validity of this second sighting.

Dr. Bartels went on to gather large amounts of data on the creature from the indigenous population, who had a strong belief in the existence of an the Ahool. They described the creature as being the size of a one year old child, roughly two and a half feet tall, with a wingspan of of about twelve feet. Its body was said to be covered in short dark grey fur and it’s head resembled that of a monkey’s with large black eyes. The natives claimed that the creature was nocturnal, spending its evenings searching for fish, and its days concealed deep within one of the regions many caves.  Dr. Bartels first speculated that the creature may be some form of bird, perhaps a very large species of owl, however locals he spoke to were adamant that the Ahool was some form of bat.

Noted Cryptozoologist Ivan T Sanderson would later become interested in the Ahool after Dr. Bartels’ accounts were passed on to him by Bernard Heuvelmans. Sanderson sided with local opinion and speculated that the Ahool was some form of unclassified giant bat species, one that may be related to a creature he encountered while on expedition in Africa known as the Kongamato. Currently the world’s largest known bat belongs to a family known as Flying Foxes, several of which, including the Greater Flying Fox, Inhabit the south eastern region of Asia, including Java. Some of these bats can sport impressive wingspans of nearly 6 feet. Due it’s range, and similar physical features, some have speculated that sightings of the Ahool may just be over exaggeration of the Greater Flying Fox. Opponent’s of this theory site the size and dietary differences, arguing that the Ahool is double the size and subsist on fish while the Greater Flying Fox is a fruit bat, dining exclusively on fruit nectar and flowers.

Other researches have suggested that Dr. Bartels original assumption that the Ahool may be some form of large owl was correct, citing the existence of several large owl species on Java that, despite their smaller size, match accounts of the Ahool. A smaller circle of researchers have theorized that the Ahool may be a surviving pterosaur, a species of flying dinosaur thought to have gone extinct some 65 million years ago. While some features of the Ahool may be similar, opponents of the pterosaur theory point to the Ahool’s reported monkey like facial features as evidence against it being a flying reptile species.

Written by Sean – PACC Admin

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