For decades, reports of “pterodactyls” in New Guinea (the
country later renamed Papua New Guinea) were
dismissed with the explanation that people were just
observing flying foxes. In the early 21st Century, a web
page by Glen Kuban was dedicated to repudiating the idea
that pterosaurs ever lived in human times; he suggested
at least some of the sightings were of fruit bats.
On his web page, unchanged or not updated for years, he
has a large paragraph on the possibility that “at least
some” of the sightings of apparent pterosaurs are only
misidentifications of the flying fox fruit bat. Yet as recently
as May of 2016 (12 years after first publication of page),
he still does not have even one example of anyone who
had seen a fruit bat and misidentified it as a pterosaur.
The fruit bat known as “flying fox” is quite large for a bat;
some species have wingspans as great as five feet. To
visitors from America and Europe, these dog-faced bats
are striking. Yet the most experienced cryptozoologists
who investigate these sightings have not, it seems, found
even one example of any person who has seen a fruit bat
and mistook it for a pterosaur.
But how does this idea of bat-pterosaur misidentification
hold up to detailed analysis? When someone reports
seeing a pterosaur flying in Papua New Guinea, can it
simply be dismissed as a misidentification of a large flying
fox bat? Consider the details.
Jim Blume, an American missionary living in Papua New
Guinea for many years, has interviewed many natives who
know of creatures whose descriptions suggest a
pterosaur. Some natives report creatures robbing graves,
stealing human bodies completely away from the grave
site. American investigators have confirmed the reports of
grave robberies in Papua New Guinea (including the
living-pterosaur investigators Paul Nation, Carl Baugh, and
me, Jonathan Whitcomb). What is the point? Flying foxes
never rob graves.
The large flying creatures reported in Papua New Guinea
are said to eat fish; fruit bats do not eat fish.
Large Carnivorous Flying Creatures
Some reports involve animals or humans being carried
away by large flying creatures. Jim Blume reports a
number of cases on the mainland. Paul Nation learned
that the “indavas” near an inland village used to carry
away village animals or small children; this stopped after
the villagers learned to make much noise when they
heard the sound of the approaching creatures. But fruit
bats never carry away animals or people.
Creatures with names like ropen, seklo-bali, and indava
are said to glow brightly at night. Fruit bats do not glow.
This bioluminescence is not just a concept from one or
two anecdotal accounts, nor are the flying lights restricted
to native stories. A number of expedition leaders have
seen the flying lights, including the highly respected
British biologist Evelyn Cheesman, who wrote about her
observations in her book “The Two Roads of Papua.”
In addition, Paul Nation, in an expedition late in 2006,
was able to videotape two indava lights deep in the main-
land of Papua New Guinea. The video footage was later
analyzed by the physicist Clifford Paiva, who found that no
common source was responsible for those two lights.
They were not from camp fires or the headlights of cars
or airplane lights or flashlights or satellites or meteors.
Within a few months of that expedition by Paul Nation,
the Destination Truth television team led by Josh Gates
explored a different area of Papua New Guinea. Yet they
too saw and videotaped a strange flying light that could
not be explained by a reference to any common source.
Upright Posture on Tree Trunks
The ropen of Umboi Island has been observed to hold itself
upright on a tree trunk. This is quite different from the flying
fox, which holds itself upside down from a branch.
Live Pterosaurs in America - third edition
(Whitcomb also wrote Searching for Ropens . . .)
Copyright 2007-2016 Jonathan David Whitcomb
Photograph by Jonathan Whitcomb
Fallacy of the Flying-Fox Explanation
for the Sightings of Living Pterosaurs
A Live Pterosaur Page
The Gitmo pterosaur may be related to the long-
tailed ropen of the southwest Pacific region
Notice the silhouette of a fruit bat. This is NOT a ropen.
The flying fox fruit bat does NOT have a long tail
Native demonstrates what he saw a ropen doing:
holding itself upright on the trunk of a tree
A second native tries to more precisely demonstrate
what the men saw, how the ropen held itself upright
on the tree trunk (video from a 1990’s expedition)
A large portion of eyewitness sighting reports of apparent
pterosaurs (commonly called “pterodactyls”) include a
description of a long tail. An American World War II veteran,
Mr. Duane Hodgkinson, described the tail of the “pterodactyl”
that he saw: “at least ten to fifteen feet” long. A villager on
Umboi Island, Gideon Koro, said the ropen’s tail was seven
meters long. A psychologist, Brian Hennessy, said that the
creature that he saw had “a longish narrow tail.” An Australia
couple also saw a creature with a long tail. None of these
eyewitnesses saw any feathers; each of them reported a giant
creature. Fruit bats do not have long tails.
Hodgkinson reported the wingspan of his creature to be about
that of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane: twenty-nine feet. Gideon
Koro reported the wing size (of the creature he saw flying over
a crater lake) to be seven meters (the interviewer later
concluded that he meant the size of one wing). The Australian
couple reported the wingspan of their creature to be between
thirty and fifty feet. Even if the eyewitnesses had been
exaggerating size, these creatures are not flying foxes. They’re
much too big. A fruit bat is only a small fraction of that size.
Flying Over Reefs
American living-pterosaur investigators (including Paul Nation
of Texas, Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, and David
Woetzel) found that natives report that the creatures fly just
above reefs (they live on fish and giant clams). Fruit bats have
little reason to spend time flying over reefs, and when they do,
it is never to catch fish or to carry giant clams far inland.
Josh Gates, leader of the Destination Truth
expedition in Papua New Guinea, questions
a native about the glowing flying creature
What is Anecdotal?
Mr. Kuban seems to dismiss “anecdotal” reports of living
pterosaurs, but his web page avoids the details of the
most credible and significant eyewitness testimonies. His
reference list on the bottom of his page is commendable,
for most web pages have nothing like references. Yet it’s
now plain to see that they are outdated. Notice the
following years of publications he refers to:
1989 (in favor of living pterosaurs)
1995 (favoring universal extinction)
1997 (Karl Shuker)
2002 (”Skeptical Inquirer”)
2005 (favoring modern pterosaurs - Ica Stones)
The most recent publication referenced is one by Dr.
Dennis Swift, who is an expert on Ica Stones. Yet Dennis
Swift does not specialize in the investigations of
eyewitness accounts of living pterosaurs. Indeed, Mr.
Kuban’s web pages are outdated and of limited relevance
for a number of reasons including the following writings
which have taken place since 2005:
Four editions of “Searching for Ropens” . . .
Three editions of “Live Pterosaurs in America”
Another book on sightings in Australia & in PNG
“Big Bird” by Ken Gerhard (mostly re. Texas)
“Bird From Hell” by Gerald McIsaac (Canada)
Scientific paper (peer-reviewed) by Woetzel
Scientific paper (peer-reviewed) by Whitcomb
Over a thousand web pages by J. D. Whitcomb
Let’s look closer at Kuban’s comments about “anecdotes.”
He says, “Generally anecdotal evidence is not considered
a sound basis for firm scientific conclusions.” I appreciate
that observation, but what about insightful observations
and sound scientific reasoning and the most compelling
eyewitness testimonies in favor of a new idea? Should
scientists dismiss all that because the obvious conclusion
is contrary to long-standing assumptions? I say no.
Yet Kuban’s page appears to be constructed with one big
objective in mind: Find the most flimsy stories and the
least credible anecdotes and concentrate on shooting
them down, one by one.
He included one average-sized paragraph on what I had
written (on my old “Pterosaurs Still Living” site) about an
interview in which I had drawn something “in the sand.” I
appreciate his devoting part of a sentence to my findings
from my expedition in 2004, yet he quickly gets to the
conclusion of his paragraph by mentioning that I am not a
“realistic artist.” I have written a number of chapters, in a
number of books, on my expedition in Papua New Guinea
in 2004. Glen Kuban has written a lengthy web page, and
“expedition” is mentioned but twice (neither one in that
paragraph about my interview with a native).
I understand that Mr. Kuban first wrote his web page
around 2004, well before any of the many books and
recent online publications were written. Yet his most
recent copyright year on his page is “2013.” So why does
it appear that he has read nothing that I or any of my
living-pterosaur associates have written since 2005? If he
has read any of it, why has he kept quiet about it?
I was a forensic videographer when I traveled to Papua
New Guinea, with experience in interviewing people for
court trials, and I had learned, prior to my expedition,
some of the Tok Pisin language. In addition to my
personal interpreter, I had the help of Mark Kau, who
knew the local Kovai language of that area. I was not
compiling anecdotes but interviewing eyewitnesses.
Guessman and Woetzel, within weeks of my expedition,
interviewed other natives who were shown dozens of
silhouettes of birds, bats, and pterosaurs. Why did the
natives pass up silhouettes of bats and birds and choose a
pterosaur-silhouette? What is “anecdotal” about all of
those professionally-conducted interviews? Questioning
was organized and the answers were followed up with a
number of related questions. The answers were carefully
considered, objectively analyzed, and published.
More Comments about Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterodactyls?”
By Jonathan David Whitcomb, author of Searching for Ropens and Finding God
Why Ignore What is Most Important?
Mr. Kuban says, “. . . finding a living species of pterosaur
would be a monumental discovery . . .” but his web page
says nothing about the testimony of Duane Hodgkinson,
the World War II veteran who, in more recent years, was
a certified flight instructor. His eyewitness account of the
gigantic “pterodactyl” in New Guinea may be the most
important pterosaur sighting report of the 20th century.
To me, that omission, the glaring omission of the name of
Duane Hodgkinson, on such a long web page about
reports of living pterosaurs—that suggests Mr. Kuban has
either been neglectful in his research or has deliberately
avoided an extremely important avenue of evidence.
Kuban devotes about eight paragraphs to what Carl
Baugh has written or said, but that creationist has not
been in an expedition in Papua New Guinea since 1996.
My associates and I who have explored the jungles of that
southwestern Pacific nation more recently have avoided
many of the old mistakes of Carl Baugh, in my opinion. So
why has Kuban said so little about me and Garth
Guessman and David Woetzel and Paul Nation, compared
with what he said about Carl Baugh? All that comes to my
mind, in answer, is this: Perhaps it’s much easier to point
out old glaring mistakes than it is to tackle recent findings
that strongly point to the existence of living pterosuars, if
your objective is to cast doubt on the possibiity that the
old assumption about universal pterosaur extinction is
wrong. And just one species of living pterosaur destroys
the “universal” aspect of extinction.
Glen Kuban says nothing about the flange or “diamond”
that is reported at the end of long tails. After reading his
web page (”Living Pterodactls?”), who would guess that a
detailed compilation of the more-credible sighting reports
was done at the end of 2012 and that 28.5% of the 128
reports included a description suggesting that the flying
creature had a Rhamphorhynchoid-like tail flange?
Kuban says nothing about the report of ropen tail-
movement (similar to Rhamphorhynchoid tail mechanics).
Yet Guessman and Woetzel interviewed one native who
told them about the movement of the ropen’s tail, and
that description corresponds precisely with what modern
paleontologists know about how Rhamphorhynchoid tails
would have moved. Who could guess that anyone had
discovered such a correspondance from reading only what
Kuban had written in “Living Pterodactyls?”
That page says almost nothing about fish-eating habits of
ropens; only a short phrase in one sentence even hints
that flying creatures in Papua New Guinea might eat fish.
Why pay so little attention to fish-eating? That reported
diet of the ropen could destroy the credibility of a 230-
word paragraph in which Kuban tries to promote the idea
that the flying fox fruit bat can be misidentified as a
pterosaur. If that were the only evidence for a lack of
objectivity on the part of Mr. Kuban, my evaluation could
be set aside as speculative, but it’s part of a big picture.
“Living Pterodactyls” seems devoid of anything that might
promote any hope that any pterosaur might live in the
Southwest Pacific. Why dismiss years of labor, the costly
labor of those who have struggled to uncover the truth
about these recent reports in Papua New Guinea? We
have struggled through difficult trails in a harsh tropical
environment, searching for evidence and finding many
credible eyewitnesses. For those who disbelieve in our
conclusions, why seek to discredit years of work? Why not
allow for the possibility that we are on the verge of a
monumental discovery, in spite of our weaknesses?
If “Living Pterodactyls” were a short web page with no
reference list at the bottom, we might dismiss it as
shallow skeptical fluff, not worth giving it much notice.
But this looks like an article of close to 2700 words, at
least, with a reference list that can make it resemble a
scientific paper published in a journal. Put this in
perspective: Kuban’s web page may be about ten times
longer than an average web page, giving it an air of
thoroughness. But when compared with what’s written in
more than a thousand web pages (yes 1,000+) promoting
the plausibility of modern pterosaurs, it is tiny.
(Youtube) The World War II veteran Duane
Hodgkinson was interviewed by Garth
Guessman. D.H. described the huge flying
creature that he and his army buddy saw in a
jungle clearing in New Guinea in 1944.
Searching for Ropens and Finding God (4th ed)
Web site “Flying Creature” (nocturnal pterosaurs)
“A Brief Introduction to Living-Pterosaur
Investigations” (Youtube mini-documentary)
by cryptozoologist Jonathan David Whitcomb
A rebuttal to the fruit-bat misidentification conjecture
Answering a speculative conjecture about misidentifying bats for pterosaurs