"It has been called Bigfoot, Mawas, Giant Ape and even hantu jarang gigi (jungle ghost with few teeth). ... The fact is that reported sightings of the Malaysian Bigfoot go as far back as 50 years ago. It was first recorded in 1954 by a well-known American cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman.
In more recent times, travel and adventure writer Harold Stephens reportedly searched for the creature in what is claimed to be the first Bigfoot expedition in the Endau-Rompin jungles in the 1970s.
His group claimed to have found giant footprints measuring 30cm in length and half that in width on a sandbar near a river. He said his group's discovery attracted a great deal of publicity back in 1971.
So far, most of the eyewitness accounts describe the creature as between 2m and 3.6m tall with red eyes and dark brown fur all over its body.
Bigfoot, which is also popularly known as Mawas, is regarded as a peace-loving creature with a keen sense of smell and will shy away from people.
The recent decision by the Johor Government to form a special research committee and launch expeditions to track down the elusive creature shows that the Bigfoot mania has also grabbed the attention of local politicians.
The group mounted its first six-day expedition through the Johor National Park Corporation (JNPC) at the end of last month. Another full-scale scientific expedition comprising state government officials and other researchers will be held next month.
On the commercial front, the Bigfoot mania has created jobs for locals around the Endau-Rompin area. Some are now working as tour guides, and others are renting out their boats and camping gear to those who want to explore the jungles. In no time there might even be "Bigfoot Safari" packages offering visitors a chance to look for their favourite Bigfoot in the dense forests of Johor.
The discovery of Bigfoot's fur will surely be a shot in the arm for the state's tourism industry, which saw a 26% drop for the first nine months of last year to 8.8 million visitors. It recorded 11.8 million tourist arrivals in 2004."