South African Sasquatch
Native South African Roland Jaffe, 35, is on a mission. A University
graduate from Johannesburg with a degree in zoology, he immediately gravitated
to the field of cryptozoology, or the study of strange and scientifically
unknown animals. Early on in his career he was pursued by enigmatic
cryptozoology financier Mario Pellington (no photo available), who has
bankrolled his search for what has been described as the "African Bigfoot."
Unlike it's herbivorous American cousin, the "Waterbobbejan," as it's come to
be know in South Africa has been accused of terrorizing people (even killing
a few), as well as all kinds of livestock terror -- Ripping cattle, goats,
chicken, and anything else it could catch.
Roland Jaffe: African Wild Man Tracks the African Wildman
The name Waterbobbejan literally means "water baboon," and it has been
described as everything from pygmy sized to seven feet tall. Its fur is
sometimes red, sometimes as black as scorched earth. There are numerous
eyewitness sightings of the beast from the deep woods to the rural outskirts
of African cities.
I was able to interview Jaffe, the worlds preeminent expert on this subject,
over the phone in late April of this year.
D: What brought you to this kind of research?
J: Vanity I suppose. Vanity and stubbornness. When I was young my schoolmate
s frightened me with stories of the Waterbobbejan, and I fought back by
telling them I would defeat the beast one day. They all grew out of it and I
didn't. I read every book on the subject and ultimately began to learn about
zoology in general. As you can imagine, I didn't have too many dates when I
was in school!
D: You're married now, though.
J: My wife Nadine and I met at University, and even though she didn't know
about these creatures, I was able to teach her basically what I knew...
Colloquial stories, and frightened tribesmen. After we graduated, we went to
different parts of the continent and talked to natives, city dwellers. This
creature is all over the country in some form. The best known ones are
reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, and the Congo Basin. I've
heard stories in Namibia, Kenya, and as far north as Egypt.
J: I should probably leave it at that. It's part of our ongoing research at
the moment. I have to say I'm a bit skeptical about that one, though, but
you have to take them all seriously.
D: Did bigfoot build the pyramids, then?
J: (Laughs) Maybe, maybe. You never know with those big feet.
D: Tell me about Mario Pellington.
J: Not much for me to tell, really. I've never seen the man face to face.
I've spoken to him on the phone. What's there to say about Mister
Pellington? Deep pockets. He believes that some of these creatures exist.
I had to sign a contract with him telling him that whatever we find, it'll be
named after him. Homo Pellingtonus or Homo Marius or something like that.
He seems to be quite a character, financing all us kooks out there looking
for Waterbobbejans and Plesiosaurs. I think the man knows that eventually
one of us will succeed, and that'll be his gift to the world!
D: Have you ever seen one of these creatures yourself?
J: Not in the flesh, no. I've examined a genetic sequence taken from what
one witness claimed was a tuft of its fur. The sequence was similar to a
human's, with one extra chromosome. The fur itself was thick like a dog's.
I wish I could see one just once and know for sure it really exists! Then
maybe my life wouldn't feel like a potential waste of time (laughs).
D: Why do you think this creature doesn't seem to appear in the fossil
J: There are plenty of gaps in the fossil record. It is possible that this
animal has only been around as long as us, and the remains might be eaten or
god knows what. It is a good question, however, and one that does little to
bolster my arguments. I just refuse to believe that something so commonly
seen could be a figment of our species' imagination. I'll give you an
example: We went into a remote village near Tanzania. The natives there
had never seen white people. We showed them pictures of animals, illustrated
next to a human being for scale. We showed them a picture of a giraffe, and
they recognized it. We showed them zebras, Rhinos, apes, as well as animals
they never would have seen like Komodo Dragons and Camels. They did not
recognize these strange animals, but did recognize a picture of the
Waterbobbejan, known in that area as the "Agogue," pictured as an oversized
human with a pointed head, unusually long arms, and a thick coat of black fur.
D: Does that by itself convince you?
J: Not by itself, no. But in light of the other eye-witness sightings, I
think it begins to add up. I believe the thing is out there, and I will find
it if it is. If not, I'll eventually find something else to do like go back
into the jungle with pictures of dinosaurs!
"Tarzan need not apply," International Explorer Magazine, volume 5 issue 78,
International Explorer Press 1998
Interview with Roland Jaffe April 28, 1999
Photo credit Tessa Robison, Nadine Parks-Jaffe