According to a news story in The Borneo Post, an unknown animal recently attacked two men working on a farm.
The farmer said that the animal made a strange sound and rushed toward him, at one point standing on its hind legs. The reign of terror—or at least consternation—ended when the farmer, holding a sickle, promptly sliced the creature up. The animal was described as about two feet long, with a long, pig-like snout and long, sharp claws. It also gave off a horrible odor that got much worse after death.
A rare or unknown animal, as the news reports suggest?
Skeptics aren’t so sure. Sharon Hill, a writer at Doubtful News.com, points out that the photo and description “screamed badger” to her—specifically one type of small mammal native to the region, a Indonesian stink badger (Mydaus javanensis), which is related to skunks (hence the “stink” in the name and on the carcass). It matches the animal that attacked the men in nearly every detail.
Left unexplained is why the farmer and others could not identify the badger, though just because an animal is native to an area doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who lives there will recognize it. Many animals are nocturnal and avoid contact with people, or spend their lives in water or woods. Ornithologists can spend months or even years trying to spot birds well within their natural habitat ranges.
This phenomenon sometimes occurs in the United States, where a common animal has been mistaken for a mysterious or unknown species. Raccoons and opossums, for example, are common throughout North America, yet have been mistaken for monsters on several occasions—usually when stricken hairless with mange or when their decomposing carcasses have washed up on a beach.
Earlier this year a large Atlantic sturgeon washed up on a South Carolina beach, sparking speculation about a beached sea monster, and in 2011 a mangy fox was (briefly) mistaken for the mythical Hispanic vampire beast el chupacabra.
Face of a Badger (Corbis)
Stink badger (Zoo Club)