Believer finds legends profitable
Matt Moneymaker ,James "Bobo" Fay, Cliff Barackman, Ranae Holland, in Finding Bigfoot. Picture: Paul Souders/ Animal Planet.

American cryptozoologist Matt Moneymaker has gone home a happy man - he found a yowie during his trip to Australia. Well, to be precise, his team heard a yowie but, in the world of legendary animal hunting, that is a result.

Moneymaker is head of the Bigfoot Field Research Organisation and host of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot.

He has been a believer in the bigfoot legend since he was 11, even though he grew up in the Hollywood Hills where none of the creatures is ape-like and covered in fur.

The son of a lawyer, Moneymaker has both literature and law degrees and has worked for the US Navy as a webmaster so he has plenty of ways to earn a living other than as a bigfoot researcher. So why spend nights camping out in forests in a largely futile search for any sign of a legendary beast?

"I got interested in bigfoot when I was young and, just by chance, met someone who knew someone who had seen one," he said. "Even though I have those degrees and my family is a bunch of lawyers, I was always going to go in that direction.

"I grew up in Hollywood and there are lots of people there who did well for themselves because they helped pioneer something offbeat. You knew from a young age that if you helped bring forward something and turned it into a big popular deal then you could make a living off that and have a lot more fun than being a doctor or lawyer."

So Moneymaker set out to track down bigfoots, or sasquatches as they are known in North America. He came to Australia because of the similarity of sightings here. He believes that the yowie, like its North American cousins, is a type of upright walking primate.

"What they might be are survivors of a line of apes called Gigantopithecus, which was a giant cousin to the orang-utan. They were known to have lived thousands of years ago and thought to have died out in South-East Asia," he said.

"When sea levels were lower, it would have been easier for them to cross to Australia."

He said that Aboriginal people had legends of an ape-like creature and there were reports from the 1830s of yowies being seen by early settlers.

There were at least 300 good yowie witnesses in Australia and one to two people a month reported seeing or hearing something they thought was a yowie.

Of the four-person team on Finding Bigfoot, two have seen a bigfoot, including Moneymaker, who says he was once within 3m of one.

In Australia, the team searched for yowies in the timbered mountains along the coast in Qld and NSW.

"We were not expecting to catch (a yowie) and we thought it would be a long shot to be able to get any footage," he said. "It was enough to talk to the witnesses and to go out to those areas where they had been seen."

But members of the team recorded "vocalisations" that they don't think match those of any known animal and sound like calls they have heard in North America.

Moneymaker is now keen to come back and to zero in on where the yowie was heard.

Finding Bigfoot airs at 5.30pm on Tuesdays on Animal Planet. The Australian episode will screen early next year.

The West Australian

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