As you know, we rarely stray into the realms of cryptozoology. But when reports emerge of a monstrous, Amazonian sloth that shows no fear and has the power to hypnotize its victims, we just can’t resist.
As it turns out, legends of the creature called the mapinguary (pronounced ma-ping-wahr-EE) have existed for centuries. Hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses have independently come up with very similar descriptions of the mapinguary, including members of different Indian tribes who have never had contact with one another. Could there be some truth to the rumors?
Eyewitnesses seem to agree on the animal’s appearance. These stamps, however, do not.
The descriptions are usually as follows- Large creature, over seven feet tall, emerges from the jungle and charges directly at witness. Creature is covered with thick, matted fur that repels arrows and emits a powerful, foul-smelling odor. Creature then hypnotizes witness who falls unconscious and awakes to find the creature is gone.
Many skeptics believe that the legends are remnants of human contact with the last megatheriums, giant, prehistoric sloths who walked the Earth tens of thousands of years ago and are believed to be the largest ever land mammals. Because many of the Amazonian Indian tribes have existed for millenniums without contact with the outside world, the skeptics believe that their tribal mythology still contains tidbits about long extinct animals.
As Peter Toledo, an expert on sloths at the Goeldi Institute, says in this article in the New York Times, “When you travel in the Amazon, you are constantly hearing about this animal, especially when you are in contact with indigenous peoples, but convincing scientific proof, in the form of even vestiges of bones, blood or excrement, is always lacking.”
Tell that to Geovaldo Karitiana, a member of the Karitiana tribe, who claims to have been accosted by a mapinguary three years ago. Or Domingos Parintintin, a tribal leader in Amazonas State, who is obviously a mapinguary expert. “The only way you can kill a mapinguary is by shooting at its head,” he says in the New York Times article, “But that is hard to do because it has the power to make you dizzy and turn day into night. So the best thing to do if you see one is climb a tree and hide.”