TURA, India (AFP) - Claims by terrified villagers that "bigfoot"-type hairy giants are roaming the jungles of India's remote northeast have prompted authorities to order an investigation, a local official said.
The bizarre sightings have been made in the Garo hills area of Meghalaya state, close to the borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan, with villagers calling the mysterious creatures "Mande Burung" -- or Jungle Man.
"A team of wildlife officials and other experts will conduct a study to find out if there is any truth in the locals' claims about these hairy giants," said Samphat Kumar, a district magistrate in the West Garo Hills district.
The creatures have apparently been talked about and occasionally spotted for years, but sightings have increased in the past month, prompting authorities to look into the matter.
One local farmer, 40-year-old Wallen Sangma, said he had seen an entire family of the creatures -- possibly a lowland relative of the Himalayan Yeti, or a cousin of the North American bigfoot and Sasquatch, or Australia's Yowie.
"The sight was frightening: two adults and two smaller ones, huge and bulky, furry," he told an AFP reporter who visited the remote area on Thursday and Friday.
"Their heads looked as if they were wearing caps, and their colour was blackish-brown," he said, adding the four "monsters" were about 30 to 40 metres (100 to 130 feet) away from him as he looked for firewood in a forested area.
"The four of them quietly vanished into the undergrowth," he said of the recent sighting.
One Garo Hills group, the Achik Tourism society, has been trying to verify the creature's existence for the past 10 years, photographing footprints and "nests" reported by locals.
The group claims to have hair samples of the creature taken from the forest and will send them for DNA testing