AN unknown species of Indonesian ape could shed light on how our human ancestors began to walk erect. The orang-pendek of Sumatra is said to be a powerfully built ape that walks on two legs like a man. Both native people and western explorers, including

AN unknown species of Indonesian ape could shed light on how our human ancestors began to walk erect.

The orang-pendek of Sumatra is said to be a powerfully built ape that walks on two legs like a man. Both native people and western explorers, including two noted scientists, have reported the creature from the deep jungle.

This week four English scientists and explorers will brave the rainforest in search of the orang-pendek.

The team from the Woolsery-based Centre for Fortean Zoology, will spend two weeks in Sumatra working with the Kubu people, the island's original inhabitants, who will help them track the mysterious ape.

The expedition comes shortly after the announcement of the discovery of a fossil hominid in Georgia. The Dmansis hominids lived 1.8 million years ago and had legs like modern humans, but primitive arms. Their early occurrence has made scientists rethink how hominids moved out of Africa to colonise the rest of the world.

Richard Freeman, the team's zoologist, said: "It was once thought that our ancestors became bipedal when they descended from the trees and moved onto the grass lands of East Africa in order to exploit new food sources. However, now it seems that many apes and hominids were moving 'bipedally' while they were still rainforest dwellers.

"As well as being a major zoological discovery, the orang-pendek could give us some clues on how bipedalism developed."

The group's trip will be recorded on the Centre for Fortean Zoology's website at

www.cfz.org.uk