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Tratratratra Coudray

The tratratratra (French: trétrétrétré) was a cryptid originally reported from southern Madagascar. Reported by early French visitors to Madagascar, and distinguished by its human-like face, it has attracted interest from cryptozoologists and mainstream zoologists alike as a possible late-surviving giant lemur such as Palaeopropithecus. More recent sightings of giant lemurs in the north and east of the island have been lumped together with the tratratratra.

Attestations[]

In his work Histoire de la Grande Isle de Madagascar (1658), the French Governor of Madagascar Admiral Étienne de Flacourt (1607 – 1660) recorded "scrupulously accurate" descriptions of a number of Malagasy animals, including three now often identified with subfossil species; the vorompatra, antamba, and tratratratra, the last of which he believed resembled the tanacht, a creature of unknown provenance.

Trétrétrétré or tratratratra, is an animal the size of a two-year-old calf, with a round head and a human face; its forefeet are like those of a monkey and its hindfeet likewise. It has a frizzy coat, short tail, and ears resembling those of a man. It resembles the tanacht described by Ambroise Paré. It has been seen near the pool of Lipomami in whose vicinity it has its haunts. It is a very solitary animal, greatly feared by the people of those parts, who flee from it as it flees from them.

"Lipomami" or "Lipomamy" is now regarded as the name of a local tribe rather than a body of water, but the region was probably in the southeast of the island, between Fort-Dauphin and Berenty. A village named Lypoumami also existed near Fort-Dauphin, in the approximate location of the modern village of Fanjahira. Given that Malagasy peoples often name lemurs after their vocalisations, Elwyn L. Simons theorises that the name tratratratra was onomatopoeic, representing an alarm bark similar to that of the indri (Indri indri) or Milne-Edwards's sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi): if so, then as noted by primatologist Alison Jolly, "its name was what the human hunters heard as the frightened tretretretre watched them coming with their spears."

During the 1990s, Fortean researcher and cryptozoologist Arnošt Vašíček travelled to northern Madagascar, where he collected accounts of giant lemurs seen in recent times. Vašíček referred to these animals as tre tre tre, and they have been lumped together with the tratratratra.

Sightings[]

1932–1933[]

Alison Jolly interviewed a retired French forester, a Monsieur Andrault, who claimed to have seen a giant lemur near Perinet, close to what is now Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, in 1932 or 1933. While hunting in the forest, he suddenly came upon an enormous lemur, resembling an indri, but significantly larger, clinging to the trunk of a bushy tree. Observing from around 7–10 m (22–32 ft) for some five minutes, Andrault described it as about 1 m 25 cm (4 ft 1 in) on its hind legs, tailless, with the black-and-white fur of an indri, but a very robust build, particularly around the shoulders and arms: he used the words "squat," "robust," and "heavy-set". Its black face was flattened, rather than muzzled as in most lemurs; when he saw a picture of a gorilla some time later, Andrault saw a close resemblance, although he had originally thought that the lemur had the "face of one of [his] ancestors".

After Andrault and the lemur watched eachother for five minutes, he stepped forwards, prompting it to leap away on its hind legs. When it did so, it held its arms "up and out from his shoulders, hands a little above shoulder height," using its hands for support whenever it landed. After four or five leaps and landings, it disappeared into the forest; Andrault was struck by its agility, despite its bulk. Jolly and her friends were inclined to credit the story, and Jolly did not absolutely rule out the possibility that the tratratratra still survived even in 1980, when she published Andrault's account.

1991[]

Arnošt Vašíček collected a sighting which allegedly occurred in the foothills of the Tsaratanana Mountains, in northern Madagascar, in 1991. Two Betsimisaraka men were camped out in the forest at night when their food attracted an animal to their campfire, initially revealing itself only by "an intense animal odour," heavy breathing, and tongue clicking.

After a long time they could recognise a large body with broad shoulders and rather small, pointed head, where the light was turning into a shadow. The giant was over two metres tall. It had long, strong arms. It was gangling and did not move, as it was unsure whether to come closer or run away. The fire did not seem to frighten it. It was rather the presence of people which made him wonder-struck and unsure. The Betsimisarakas could not see its face, but they had the feeling, as they admitted later, that they were being observed by the tratratratra with curiosity.

After an indeterminate period of time, the men overcame their fear and tossed some foot towards the lemur, which disappeared when the fire died down. Another sighting allegedly occurred, at an undisclosed time, by the Masora River, which flows through a lightly wooded plain on the central east coast of the island. Vašíček was told that a group of girls had seen a giant lemur enter the river, possibly while trying to cross the water or wash itself, and become caught in the strong current. It was dragged downstream until it managed to grab onto a boulder near the girls, revealing a "face with broad flat nose and protracted jaws" and "deep eyes under big brow ridges ... full of fear." The lemur's distressed wailing scared the girls, who returned to their village, where local shaman organised a rescue party. However, when they arrived at the Masora, the lemur had disappeared.

Theories[]

Since the first giant lemur subfossils were discovered in the late 19th Century, it has been suggested that Flacourt's tratratratra was a contemporary description of a late-surviving example of one of these animals, all of which are believed to have gone extinct more than 500 years before the present. Initially, it was often identified with Megaladapis, one of the best-known and earliest-discovered of the giant lemurs, an identification supported by some zoologists into the late 20th Century. However, Megaladapis possessed a distinctive and very large snout which may have supported a bulbous nose or even a proboscis, and certainly would not have been described as having a human face.

Bernard Heuvelmans and Elwyn Simons have extensively argued that the best candidate for the tratratratra is a species of the arboreal sloth lemur Palaeopropithecus. Unlike Megaladapis, Palaeopropithecus had a roundish skull, and its forward-facing eyes and small face could make it appear more human-like. Furthermore, Flacourt had described the hair of the tratratratra as curly, frizzy, or wavy, a characteristic found mainly in the indriids, to which Palaeopropithecus is believed to have been closely related. Based on a subfossil sacrum discovered in 1983, it is also thought that sloth lemurs must have possessed very short tails; they may also have been adept at both leaping and climbing, as Andrault reported of his giant lemur. Simons notes that Palaeopropithecus was not quite as large as the calf-sized tratratratra, but suggests that this discrepancy can be explained by a combination of exaggeration, and the small size of Malagasy cattle. Some studies of Palaeopropithecus subfossils have yielded radiocarbon dates of around 1407 to 1567, only a century before Flacourt's time, although most remains are much older.

Although this is the most widely-accepted theory, some cryptozoologists contest the identification with Palaeopropithecus. Dale A. Drinnon suggests that the large and gorilla-like Archaeoindris is a better fit for the tratratratra, a theory previously supported by Louis Lavauden. Karl Shuker argues that the snout of Palaeopropithecus, though not so large as that of Megaladapis, is still too pronounced to be described as human-like. Shuker's preferred candidate is the smaller Hadropithecus, a "monkey lemur" or "baboon lemur" which had a flat, ape-like face, and which may have had a more terrestrial lifestyle. Hadropithecus and its relative Archaeolemur are also candidates for the kidoky, another cryptozoological giant lemur.

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