The Orang Bati is a cryptid from the folklore of Indonesia.
The cryptid is a ferocious winged monkey- or bat-like creature supposedly native to the forested mountains of Seram (Ceram), the largest island in the Maluku (Moluccas) archipelago of eastern Indonesia, Southeast Asia.
Reports have also come from Ambon, another mountainous and forested island, part of the Maluku archipelago of Indonesia.
The creature allegedly terrorizes villagers through night raids. According to folklore, it swoops down from above and carries off infants and children to devour them.
Cryptozoologists compare the Orang Bati to other alleged winged predators, such as the Ahool of Western Java, the Kongamato of Zambia, the Oliatiu of Cameroon, and the Ropen of New Guinea.
Descriptions of the Orang Bati are similar to the Ahool of the Indonesian island of Western Java. Some believe it is the same creature or a variety of the same.
In the native language of the Seram island, the name (Orang Bati) reportedly means winged or flying man.
The Orang Bati lives in mountainous forests
Alleged eyewitness accounts describe the Orang Bati as a fierce flying primate that lives in caves on the sides of the forested mountains of Seram.
The central parts of Seram Island have rugged mountainous terrain with dense montane rainforests, part of the Manusela National Park. The mountain range reaches its peak at Mount Binaiya (9,905 feet).
Sightings have also been reported in the mountains around Kairatu in western Seram, such as Gunung Loinurui, Sela, and Nalahatai.
The Orang Bati eats infants and young children
Natives describe the Orang Bati as resembling a monkey with wings. However, some eyewitness accounts described it as a bat-like beast or a species of giant bat unknown to science.
Some cryptozoologists said it was a humanoid cryptid (George Eberhart, 2002).
Although natives offer contradictory descriptions or characterizations of the cryptid, most agree it is a winged mammal resembling a bat or a flying monkey. It is a black creature about 5 feet tall. It has large membranous wings that span about 5 feet, reddish or dark skin, and a long, wispy tail.
The Orang Bati is thus similar to the dreaded Ahool of Western Java. Like its Javanese cousin, it produces a howling or wailing call when passing overhead.
Seram natives fear the Orang Bati because they believe it is a man-eating creature. Folklore claims the Orang Bati conducts nocturnal raids on rural village communities. It swoops down silently in the dark over unsuspecting villagers, snatching infants and young children to feed on them.
Sightings and Tales
The natives have shared legends about the Orang Bati for generations.
European travelers and Christian missionaries who visited the island learned about the Orang Bati from locals. The villagers told them terrifying stories of the depredating nocturnal raids of the vicious creature.
Tyson Hughes, 1986
According to Karl Shuker in The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World’s Last Undiscovered Animals (2003), a European tropical agriculturist Tyson Hughes, visited the island in June 1986.
Hughes was participating in a humanitarian project with the not-for-profit organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) but became interested in the folklore of Seram. The natives told him about the Orang Bati.
Some online sources claimed that Hughes did not believe the stories until after he sighted the creature. But Shuker’s account did not say he sighted it.
Seram Island has a very diverse fauna. The dense mountainous regions support various unique mammals, such as the Moluccan flying fox, the Seram flying fox, the Large Flying Fox, and the Seram Bandicoot (Rhynchomeles prattorum).
Others include the spiny Ceram rat (Rattus feliceus) and the Manusela mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys fraterculus).
Some skeptics believe that stories about the Orang Bati might be exaggerated accounts of some of these creatures.
The favorite candidates for the Orang Bati include
The Moluccan flying fox
The Moluccan flying fox (Pteropus chrysoproctus) is an example of a megabat.
Megabats are fruit bats belonging to the family Pteropodidae.
Megabats belonging to the genus Pteropus (such as the Moluccan flying fox) and genus Acerodon (such as the Sulawesi flying fox, A. celebensis) are known as flying foxes because they have fox-like faces.
They are known as megabats because they include some of the largest bat species, with some having wingspans exceeding 5.5 feet.
They have clawed second digits and tails. Many species are well suited for flying due to hearts and lungs capable of sustaining high oxygen consumption rates.
The Moluccan flying fox or Ambon flying fox is native to the forests of Seram, Ambon, and Buru islands of the Maluku archipelago.
However, unlike the legendary Orang Bati, which supposedly lives in caves in mountainous forest regions, the Moluccan flying fox lives in low-lying forests.
Widespread hunting by the natives and human encroachment involving rampant logging has degraded their natural habitats in recent years and drastically reduced their population.
The Moluccan flying fox eats fruits, nectar, pollen, flowers, seeds, and leaves. Thus, they are unlike the legendary carnivorous Orang Bati that allegedly eats human infants and children.
The Seram flying fox
The Seram flying fox (Pteropus ocularis), also known as the Seram fruit bat, is another species of megabat. The species is native to the mountainous forests of Seram, Buru, and Ambom islands in the Maluku archipelago.
It lives in Seram’s Manusela National Park but recently became rare on Ambon island. Some wildlife experts believe the species might have gone extinct on Ambon.
The population decreased due to widespread hunting and logging that degrades their natural habitats.
Although Seram flying foxes are native to the mountainous forests of the Maluku islands, they do not fit accounts of the legendary Orang Bati primarily because they are not predatory.
Folklore describes the Orang Bati as a fierce predator that attacks people and carries infants off to devour them. However, the Seram flying fox is a frugivore (fruit eater). According to ecologists, the bast’s frugivorous lifestyle means it plays a role in the dispersal of pollen and seeds.
The large flying fox
The large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) is the largest species of megabat native to the Maluku island. The natives call the creature Kalong. Other names include the Malayan flying fox.
Although scientists named it Pteropus vampyrus, it does not feed on blood. It is a fruit bat that also feeds on nectar and flowers.
Like other members of the genus Pteropus, the large flying fox has a dog- or fox-like face. But while the legendary Orang Bati supposedly has a tail, the large flying fox is tailless.
Parents may have invented Orang Bati to scare children
Many skeptics believe Orang Bati stories are only exaggerated accounts of Indonesian megabats.
Claims that the Orang Bati carries off young children could be part of a cross-cultural pattern in which parents tell scary monster stories to make children behave.
Nat Geo’s Man v. Monster invested Orang Bati
Season 2, Episode 4 of the Nat Geo Wild documentary series Man v. Monster, titled Winged Assassin, investigated the legend of the Orang Bati.
In the episode that aired in November 2012, show host Richard Terry traveled to Seram to interview natives and went into the bush in search of the creature.
After an excursion into the forest, Terry concluded that the legendary Orang Bati was the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus). The creator is not big enough to carry off infants.
But the natives were correct in their belief that the creature could cause death. The flying fox’s saliva may transmit potentially deadly viruses.
Where to find
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart (2002).
The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World’s Last Undiscovered Animals by Karl Shuker (2003).
https://seasia.co/xhr/render/article/indonesia/stunning-footage-of-strange-sea-creature-in-the-waters-of-northern-bali/1531955160/1, “Unknown Creature: Indonesia’s Winged Man,” accessed on March 29, 2023.
Featured Image: The Orang Bati is a ferocious flying mammal that resembles a monkey or a bat. It is native to Seram Island, Indonesia. Pic credit: Pixabay.