The english writer has been searching for the Orang Pendekin the jungle of Borneo since 1994. Along with British photographer Jeremy Holden, she engaged in a 15-year project beginning in the early 1990s and funded by Fauna and Flora International.
The scope of the project was to systematically document eye-witness accounts of the animal and to obtain photographic proof of its existence via camera-trapping methods. Debbie and Jeremy did not succeed in proving its existence (Martyr has since moved on to head TNKS’s Tiger Protection and Conservation Unit), but they collected several foot print casts that appear to be from Orang Pendek and claim to have personally seen the animal on several occasions while working in the forest. Some hairs samples have been found unconclusive so far.
"It was a gorgeous colour, moving bipedally and trying to avoid being seen. I knew there was something in the vicinity, because the action of birds and primates in the area meant that there was obviously something moving around. So I sent a guide around as far as I could to where the disturbance was. Whatever was concealed in the undergrowth would try to avoid my guide and move away in front of him. I was concealed, looking down over a small shallow valley. We didn’t know what we were going to see.
It could have been a bear, it could have been a tiger, it could have been a golden cat, or anything. Instead, a bipedal, non-human primate walked down the path ahead. It was concentrating so hard on avoiding my guide it didn’t look towards me. I had a camera in my hand at the time but I dropped it, I was so shocked. It was something so new my synapses froze up for a minute trying to identify something I hadn’t seen before."