The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Bogus “Borneo Monster”

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 2, 2009

I saw a recent news story on about the supposed discovery of what is being called the “Borneo Monster” – apparently, this critter is supposed to be a 100-foot long snakelike creature that inhabits the Baleh River in Borneo. Already, some photos that are claimed to have been released by villagers along the river are all the buzz on the Internet. Below are the photos in question…

borneo monster 1

borneo monster 2

While the cryptozoology community (the pseudoscientists who make bogus claims about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and so on) is all a-twitter about this “discovery”, the skeptical community (including Ben Radford, the author of the above article) is busy tearing the photographic “evidence” to shreds. For an excellent analysis of these Borneo Monster claims, take a listen to the Feb. 26th podcast from the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

I just wanted to give my quick thoughts on these photographs:

1) Note the first photo does not include any mention of scale, so I did a little digging on Google Earth. From that analysis, it seems the claim that this “monster” is 100-feet long is completely bogus. In the first photo, the greenery on the banks of the river is most likely made of trees, so this would make the creature of a very large scale; in addition, looking at Google Earth I saw the width of the Baleh River itself was much larger than 100-feet in most places. Thus, the “monster” in the photograph would have to be much larger than 100-feet long, more like 500 to 1000 feet by my estimates!

2) The second photograph was supposedly of the same creature, but it is inconsistent with the first photograph. I say this because the first photo shows what is most likely an animal that is about 500-1000 feet long, whereas the second photo is more consistent with the 100-foot claims. Not to mention, in the second photograph there doesn’t appear to be any disturbance of the water whatsoever due to the presence of the “monster”. In a river where the water is flowing, you could expect to see something like ripples, waves, or froth if something that big were oriented in the river as shown – yet we see nothing of the kind in this photo.

3) A recent discovery of the remains of an ancient snake, called Titanoboa, showed the largest such creature was about 45 feet long. The largest known snakes in existence today are about 33 feet in length, and it is believed by the scientific community that the conditions (temperature, humidity, etc) on our planet now simply are not sufficient to allow larger snakes to survive. In the past, around 58-60 million years ago, when Titanoboa lived, the conditions were right for many species to grow to enlarged size by today’s standards. But those conditions don’t exist today, and even if they did the notion that a 100-foot long snake could survive is extremely implausible.

4) If these photos are the real thing, then why hasn’t anyone else found any other evidence of such a large, land-dwelling beast? Wouldn’t you think that massive piles of shedded snake skin (or, for that matter, poop), tracks in the forests from this thing knocking over vegetation, or other evidence would be easily noticeable? Not to mention, what could such a creature possibly eat in order to stay alive?

In my opinion, these photos are most likely faked, and I also find it is no surprise to hear these tall tales just a couple of weeks after the announcement of Titanoboa’s discovery.

In conclusion, based on this analysis, I think the most plausible explanation for the supposed “Borneo Monster” is the imagination of those villagers along the Baleh River. That region of Indonesia is home to many large snakes, such as shown in the video below…

That fact, coupled with the firing of people’s imaginations at the news of Titanoboa, likely led to this bogus “Borneo Monster” story. It’ll be interesting to see how long this tall tale sticks around, or if it gets even taller as time goes on.

One Response to “Bogus “Borneo Monster””

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