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Hunt For The Buru

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 15th, 2010

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Marc Miller is shown in the lower lefthand corner of this photograph, during one of his Yeti explorations of Nepal. The following is his October 27, 2008 article on the Buru.

Marc Miller is a psychologist with a practice in Lancaster, Ohio, and he has practiced neuropsychology for many years. He is a cryptozoologist, one who studies legendary animals, and has explored the world. This is his 30th year of expeditions, and he is sharing his latest adventure with local residents….

Miller is married to Fran, a real estate agent. His third book “Adventures in Cryptozoology” was published in 2008.

While I was sitting on the dock of my pond, reading Loren Coleman’s book, “Cryptozoology A to Z”, I came across a description of a prehistoric type of reptile in North India called the Buru.

Coleman is probably the most well-known current cryptozoologist. He has made many field expeditions, done extensive research and written several books.

The Buru is a large, unknown lizard thought by some to have lived in the remote valleys of the Himalayas of Assam in the northeast corner of India. Coleman further mentioned that the reptile was approximately 15 to 20 feet in length, aquatic by nature, and emitted hoarse bellowing calls. He mentioned that the journalist, Ralph Izzard, among others, had led an expedition in 1948 in search of the Buru.

Ralph Izzard is shown above with his book, “The Hunt for the Buru”, actually the now easily-obtainable 2002 edition, which contains a new introduction by Loren Coleman.

Izzard’s journal was later published as “The Hunt for the Buru” in 1951. Coleman also stated that they had failed to uncover any solid evidence of the creature. However, there was enough testimony from earlier encounters to persuade the father of cryptozoology, Bernard Heuvelman, that these lizards might be only recently extinct.

After reading about the Buru, I was excited to learn more, so I Googled the term. Wikipedia identified the Buru as an aquatic reptile living in the Ziro Valley of Arunachal Peradesh in Northeastern India. Professor Christopher Von Furer-Haimendorf was the first Westerner to be told about this reptile. It was thought at the time that Buru might have already gone extinct in the valley.

According to the Apatani elders, when their forefathers migrated from Tibet to the Ziro Valley, the valley was primarily a marsh that was populated by many Burus. The Apatani people decided to settle in the valley because of its fertility and good climate. However, on occasion, confrontations with the Burus presented a problem. As a result, the Apatani Indian tribe drained the marsh of its water and apparently might have eliminated the Burus. Most of the Burus died because of the drainage and many supposedly went underground into the springs.

The last Buru was reported by a young woman who sighted it in a spring one night while she was drawing water. It startled her and she told her father of the incident. The next day the whole village helped fill the spring with stones and clay.

There has been speculation that the Buru was an unidentified member of the crocodilia. However, the description of the Buru is more like a monitor lizard, with its characteristics, such as elongated neck and a forked tongue. The native name for the Komodo dragon is Land Crocodile.

Cryptozoologists, Bernard Heuvelman and Roy Mackal, regard the Buru to be a large Komodo dragon-like monitor lizard. There are fossils of such creatures to be found in the Indian subcontinent. This reptile was supposedly living in the dense forests and swamps of the Himalayas. Swamps certainly do not come to mind when thinking of this mountain range.

The Himalayas, overall, are tall, long and wide, forming a broad, continuous arc of nearly 16,000 miles along the northern fringes of the Indian subcontinent. They are divided into three parallel zones that differ greatly in topography.

First are the Great Himalayas, then the Middle Himalayas, and finally the Sub Himalayas. The Greater Himalayas consist of huge lines of snowy peaks, while the Middle Himalayas are primarily high ranges composed of pine trees.

The Sub Himalayas consist of foothills and long flat-bottomed valleys, known as duns. The home of the Burus was one of the valleys. The Apatani Valley is located in one of the world’s most isolated and seldom visited areas. In this swampy, spongy, isolated valley, rimmed by towering Himalayas, in the farthest reaches of Northeast India, these creatures lived and tales about them have been told by the Apatani and Dafla tribes living in the region. The tribes have handed down these tales in travel lore for generations.

Finally, in the 20th century, these tales came to the first Westerners. The name of the creature was called the Buru. It was said to be approximately 15 to 20 feet in length, with smooth skin and three rows of short blunt spines running down its sides and back. It has stumpy short legs about a foot and a half in length. The feet, which are heavily clawed, resemble the forefeet of a burrowing mole. It also has a lengthy powerful tail. The areas where this reptile was located are in remote northeast India, bordered by the nations of Bhutan, Tibet and Burma. This is a subtropical climate with extremely heavy rainfall. Much of the terrain is covered with dense, tropical forests of bamboo.

Professor Hainendorf, an anthropologist, who wrote about the Apatani tribesman and their isolated location in 1947, noted despite the altitude, their valley was swampy and thick-forested. The bottom of the valley, according to local tradition, was once a marshy swamp, inhabited by a lizard-like monster.

The first venturer into this remote part of the world to seek the Buru was a British zoologist named Charles Stonor. He made the first detailed report of the Apatani Valley in 1948, and it is still considered to be the best source of information about the area. Stonor wrote detailed accounts of the Apatani people – their land, their legends and the Buru. He interviewed approximately 30 tribesmen who described in very close detail the peculiar reptile. They also related a few stories at that time of human attacks. One included a hunter who, after threatening the Buru’s young, had been drowned when the mother stung him with its powerful tail.

After obtaining Izzard’s journal, I attempted to follow his exact expedition along with Stonor, starting in Assam and going up into Arunachal-Pradesh, India, which was once part of the large area of Assam. When Izzard initiated his expedition, all northeast area was considered to be Assam.

Izzard had many cryptozoological friends from his early school days. He was a lifelong friend of Ivan Sanderson, who was a very famous cryptozoologist. Sanderson had led expeditions in some of the most remote parts of the jungles in the world and had many interesting tales of a wide variety of animals. He was also a childhood friend of Gerald Russell, who was an explorer and cryptozoologist in the 1930s to the 1950s. They were both in Africa and came across a large creature later known as Mokele-Mbembe, which was considered a long necked dinosaur.

Izzard hoped that he would be able to return from his expedition with actual evidence or capture of the Buru. Other sightings of similar reptiles as the Buru have been seen in Bhutan, where the king had claimed to have actually seen something like a Buru many years ago. Heuvelmans noted during the 1980s the current sightings described animals similar to the Buru in another region of India. Loren Coleman, probably one of the most famous living cryptozoologists, thought the Buru might still be living near the same valleys that Izzard searched more than a half century ago.

Izzard mentions in his journal that, in 1948, news came of an extinct reptile that had been moving along the Himalayan border. After reading the accounts of Izzard’s journal, I was interested in finding information about the Sacred Brass Plates in the Apatani village. His expedition members were never permitted to view the plates.

“The search for the Buru and the Sacred Brass Plates” by Marc E. W. Miller, Eagle-Gazette, October 27, 2008.

Brent Swancer adds:

I tend to agree with the speculations of Heuvelmans and Mackal concerning the Buru being a type of large monitor lizard that has developed aquatic tendencies.

It seems to me that perhaps the Buru could be a type of monitor lizard that has developed a type of giganticism. This has happened before in many isolated species including monitors such as the Komodo dragon, which is an example of a process called island giganticism. Animals in an island ecology will typically evolve to be larger or smaller depending on certain ecological factors (this is known as Foster’s Rule). In situations where there is an absence of predators or significant competition in an island habitat, and especially when there are plentiful food resources, some animals can become significantly larger over time (In contrast to island dwarfism).

The impression I get from reading the article is that the valley the Buru is said to inhabit is very isolated, and surrounded by mountains. This is interesting to me because as far as island biogeography is concerned, any ecology isolated and surrounded by unlike ecologies can be considered an island. If this is the case with this valley, we could be essentially seeing island giganticism at work, and a similar situation to what happened in the evolution of the Komodo dragon. Also, since the Buru is said to be aquatic in nature, this would allow it to become even larger since its greater body weight would be supported by water.

The one thing that is still curious is the presence of those wicked digging claws. This seems more fitting with a predominantly terrestrial animal that does a lot of burrowing, digging, or things like rooting through tree stumps for grubs.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.

3 Responses to “Hunt For The Buru”

  1. dogu4 responds:

    Very interesting. Brent’s mention of the principle of island biogeography applied to isolalated populations. whether the island is literally surrounded by water or not (the sky islands of the southwest come to my mind) is very pertinent. I’m also reminded of Jared Diamond’s premise developed in Germs Guns and Steel regarding the special aspects of the physical geography of Eurasia’s central east west running mountains, which provides populations of all organisms a particularly well-suited and de-facto labratory of unparalleled range to act as the crucible of natural selection, which we see in the remarkable diversity expressed systematically across the landforms. It’s also interesting to observe that incredible landscape on google earth where one can more fully appreciate just how wild, unsettled (in the modern sense) and barely explored that vast region remains. Good stuff there.

  2. Kronprinz_adam responds:

    Buru has became one of my favorite cryptids!! I have my personal theory, that maybe the Buru was related with indian gharials….but of course, it is just a thought….

  3. Krimeg responds:

    I agree with Brett Swancer. The Buru could be one of the most derived monitor lizards with the Crocodile monitor. Its digging ability reminds me somewhat of a reptilian version of the Desmans.

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