In Papua New Guinea, and in surrounding countries in that part of the world, the flying fox fruit bat, with many species, is prevalent. Some of those bigger “Old World” bats may attain wingspans of over four feet, really big for a bat. But what does the flying fox bat have to do with modern dinosaurs and pterosaurs? It’s in a critical objection that is common, a suggestion from critics that sightings of living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea are just misidentifications of that fruit bat.
So why don’t we examine a couple of eyewitness sighting reports, putting this misidentification conjecture to the test? Many sightings could be included here, reports of encounters in Papua New Guinea and in Australia. Two should suffice: Duane Hodgkinson’s 1944 sighting west of Finschhafen and Gideon Koro’s sighting at Lake Pung.
Both Hodgkinson and Koro have been interviewed by American cryptozoologists or other investigators: Hodgkinson by Jonathan Whitcomb and Garth Guessman, Koro by James Blume and Jonathan Whitcomb. Both eyewitnesses were shown to be credible, with numerous reasons to believe that they had actually experienced encounters similar to the ones that they had described.
Before looking into their testimonies, however, we need to look at the tail of the flying fox. Actually, there’s not much to look at. If any species of fruit bat has any tail, it is short, sometimes maybe only a fraction of an inch long. That is important to realize: No flying fox has any tail whose length can be measured in terms of feet.
Hodgkinson, an American World War II veteran, was stationed on the mainland of New Guinea in 1944; he described the creature in detail: It had a wingspan similar to that of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane (around twenty-nine feet); it had a long pointed head crest, a long beak-like mouth, and a long neck. Important is another description: The tail was “at least” ten or fifteen feet long, yes, 10-to-15-FEET long. It was obviously no flying fox fruit bat.
Now we compare that with the description given by Gideon Koro. The young man lives in a remote village on Umboi Island, but he was only a boy (maybe in his early teens at the oldest) when he and his six friends climbed up to Lake Pung, the crater lake near their village. Within only a few minutes, a giant flying creature came down, flying just over the lake’s surface. It had a “mouth like a crocodile” and a tail. Whitcomb asked him how long that tail was. He hesitated, looking back and forth at the ground to make an estimate; he then said, “seven meters” (twenty-two feet). It was obviously no flying fox fruit bat.
Those two eyewitnesses had no association with each other. The descriptions, the details of the features on giant flying creatures, are similar, shockingly similar. In addition, their testimonies were collaborated individually, without need to refer to the other testimony.
Hodgkinson’s army buddy was with him when the giant “pterodactyl” flew out of the jungle clearing; Koro’s six friends were with him when the “ropen” flew over the crater lake. In fact, Whitcomb interviewed two of Koro’s friends, just a few minutes after he had interviewed Koro (Whitcomb expedition, Umboi Island, 2004).
Other things distinguish the long-tailed pterosaur (called “ropen” on Umboi) from the flying fox bat: bright glowing flight, taste for fish, hanging upright from a tree trunk; the flying fox does not glow brightly when it flies around, and it does not eat fish, and it hangs upside-down from tree branches. Yet it is the size difference that is most telling in these two feather-less flying creatures of the night.