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Media Article # 297

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Univ. of Iowa Prehistoric Ape Expert to Appear in [ BFRO ] Documentary

By Heather Woodward
Iowa City Press-Citizen

A University of Iowa paleoanthropologist, who is internationally known for his research on a pre-historic giant ape, will appear on a one-hour Discovery Channel special this fall.

A Discovery Channel crew visited campus Monday to interview Russell Ciochon, a UI anthropology professor who is an expert on Gigantopithecus. The giant, gorilla-like creature is expected to have lived between 125,000 and 700,000 years ago in southern China and northern Vietnam.

The one-hour Discovery Channel special titled, "Legend Meets Science," will pit scientific evidence against the ongoing mystery of Saskwatch [sic.], a hairy, apelike creature that some say they have seen but has never been proven to exist. An exact date has not been set for the program.

"(Ciochon) will open the show, and he will establish that at one time a giant ape was produced on this earth," said Doug Hajicek, the show's producer and director. "There's a lot of interest in (the Saskwatch) phenomenon, but I think there's a scientific explanation, and there's been no effort to the science to work."

Ciochon, 54, has been interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation, National Geographic, and has written articles featured in international nature journals. However in the past, Ciochon has said no to documentaries that would have related his research to Saskwatch. But he said the premise of the Discovery Channel show seemed well thought out and balanced.

"I'm studying a real ape that existed," Ciochon said Monday. "I don't want to play the role of the skeptic. But these guys are more about telling the story from different perspectives."

Nicknamed Giganto, the giant ape's tooth was first discovered by a German paleontologist, Ralph von Koenigswald, in 1935.

Since then more than 1,000 teeth have been found as well as three jaws. Because a primate's size can be derived by measuring the creature's first molar, Ciochon and reconstructor Bill Munns have been able to construct a life-sized version of what Giganto may have looked like.

"I was absolutely shocked at the size of this Giganto," Hajicek said.

Ciochon, who has worked at UI since 1987, published a popular book on Giganto in 1989 titled, "Other Origins." The book propelled Ciochon's name across the globe.

Having run two expeditions searching in southeastern Asia for more Giganto remains, Ciochon said Monday he likely would refocus his research on the giant ape in the future.

"We may go back," he said. "I want to make a discovery."


Photo caption text:
Dr. Russell L. Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist and UI professor of anthropology, watches as director Doug Hajicek and cameraman Steve Kroschel of Whitewolf Entertainment discuss the set up for an interview they are doing as a co-production with the Discovery Channel. Press-Citizen/Matthew Holst

BFRO Commentary:

The Discovery Channel production mentioned in this article is the upcoming documentary about the work of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. The show's director, Doug Hajicek, is also an organizational director for the BFRO.

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