Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 12) - Could the Siassi Islands in Papua New Guinea’s Morobe Province shed new light on prehistoric times?

Some, including American film maker Johathan Whitcome, would like to know the answer to this question.

Whitcomb, a "forensic videographer" recently arrived on Siassi hoping to see the "Ropen" – a huge flying creature reported to have features of a giant flying fox, with a mouth like that of a crocodile and wings that span up to 7 meters.

Whitcomb, who believes the creature is a dinosaur called "pterosaur," has been on Umboi Island, the main island of the Siassi Islands, trying to capture the creature on film.

He joins a long line of scientists who have visited the island over the years since sightings were reported on what experts believe is a rhamphorhynchus, a type of animal under the family name of pterosaur found during the times when dinosaurs walked the earth.

"Ropen" is the local Kowai (Siassi) name for the creature and is also the name known for the animal among the paleolontogy and the general scientific communities.

About seven years ago, another group of experts from an American university were on the island researching the animal.

Yesterday, Whitcomb and his local guide showed up at the Post Courier office in Lae to tell of his study.

He said the stories were not just myth but actual sightings of a real animal and he was there to try to capture it on film.

Whitcomb said the creature had features of a giant flying fox, with a mouth like that of a crocodile and wings that span up to 7 meters. It has been sighted by many of the islanders, he said, and he had traveled there after hearing about it.

Locals have told of how the luminous creature comes out in the night, flies toward the coast for feeding and how it liked feeding on the dead.

The website, - dedicated to the study of pre-historic animals - also mentions the Ropen and says the descriptions fit perfectly of a pterosaur.

The website also says a Carl E. Baugh, of the Creation Evidence Museum, had conducted two Ropen expeditions to New Guinea and had observed the creature through a monocular night scope as well as snapping a strange print in the sand the next morning.

"The Ropen is one of the most likely living pterosaurs," says another website, as it ran an artist impression of the creature based on the Siassi reports.

Fact box

Name: Rhamphorhynchus
Meaning: "Beak Snout"
Animal Type: Pterosaur
Lived: Late Jurassic period
Dietary Type: Carnivore: fish, insects
Size: Up to 2m wingspan
Up to 1m body length
Weight: Up to 20kg
Fossil Finds: United Kingdom, Ger- many and Tanzania

October 13, 2004

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