Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, April 23, 2012

The "Savage" Man of Venezuela

The snow of the Andes regions run down its eastern slopes and joining the rainfall of the Equatorial region, feeds the great rivers of South America: the Amazon, the Paraná and the Orinoco. This area, a vast portion of the South American continent is covered in parts by the Amazon rain forest, and in others by immense wetlands, savannas or mountain ranges. It is the ideal place for a relict race of humans to hold out against modern men.

In my recent series of posts I have covered several of these hominids that have been reported since the first Europeans set foot in the area. They are deeply entrenched in the native’s lore and as such may have been based on fact, their “wild men” or “hairy jungle men” may be in fact their distorted view on our ancestors (H. erectus, the Neanderthals or even some other hominid race that moved out of the Old World and in to America).

My post on the Corupira led me to a source mentioning “savage men” in Venezuela. Today I will write about them, and, as usual go to the oldest known sources and not just copy and paste rehashed information of unknown origin.

The Wild man according to Gilij

Filipo Salvadore Gilij was an Italian jesuit priest (1721-1789), who lived in what is now Venezuela at missions set up along the Orinoco River. He lived in touch with the natives and learned their languages. He returned to Italy when Spain expelled the Jesuits from its American territories in 1767 and wrote an “Essay on American History...” which, in several volumes, deals with the natural and human history of the areas he visited.

In particular, he described the “Savage” or “Wild man” of the Orinoco. Below is the Italian language text of the part of his work that deals with this creature: [1]


A rough translation is the following:

In my history I said I had not met any Indians who told me that they had seen the “Savage” with their own eyes. But what did not happen over many years, happened recently when another missionary to whom I owe the following account.
At the Mission at the Falls of Aturi a child went into the jungle and with great pain to his relatives, did not return and though they searched for him. After 10 days the child reappeared, more dead than alive. The missionary called him in, gave him a substantial broth and heard the Indian boy’s account: The Savage took him by his hand and rescued him, took him to a cave in where he had food. On the the tenth day the food stash finished so the Savage went out to get more food, this gave Diego (the child’s name – James in English), the chance to return home. The boy was about ten years old. He said he was never left alone by the Wild man and that it was single, but gave no other details. He ignored or could not say what food the Savage ate. But being a wild animal, the abbot says a type of ape, I would believe it was fruit. But I cannot add more.

These Aturi Falls, or, as they are known in Spanish, “Raudal Ature” or Ature Rapids are located on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, close to the town of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela as can be seen in the map below:

mapa raudal Ature
Map showing the location of Ature Falls, home of the “Savage”.
Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

Humbold’s account (1800)

German explorer and scientist, Alexander Von Humboldt,(1769-1859) wrote about this creature. Between 1799 and 1801 he travelled around parts of Southern, Central and North America. He visited the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (current Colombia and Venezuela) in 1799-1800 and again in 1801.

It was during his first trip that he explored the upper Orinoco River reaching San Carlos in May 1800. It was during this trip that he passed by the Ature Rapids and wrote about the Savage. Below are his comments (full English language text can be seen following the link at [1] in our Sources):

It was among the cataracts that we began to hear of the hairy man of the woods called salvaje [Savage is the translation] that carries off women constructs huts and sometimes eats human flesh The Tamanacks call it achi and the Maypures vasitri or great devil The natives and the missionaries have no doubt of the existence of this anthropomorphous monkey which they singularly dread.
Father Gilij gravely relates the history of a lady in the town of San Carlos who much praised the gentle character and attentions of the man of the woods She lived several years with one in great domestic harmony and only requested some hunters to take her back because she was tired she and her children a little hairy also of living far from the church and the sacraments

Humboldt is skeptical as can be seen in the paragraphs that follow. Where he calls the story a “fable which the missionaries the European planters and the negroes of Africa have no doubt embellished with many features taken from the description of the manners of the ourang outang the gibbon the jocko or chimpanzee and the pongo” [2]

He noted that this “belief is particularly prevalent among the people such are the banks of the Upper Oroonoko [sic] the valley of Upar near the lake of Maracaybo the mountains of Santa Martha and of Merida the provinces of Quixos and the banks of the Amazon near Tomependa [2] and that if after centuries of Spanish occupation nobody had ever hunted one of these great monkeys. He suggested the following reasonable explanations:

  • The capuchin monkey with its human-like appearance originated the myth.
  • A bear. He writes: "It may be also and this opinion appears to me the most probable that the man of the woods was one of those large bears the footsteps of which resemble those of a man and which is believed in every country to attack women" [2]

Humboldt concludes with a piece of advice for those who might follow his steps and explore the upper Orinoco jungles: “ continue our researches on the salvaje or great devil of the woods and examine whether it be some unknown species of bear or some very rare monkey analogous to the simia chiropotes potes or siruia satanas that can have given rise to such singular tales”[2]. The monkeys he mentions is the Black Bearded Saki. For photographs of this monkey see below [3].

[1] Filippo Salvadore Gilij, (1784). Saggio di storia americana: o sia, Storia naturale, civile e sacra de'regni, e delle provincie spagnuole di Terra-Ferma nell' America Meridionale . L. Perego erede Salvioni, 1780. pp 315 note XXII.
[2] Alexander Von Humbodt and Aime Bonpland. (1827). Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799-1804. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown... and H. Colburn, pp 81+
[3] Photos of the Black Bearded Saki.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

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