A Word From the Chairman

Few subjects, it seems, produce as much controversy among those with an interest in the wood ape phenomenon as the documentation question. The NAWAC has proceeded for years with the conviction that suitably compelling video and/or photo evidence can suffice to establish the existence of an unknown species of primate in North America. This is the rationale behind the NAWAC’s Operation Forest Vigil. However, images alone cannot form the basis for naming or officially classifying a new species. A type specimen is required.

Unfortunately, regarding the question of obtaining a specimen, a spirit of elitism seems to separate those with differing opinions into irreconcilable, mutually dismissive, camps. Although there have probably always been individual members of the NAWAC who supported the concept of shooting or capturing a wood ape, the organization did not ever publicly advance the idea of collecting a type specimen and was generally viewed as supporting a “no-kill” position.

In the wake of a recent NAWAC internal poll indicating overwhelming approval of the membership regarding the collection of a type specimen, the Board of Directors addressed the documentation issue anew. While stressing that Operation Forest Vigil remains the organization’s priority undertaking, the Board decided, after some months of discussion, to adopt a position of neutrality; that is, while the organization will not have as its stated objective the pursuit of a type specimen, it will not stand in opposition to individuals—within or outside the NAWAC—or groups supporting and/or actively pursuing efforts to obtain a specimen.

This should not be taken as an indication that the NAWAC will sponsor or approve large-scale “hunts" in the fashion of some groups. Within the organization, protocols regarding firearms in the field are now stricter than they have ever been: anyone wishing to carry a firearm on a NAWAC operation must be well-trained and legally licensed. The safety of NAWAC members is a paramount concern.

Speaking now outside of my Chairman role, as a field biologist I have always indicated that I supported collecting a specimen for documentation and study, although I have not personally pursued that objective. I don’t think wood apes are people. Biologists are trained to think in terms of, and to care about, populations. Collection of a voucher specimen is a way of protecting the population, from my perspective. It is not immoral, even if there are those who disagree for various emotional reasons. Since this would be a new species to science, there is little question but that a specimen is justifiable. Here’s a link to guidelines and policies that have been worked out in the scientific community regarding the collection of voucher specimens.

Hopefully this note provides some clarity regarding the perspective attained by the NAWAC Board of Directors; it does not represent a modification of the organization’s mission statement: “To investigate and conduct research regarding the existence of the unlisted primate species we refer to as the wood ape, also known as the sasquatch or bigfoot; to facilitate scientific, official and governmental recognition, conservation, and protection of the species and its habitat; and to help further factual education and understanding to the public regarding the species, with a focus mainly in, but not necessarily limited to, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.”

Alton Higgins
Chairman, NAWAC

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