The Mapinguari is a reported form of presumed extinct ground sloth thought by some to still live in the jungles of South America, not to be mistaken for the Mapinguary which is a reported form of unknown hominid thought to inhabit the same region. The Mapinguari is generally thought to have died out around ten thousand years ago but survived as late as the 1500’s and may even still be thriving in the remote jungles of South America. These sandy red haired vegetarians emerged around 30 million years ago and, according to fossil records, roamed the North and South America, the Caribbean and Antarctica.
According to native folklore the creature has a series of unnatural characteristics related to other fantastic beings of Brazilian mythology. These include the creature only having one eye, long claws, caiman skin, backward feet and a second mouth on its belly. In more recent eyewitness accounts it has consistently been described as resembling either an ape or giant ground-dwellingsloth and having long arms, powerful claws that could tear apart palm trees, a sloping back, reaching heights of 7 feet when standing on its hind legs and is covered in thick, matted fur.
According to legend, it is slow but ferocious and very dangerous due to its ability to move without noise in the thick vegetation, surprising the unsuspecting locals. Accounts state that it gave off a putrid stench and emitted a frightening shriek, and that weapons such as arrows and bullets could not penetrate the Mapinguari’s alligator-like hide. Its only known weakness is that it avoids bodies of water, which limits its movements in a region where so many rivers, brooklets and lagoons exist (especially during the rainy season). It was believed to be carnivorous, as a 1937 report from central Brazil claimed a mapinguari had gone on a three-week rampage, killing over 100 cows and ripping out the tongues from their carcasses. However, in all accounts it did not eat humans, although when it smells the presence of people it stands up on its back feet, becoming as tall as two metres, a movement similar to grizzly bears.
The Mapinguari which is actually believed to be a species of Mylodon, a medium sized ground sloth, weighted about 500 pounds and stood up to 9 feet when standing on its hind legs. These large marsupials had very large claws that curled under their feet and faced backwards when they walked on all fours. They reportedly ate leaves and may have even been raised by local inhabitants at one time as a source of food, similar to today’ cattle.. The Mylodon was related to the modern, though much smaller, three toed sloth and two toed sloth. The existence of the Mapinguari went mainstream in 1994 when biologist David Oren told The New York times that the Amazonians were reporting sightings of this medium sized ground sloth; however he had no physical evidence to support his theory and as a result the scientific community still considers the Mapinguari, Mylodon, to be extinct.