He is called Wawa Grande by the indigenous people living in the Cajas Mountains west of Cuenca. He was called the Monstruo de las Cajas in a 1997 German magazine article.
A Quito television station reported three weeks ago that two British hikers and their tour guide spotted the elusive creature in Cajas National Park during a three-day trek. The trio claimed to have observed the over-sized humanoid animal for several minutes in a remote area of the park in early April.
“I have no idea what it was other than to say it was quite large, with light colored fur and had human characteristics. It was able to stand on two legs but also came down on all fours,” said Sean Worthington, one of the hikers. He added: “I am a scientist by training and not prone to make fanciful claims, but I cannot deny seeing the thing.”
Worthington and his companion, Roger Chrisma, and the guide, reported that they watched the creature for several minutes from a distance of about 100 meters. Worthington said they took pictures but don’t know whether they will release them to the media.
It is the first publicly reported Wawa Grande sighting since 2008 and 2009, when there was a rash of them. Tour guides guides then said that the sightings were concentrated in a small area, in the higher elevations of the park.
Wawa Grande, which takes its name from the Quechuan word for baby and the Spanish word for big, reportedly stands upright on two legs and has thick, light gray or reddish hair. The Wawa legend dates back at least 200 years in Ecuador’s southern Andes but several reported sightings since the 1980s sparked international interest.
Wawa made headlines in July, 1988 when a Scottish hiker claims he was attacked by a pair of the creatures. Robert Burns, who sought shelter in a cave from a late afternoon snow storm, says he was mauled by the Wawas and tossed from the cave. Burns was treated for a broken arm, deep lacerations and bite wounds at a Cuenca hospital. His story was reported on Cuenca television as well as in newspapers in Great Britain.
In 2009, two Swedish hikers say they saw the creature and reported that
it stood between seven and eight feet in height and weighed 300 to 400
pounds. Their story, along with a picture that they claimed to have taken, appeared
in a Stockholm newspaper in July of that year.
Quito-based guide Carlos Castro, who says he took video of the creature during a 1997 hike with three German tourists, claims to have seen Wawa on two occasions.
According to Castro, many Cajas guides are aware of Wawa, either from personal contact or through reports from hikers. “Some people don’t like to talk about it because their friends will think they’re crazy,” he says. “Even if they haven’t seen Wawa, almost everyone who has spent much time in the mountains has seen the footprints and other evidence.” Castro says he has seen plaster castings of Wawa footprints, some measuring almost two feet in length. “These are kept at the University of Cuenca, as well as pictures and other items, but it is impossible to gain access,” he adds, “In fact, it is official policy to deny that they even exist.”
A retired national park service biologist, who worked in the Cajas Park when it was established in 1996, agrees that there is an official policy of denial and that park employees are told not to talk about the alleged monster. “It does not exist. That is what we told anyone who asked about it.” He also says that the science department at the University of Cuenca has some “objects” and photos connected to Wawa, but these are off limits to the public.
While he worked at the park, the biologist, who asked not to be identified, said that the park office routinely turned down media requests for information and assistance regarding Wawa. “There was a U.S. television show called Monster Quest that kept asking for help, but we refused. We told them there was nothing up there and no reason to do a tv show.”
The biologist says he as seen the creature personally. “I am a very skeptical person but I am very sure that I saw something. It was very big, with light colored fur, but looked like a little like a human being.”
He adds: “Something that is important to say, however, is that the area where I saw this thing and where other people have too, is very high. It is above 4,200 meters and is often foggy and sometimes snowy. It could be easy to imagine something up there.” On the other hand, he says it is ideal terrain for avoiding contact with the outside world. “It is very isolated with caves and hot springs, so something could survive there without being seen.”
Worthington and Chrisma, both from London, say that they are not sure what they will do with the pictures. “Only us, our guide, and another hiker we met in Cuenca have seen them. We may end up simply keeping them to ourselves. We’re not looking for publicity, and, in fact, would prefer to avoid it.”