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Mapinguari statue, Parque Ambiental Chico Mendes, Rio Branco, Brazil

Mpinguari, or Mpinguary, (also called the Juma) are mythical monstrous jungle-dwelling spirits from Brazilian folklore said to protect the forest and its animals.


There are various depictions of the mapinguari. Prior to 1933, traditional folklore describe it as a former human shaman turned into a hairy humanoid cyclops.[1] This version is often said to have a gaping mouth on its abdomen,[2] with its feet turned backwards. Creatures with such feet, which confuse those trying to track it, are found in folklore around the world.[1]

In the latter half of the 20th century, some cryptozoologists speculated that the mapinguari might be an unknown primate, akin to Bigfoot.[1]

Others claim that it is a modern-day sighting of a giant ground sloth, an animal estimated to have gone extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene.[2][3] These later descriptions may be attributed to David C. Oren, an ornithologist, who heard stories of the creature and hypothesized they might be the extinct sloths. This was met by criticism by scientists at the time, but an article Oren published in 1993 was picked up by major news papers despite no evidence.[1] Skeptics point out that there have not been any fossil records of ground sloths for thousands of years[4]

A 2023 academic study of the 1995 discovery of giant sloth bones “modified into primordial pendants” suggested that humans lived in the Americas contemporaneous with the giant sloth, specifically that “it may have served as inspiration for the Mapinguari, a mythical beast that, in Amazonian legend, had the nasty habit of twisting off the heads of humans and devouring them.”[5]


According to Felipe Ferreira Vander Velden, its name is a combination of the Tupi-Guarani words "mbappé", "pi", and "guari", meaning "a thing that has a bent [or] crooked foot [or] paw".[6] Other names by which they are referred to include the Karitiana kida harara,[6] and the Machiguenga segamai.[2][3]

In popular culture[edit]

A reference to Mapinguari occurs in the 2020 animated film The Red Scroll, during the final scene when the character Wupa transforms into a giant sloth monster.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Dunning, Brian. "On the Trail of the Mapinguari". Skeptoid. Skeptic Media. Retrieved 15 June 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Rohter, Larry (2007-07-08). "A Huge Amazon Monster Is Only a Myth. Or Is It?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  3. ^ a b Oren, David C. "Does the Endangered Xenarthran Fauna of Amazonia Include Remnant Ground Sloths?", Edentata (June 2001) p. 2-5
  4. ^ Martin, Paul S. (2005). Twilight of the mammoths : ice age extinctions and the rewilding of America. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-94110-6. OCLC 62860983.
  5. ^ Lidz, Franz (July 18, 2023). "When Were We Here? Ask the Sloth Bones.: A discovery revives a longtime debate about the arrival of the earliest Americans". The New York Times. p. D3. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Felipe Ferreira Vander Velden "Sobre caes e indios: domesticidade, classificacao zoologica e relacao humano-animal entre os Karitiana", Revista de Antropología 15 (2009) p. 125–143
  7. ^ "O Pergaminho Vermelho". Rodrigo Santos Escritor. 20 September 2021.