The Legend of the Moehau Man of Coromandel

There are legends and stories of huge bushmen that abound around the world. In North America there is the Sasquatch or Big Foot, Asia has the Yeti, and Australia the Yowie.  And while they are geographically separated, in some case by vast distances and oceans, their descriptions are always somewhat similar.


New Zealand has its own wild bushman of legend. Known mostly from stories originating around the Coromandel area in the North Island, the creature is known as Moehau Man, after the range of mountains many sightings come from. Like the tall, hairy beasts from other continents, Moehau Man is large, extremely hairy, a hominid with arms reaching down to around his knee area and with a distinct odour. In some instances he is said to have long exaggerated fingers, perhaps even talons or claws.


Stories of Moehau Man date back to before European settlers were making in-roads into the country. It was always known to be a very dangerous creature, to be avoided at all possible times.  The name Moehau, is the Maori name for the highest peak in the mountain range at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. Most Maori legends spring from Geological features of the landscape. This peak is a sacred place to the Maori, and to be feared as mythical creatures live here. The mountain range is visible from a wide panorama in this are of New Zealand, and also gives rare visitors a commanding view of the surrounding area.


The stories of the Moehau started circulating once settlers began making their way deeper into the Coromandel countryside. Firstly in the 1870's and 1880's these were the gold miners, looking for a place to stake their claims. They made their way in from the area to the townships of Thames and Waihi, and it wasn't long before stories of the large, vicious bushman started doing the rounds. Firstly they reported being scared by large human-like creatures deep in the bush; then more ominous tales began to emerge, those of prospectors  being killed and mauled by Moehau Man. Even the local Maori told prospectors not to enter the dark bush alone.



Two later main sightings of Moehau Man from the last 40 years are documented by Nicola McCoy in her book: New Zealand Mysteries:secrets, spooks, conspiracies and con-artists (Whitcouls, 2005). In the first, an Australian tourist reported seeing the creature as she bush-walked in the region in 1969. She described it as being much like a gorilla. In 1972 another sighting was made by two pig hunters, who said they saw a large creature approximately 150m away from them. When they reached the place the animal had been, all they found were human-type footprints 35cm long.


If there is something to the story, and a creature is indeed running around in the deep Coromandel bush and forests, what could it be? It is incredibly crafty, very old, or more than just a single male or female of the species. As New Zealand was isolated from the rest of the world, and no other wild beasts from other countries are common, then how come this creature has been unseen for so long? One possible explanation has it that, before the time of quarantine and controlled animal and vegetation imports, a gorilla or large monkey could have perhaps escaped the confines of a visiting ship. And while it could be a viable explanation, it doesn't explain the legends and stories much prior to European visitation, nor the time expanse of the sighting reports.  Either it was an incredibly long-lived ape, or there must be have been enough escapees to form a colony.


Another entertained possible explanation is that the Moehau Man is just a story, and the sightings mere mistaken identity. There is not a lot of verifiable information out there, nor has a skeleton or skin ever been recorded as having been found, as far as anyone is aware. But that doesn't explain the reports of large hominid footprints... unless they are hoaxes. But would anyone bother or dare to travel into the thick Coromandel bush to randomly plant false footprints in the hopes that someone would "Stumble" across them unless they themselves were the instigators? Would they be trying to hide something like a drug plantation or similar? It does seem far fetched to most.


One thing is for sure, Moehau Man is not and will probably never be as famous as his possible cousins, the Sasquatch and Big Foot. Still stories endure, especially locally. But until we have some definitive proof, for now Moehau remains just a story.

 It is here that the Wenzlick Family became involved with a story. F W Wenzlick, son of Gregor J Wenzlick,  reported the following information;

The following article is an article that was published in a New Zealand newspaper of a reported sighting of a strange hairy man similar to a Yeti or Big Foot. The rumour was supposedly started by the Wenzlick brothers and other Coast residents;

© The Taranaki Daily News, Tuesday, 5 February 1952
Press Assoc. Auckland, NZ

"Strange Hairy Creature Reported on the East Coast Believed by some to be a gorilla"

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Persistent reports from Coromandel Peninsula say that a strange hairy creature thought by some to be a gorilla lurks at the back of the Waiaro, in the wild bush country of the Moehau Range. When Dr. Roy Norman of Waikawau, and Mr. Douglas Taiwahana of North Auckland, were pig hunting in the area, they said they caught a fleeting glimpse of a hairy man or possible a gorilla running along a bush track. Mr. F. W. Wenzlick of Amadeo Bay, said tonight that about 30 years ago a ship was lying off Waiaro Bay which had a young gorilla as mascot. The animal left the ship and got ashore. Since then there have been repeated rumors of strange occurrences in the hills. Stories deal with night intrusions into camps, dogs bristling and snarling because of a strange presence and mysterious foot-falls in the bush. A hunter, Mr. H. Beazley has found a cave with evidence of a man or beast living under primitive conditions which contained bones of animals presumably eaten raw and collections of shells. It was possible but highly improbably that the "strange hairy being" believe to be lurking in the Moehau Ranges was a gorilla or in fact any species of the ape family, the director, R. W. Roach of the Auckland zoo said tonight. If the strange creature did exist it was more probably a member of the baboon family. He would regard the story as more feasible if someone had discovered footmarks or nest in the tree-tops very much larger than that made by any known bird. Mr. Roach completely discounted any suggestions that the cave that had been discovered by Beazley was likely to have been the home of the creature. All members of the monkey families lived in nests built in the tree tops although they spent most of their time on the ground, he said.





The Wenzlick boys (the sons of Gregor and Maria Wenzlick) of the Thames Coast were known to be great story tellers, especially to guests in the bar of the Royal Oak Hotel in Tapu.
It must be remembered at the time, a lot of gold prospectors were roaming the hills in search of the next big find, and also food - that being the wild boar pigs. There is a theory that the "sighting" of the Moehau Man was fabricated to try and dissuade people from entering private property and also the discovery of illegal liquor distilleries in the bush. Unfortunately, none of this generation is alive to tell or confirm such action.