The blogosphere is currently abuzz with reports of an unusual looking animal that washed up on a riverbank in Cerro Azul, Panama. The creature, looking like a hairless sloth, has been described as everything from an alien to an unborn fetus to an elaborate hoax.

The media is reporting that a group of teenagers were swimming in a river when the ‘frightening’ animal crawled out of a cave. The teenagers threw rocks at the pale creature and then beat it to death with sticks. Afterwards, they threw its limp body into the river and took a few snapshots to preserve their work for posterity.

Whether the strange hairless creature from a South American cave is a new species, an unusual looking rendition of a known species or even a fancy hoax, is not really the point, because regardless of where the creature came from or what it is, how the animal was treated is all too familiar.

At the heart of the "Strange Creature From Panama” story is a familiarity that elevates this particular tale from yet another fictitious sighting of a Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster to a plausible, even factual story. Even though it seems ludicrous that a group of teenagers could be frightened of the creature depicted in the photos, we know that it is entirely plausible that kids would beat such a creature to death.

Looking at the pictures of the fragile creature with its odd-looking arm thrown over its malformed head is unnerving, not for its awkward vulnerability in death or even because of the possibility of the images simply being yet another tasteless internet joke, but because we know, with absolute certainty, that someone, somewhere on the planet would not hesitate to throw rocks at this creature and then beat it to death.

I think this is why we flock to this story, like grim voyeurs at a tragic roadside accident, not because of the strangeness of the tale, but because of the uncomfortable familiarity of its sad ending.

Valerie Williams is the editor of GreenMuze. com. She lives on Salt Spring Island, Canada.

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