The Frontal Cortex

Lion Eating Apes

Is this a living missing link? Scientists in the Congo have found a band of primates that seem to engage in some very sophisticated hunts. The Guardian reports:

Deep in the Congolese jungle is a band of apes that, according to local legend, kill lions, catch fish and even howl at the moon. Local hunters speak of massive creatures that seem to be some sort of hybrid between a chimp and a gorilla.

Their location at the centre of one of the bloodiest conflicts on the planet, the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has meant that the mystery apes have been little studied by western scientists. Reaching the region means negotiating the shifting fortunes of warring rebel factions, and the heart of the animals’ range is deep in impenetrable forest.

But despite the difficulties, a handful of scientists have succeeded in studying the animals. Early speculation that the apes may be some yeti-like new species or a chimp/gorilla hybrid proved unfounded, but the truth has turned out to be in many ways even more fascinating. They are actually a population of super-sized chimps with a unique culture – and it seems, a taste for big cat flesh.

The most detailed and recent data comes from Cleve Hicks, at the University of Amsterdam, who has spent 18 months in the field watching the Bili apes – named after a local town – since 2004. His team’s most striking find came after one of his trackers heard chimps calling for several days from the same spot.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    July 16, 2007

    Excellent! Thank you for the post.

  2. #2 Jonathan Vause
    July 16, 2007

    I read the story this morning, and it sounded like nonsense to me. No indication of exactly how big these ‘super-sized chimps’ are (I’ll bet they’re within previously observed size ranges), never mind evidence of fishing or lion killing. In fact the only thing that makes them different is that they’re not afraid of humans and they sometimes sleep on the ground. OK, it’s nice they found a big new population, but that seems to be about it.

  3. #3 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 19, 2007

    Personally, I would have put a hyphen in “Lion-Eating Apes” to avoid ambiguity.

  4. #4 akatsuki leader
    October 16, 2007

    i would have put a picture *laughs*

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