Giant, lion eating chimps not mythical after all
July 16, 2007 4:39 AM   Subscribe

There is a remote part of the Congolese jungle, called the Bili forest, where local legend has long told of a breed of giant apes that eat lions, catch fish and howl at the moon. To his surprise Dutch researcher Cleve Hicks found them. In fact they are large chimps but they appear to have a number of behavioural differences from other groups seen in the wild. (More information from Wikipedia).
posted by rongorongo (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah geez... and just when I was thinking it was safe to back into the Congo...
posted by Mike D at 4:48 AM on July 16, 2007


Paging Lord Greystoke. Lord Greystoke, you are wanted at the white courtesy phone.
posted by DU at 4:56 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I say take up a collection and get them AK47s. Put a stop to bushmeat right now!
posted by jfuller at 5:05 AM on July 16, 2007


I'd like to put stop to Bushmeat here in the US
posted by Hands of Manos at 5:10 AM on July 16, 2007


They don't howl at the moon.
posted by Balisong at 5:21 AM on July 16, 2007


But they do eat lions:
"I don't like to paint them as being more aggressive, but maybe they prey on some of these predators and the predators kind of leave them alone."
posted by ryanrs at 5:27 AM on July 16, 2007


When the moon is like that, every monkey for 200 miles thinks he's Elvis Presley.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:28 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sure, that's scary, but it's nothing compared to the still undiscovered species of white gorilla, fabled to live even further in the Congo, who subsist entirely on a diet of ninja.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:35 AM on July 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


[this is fucking awesome]
posted by Greg Nog at 5:51 AM on July 16, 2007


Scarier still, because ninjas have so little nutritional value, these white apes must kill dozens of ninjas each day to survive.

Please... think of the Ninjas.
posted by OldReliable at 5:52 AM on July 16, 2007


Mr Hicks said the animals also have what he calls a "smashing culture"...

Also, their hairstyles are fabulous.
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on July 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Actually, I was just going to say, when did it become established that Chimps have culture? I'm not saying they don't, but I've never heard it described that way before. Interesting...
posted by OldReliable at 5:58 AM on July 16, 2007


...a breed of giant apes that eat lions, catch fish and howl at the moon...
posted by rongorongo (12 comments total) [add to favorites] [!]


exquisitely eponysterical.
posted by quonsar at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2007


Overlords.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:24 AM on July 16, 2007


when did it become established that Chimps have culture?

I'm not sure when it was first established, but different Chimp groups display different behaviors that are attributed to culture. One group will use sticks to fish termites, another group will use a rocks in a certain way to crack open rocks, that sort of thing. There is also evidence of more subtle social differences cultures seen in Chimps kept in captivity. When a new individual is introduced to the existing group, he will first be hesitant to initiate contact and in general act awkwardly until he has lived with the group long enough to learn the specific emotional communications of the group. (actually I think the study I read was about Bonobos, but they are both damn dirty apes anyway).
posted by afu at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


all this talk of photographs and not a single one?

pffft.
posted by pokermonk at 6:39 AM on July 16, 2007


As I recall, McGrew has some discussion of how the concept of "culture" applies to chimpanzees in Chimpanzee Material Culture.
posted by carmen at 6:39 AM on July 16, 2007


But can they kill a bear?
posted by markdj at 6:41 AM on July 16, 2007


depends if you give them a knife.
posted by OldReliable at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2007


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.
Oh, yeah. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with their reluctance to spend nights in flimsy jungle tents just so they could bring back massive stool samples from massive creatures that catch lions in their bare hands and then get together to go fishing and howl at the moon.

There's a lot of Bili chimp information at karl ammann's site.
posted by pracowity at 6:47 AM on July 16, 2007


Here's hoping the film version of Hicks' research doesn't star Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2007


Photos but only traps and corpses... of course, they still got this one to smile with everybody else.

But can they kill a bear?

rex grossman: yes
brian urlacher: no
devin hester: only if they stay in their kick-off coverage lanes
posted by pokermonk at 6:51 AM on July 16, 2007


Damn. They found the giant lion-eating chimps of the magic forest already? Consults list... I guess I'll have to move on to the search for the flying pink ponies of Enchantment Island then.
posted by rusty at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2007


However, the future for the Bili apes is far from secure. "Things are not promising," said Karl Ammann, an independent wildlife photographer who began investigating the apes 1996. "The absence of a strong central government has resulted in most of the region becoming more independent and lawless."

So, to recap:

1. They don't howl at the moon
2. They eat lions
3. They don't have a strong central government

Overall, I'm disappointed.
posted by papercake at 8:44 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Rongorongo goes surfing the congo
looking for uncharted species.
Soon he is spyin'
the bones of a lion
Sticking out of a giant ape's feces.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:20 AM on July 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


OldReliable : Actually, I was just going to say, when did it become established that Chimps have culture?

I believe they have been using that term for a while. It seems like a useful shorthand to describe the complex behavior seen in groups.

And where are the photos? You have an article discussing the fact that you have found over-sized chimps who may or may not kill leopards with rocks, and you give us no pictures or video?

If we can do that, let me tell you all about this amazing species of cat that lives in my back yard. Early indications suggest that they are geniuses when it comes to physics, and are building a sophisticated low earth orbit vehicle which they will use to spy on their canine enemies.
posted by quin at 11:26 AM on July 16, 2007


I've been trying to find photos too but have so far been unsuccessful. Why no pics of these awesome apes?
posted by agregoli at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2007


The determination that chimps have culture in the true sense (learned behaviour that is transmitted from one generation to the next, specific to certain groups rather than evolutionary tactics shared by the entire species) & that they use relatively sophisticated tools is by no means new. It was first established in the 1960s/70s by Jane Goodall, and nobody but perhaps crazy fundamentalists see fit to doubt it anymore, given the evidence.

Ordinary chimps have been filmed and documented using rocks to smash all manner of things hundreds of times, so that these ones have moved up the scale is not surprising in the least. In 'Life of Mammals' (IIRC) the BBC documentary show, Attenborough was filmed standing next to a bunch of chimps using rocks to open hard nuts. It's not something particularly astounding, unless you are still in the dark ages and think they are mindless animals.

They don't need rocks to kill the leopards, btw. They simply gang up on them, and, being massively powerful (ordinary chimps are far stronger than adult humans by several orders of magnitude so factor that up again for these big 'uns) grab them and physically tear them open with their bare hands.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:39 AM on July 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


“The absence of a strong central government has resulted in most of the region becoming more independent and lawless. In conservation terms this is a disaster.”

I’m with jfuller, arm them now.

“it's nothing compared to the still undiscovered species of white gorilla, fabled to live even further in the Congo, who subsist entirely on a diet of ninja.”

Don’t be silly Astro Zombie, Mugato only eat Hill people and starship personnel.

“being massively powerful (ordinary chimps are far stronger than adult humans by several orders of magnitude so factor that up again for these big 'uns) grab them and physically tear them open with their bare hands.”

No, wait, arm the lions.

More fire sticks...more serpents... in the... garden.. of eden. Argh! *hunches shoulders* I'm ...so agonized.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on July 16, 2007


Photographic evidence.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2007


Kirk with gunpowder & wooden tube FTW
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 2:19 PM on July 16, 2007


For more of our cultured cousins, see also retired filmstar Cheeta, painter Congo, and lonely socialite Janie.
posted by rob511 at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2007


I call bullshit on this one. He saw one eating a leopard. He never saw any of them eating a lion. Chimps are omnivorous and they will gladly eat meat if someone kills it for them. The leopard may have died from any number of causes. Nests on the ground - simple, when there is plenty of food, no predator will attack a large number of dangerous animals. It's pretty risky for a chimp to attack a lion, even if he wins, he will almost certainly be badly hurt. Chimps don't live in a Rocky movie, if you get hurt bad enough, you don't go to a hospital for a few months. You're fucked. For a lion or another large predator it's the same thing - it's not about winning, it's about staying intact and in good shape for the next kill the other week, it's much better to catch a rabbit that will last you a couple hours and not risk anything rather than get a chimp that will last you a week and risk a 10% or however much risk of getting a serious leg wound. People watch too many cartoons where lion is the king of jungle, in truth lion will try his best to stay away from elephants, hippos, giraffes (*really* strong kicks), large packs of hyenas, gorillas, large chimps, and so on.. "Championship fights" only happen very rarely and when both animals don't have any choice left.
posted by rainy at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2007


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