DON COUSINS has worked with captive apes and has over 40 papers and articles published (mostly on primates and elephants) and a book 'The Magnificent Gorilla'.
No more monkey business - - "COULD UNUSUAL BEHAVIOUR OF CHIMPANZEES EXPLAIN THE SIGHTINGS OF GABON'S 'WILD MAN'? ASKS DON COUSINS"
The former French
colony of Gabon is about the size of Britain. It's a wild place, about
85 per cent tropical rainforest with a low human population, but it is
home to an abundance of primate species
including gorillas, chimpanzees, mandrills and others. My interest is
in the 'undiscovered' ones.
I corresponded with
Stephen Holmes, wishing to learn more details, but he could only add that
the incident occurred while he was driving in the Gamba area, south of
Port Gentil. He had to brake to avoid hitting the creature as it ran across
the road. He saw it only for a few seconds.
Judging from most
accounts, Koolookambas appear like large chimpanzees with some gorilloid
characteristics (fleshy nose, prognathous face, prominent supraorbital
ridges, etc). They are said
to be very rare and nearly always solitary. Indeed, some dialects distinguish
between 'N'koulou', meaning a chimpanzee living in a band, and 'Koulou-nguira'
or 'Koulou-kamba', a solitary chimpanzee.
In his day, primate
taxonomy was in its infancy and Du Chaillu himself was always on the lookout
for new species. He was so impressed by one chimpanzee's nest building
in trees, that he gave it the name 'Troglodytes calvus'; today, we know
that all races of chimpanzees build tree nests. The 'Koolookamba', however,
is different; due to its solitary behaviour or preference for small groups,
it is regarded in Gabon as a separate species or subspecies. It could
even be a distinct race.
Watching apes walk
upright can be disconcerting, especially in the wild. When the traveler-author
Christine Dodwell saw her first gorilla -- in her truck headlights on
an isolated forest track on the Congo-Brazzaville coast -- she called
it "an awe-inspiring sight" (in 'Travels with Fortune', 1978).
"It was standing on the track ahead of us, then it shook its head
and lumbered off among the trees. It didn't scamper on all fours like
an ape; it ran almost upright. It was large, with long thick-muscled arms,
and its chest was incredibly broad." The ape was guilty of two acts
of anomalous behaviour: bipedalism and nocturnalism (gorillas normally
bed down before dusk). Many chimpanzees also raise their arms above their
heads when walking upright, which is the behaviour Stephen Holmes witnessed
on that remote road on the Gabon coast.
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