Monday, July 16, 2007

New Breed of Super-Ape Discovered in Congo

Enter the Bili Chimp.

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.

That lead, published in our favorite newspaper over the weekend, describes a newly-discovered group of giant chimpanzees unlike any other ape in the world.

Finding these awesome apes is a daunting task - Not only do you have to somehow get yourself into the Congo, a country battered by the bloodiest of human conflicts, but you have to brave a 25-mile journey through the deep, cool, and unsympathetic jungle to find the territory of these spectacular primates.

But what makes these giant chimpanzees special? Well, for starters, there have long been rumors, mainly unfounded, of a tribe of giant apes that regularly hunted lions and other big cats, replacing them at the top of the jungle food chain. Recently, this was finally confirmed by Cleve Hicks, monkey expert from the University of Amsterdam, when he actually discovered a group of Bili chimps (named after the region) feasting on a leopard carcass.

Closer than we ever imagined...

These chimps are also remarkable because they catch fish regularly, use smashing stones, seven-foot-long spears and other tools to find food, and sleep in nests made on the jungle floor. Most other apes make their nests high up in trees, to be safe.

"How can they get away with sleeping on the ground when there are lions, leopards, golden cats around as well as other dangerous animals like elephants and buffalo?" said Mr Hicks. "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."

Interesting stuff, people. A band of super-intelligent jungle chimpanzees, who fish in the river and kill lions who invade their territory.

That's a spicy meatball.

But, as in all things, there is a catch to this amazing discovery. As luck would have it, these special animals happen to live in the Congo, one of the worst places to be on this planet, after Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Gary, Indiana.

"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. In conservation terms this is a disaster."

Well, at least there's always Pankun:


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