This goes back to the 1990s when Ammann, a wildlife photographer, found out that the skulls at the royal museum of central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, came from a remote part of the northern congo. The skulls were discovered by Belgium colonizers who became famous for killing animals for ivory and rubber. The skulls were a bit puzzling as they were classified as gorillas, but the place they were found had no traces or population of gorillas. They were skeptical whether it was a gorilla or a whole new species of apes (Bili Apes). These creatures were located in one of the deadliest places on the planet in the democratic republic. One of the reasons why these creatures were not studied that extensively was because it was no less than a deadly affair to reach that place. But somehow, a handful of scientists succeeded in studying the animals.
In search of the mystery apes of congo (Bili Apes)
At first, when they reached Billi forest in 1996, hunters told them tales of giant apes who howled the moon, killed lions, caught fishes, and were immune to poisonous darts. He found traces of mystery apes but could not find the apes themselves as it was not possible to keep up with an ape in such a thickly populated, thorny, and Viney forest. But his obsession for finding these mysterious creatures called for help from other conservationists.
In 2004, cleve hicks joined him in the effort. At first, it was speculated that these apes are some new species or a hybrid of a gorilla and chimpanzees. But the truth came out to be fascinating and wondrous. So, in their quest to find these Bili apes, hikes and his team set up motion-detecting cameras and clicked clear pictures of Bili apes. The truth was finally out, and the DNA tests confirmed that the apes were chimpanzees and not a new species. But the study revealed that they were not like usual chimps. They displayed some unique and different behavior. They had different diets and cultures. The search led them to know that there were quite many chimps in Bili than they thought. They are part of the most significant population of wild chimps in the world.
Characteristics of Bili apes
Although Bili apes were more like chimpanzees, they behaved very similar to gorillas. Bili apes build ground nests as gorillas do use interwoven branches and saplings. They mostly nest in the trees, though. The ground nests will be found beneath or near tree nests. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, specifically strangled figs: the Bili apes pant-hoot and tree-drum like chimpanzees. Bili apes are fearless and not aggressive towards humans. These creatures come face-to-face with humans, stare at them, and then slide away quietly. According to hicks, the apes within 20 km or so of the roads flee humans almost without exception. The adult males show the greatest fear.
Physiology of Bili apes
The reports suggest that the Bili apes are bipedal and are 5 to 5.5 feet tall. They resemble a big chimpanzee, and their footprints are 28 to 34 centimeters long. They have a very flat face, a broad muzzle, and their brow-ridge runs straight across and overhangs. They seem to turn grey very early in life, but instead of turning grey-black like a gorilla, they turn grey all over. Their skulls have prominent brow ridge and have a sagittal crest like that of a chimpanzee.
Habitat of Bili Apes
They are found in the Bili forest that lies in Congos north about 200 kilometers east of the ebola river, which has deep tropical rainforest is broken by patches of the savanna.
Some interesting facts about Bili apes
Hicks believed that these Bili apes have a smashing culture, which is a very naive but effective way of solving problems. While on his research, he found hundreds of snails and hard-shelled fruits smashed for food, seen chimps carrying termite mounds to rocks to break them open, and found a turtle that was almost certainly hit apart by chimps. The Bili chimps use sticks for fishing for ants. The population of Bili apes is much bigger than anyone realized. They are the largest remaining population of the species left in Africa. While surveying, hicks and his team found chimps everywhere in an area of 7000 square kilometers.
The Bili apes are far from secure. Karl Ammann, who investigated these creatures, is of the view that “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.”
Also read- This animal is on the verge of extinction