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The Great Apes

( Originally Published 1936 )

The great Apes are those which most nearly resemble man, and include the four genera that are represented by the Gorilla, the Chimpanzee, the Orang-utan, and the Gibbon. All are tree-dwellers, and most of them climb and run in their leafy abodes with great facility. In walking, the long arms en-able the hands to touch the ground while the animal is nearly erect, and the creatures advance by placing the knuckles of the fingers and the soles of the feet on the earth at the same time. The gait is a curious shambling one, not at all resembling the firm and elastic tread of man, and when the animal is excited or in a hurry, even this mode of imperfect walking is abandoned and it gallops along in an irregular manner much as any four-footed animal would do. The hind-legs in all four genera are comparatively weak, much shorter in proportion, and more curved than in man. In fact, the creatures often walk on the out-sides, or outer edges, of their feet, and not on the soles themselves. The arms are immensely powerful, and are used to a great extent in moving about among the branches of trees. None of these animals have tails, and all are more or less covered with hair. Owing to their great size and strength, the man-like Apes, particularly the Gorilla, are well able to de-fend themselves against the attacks of their enemies, and the pointed or canine teeth, which are much more developed than in man, serve them in good stead in these encounters. The Gibbons, the smallest of the Anthropoid Apes, are gentler in character than the others, and their arms and hands are much more slender.

Gorilla (Gorilla Savagei)

This largest and strongest of all the Anthropoid Apes has a very restricted range, inhabiting, so far as is known, only the region of the Gaboon in West-ern Africa.

The Gorilla is an animal about which many stories centre. The earliest mention of it is made by Hanno, the Carthaginian General, who, more than two thou-sand years ago, commanded a fleet that made a voyage along the west coast of Africa, during the course of which he met with a family of apes that his interpreters called " Gorillas," but which, from the fact that he says they ran in great troops and threw stones at his men, would seem rather to have been baboons.

In general form, particularly in the skeleton, the Gorilla closely resembles man, and the young animal is singularly like a child. The adult male is a very large and formidable-looking beast, measuring as much as five feet eight inches in height and three feet across the shoulders. He has enormously long, heavily-built arms and powerful hands, and legs shorter, in proportion, than those of man, with the big toe greatly developed and opposable to the other four. The head has a fierce and forbidding aspect, the top being extremely flat, with bony ridges projecting for-ward over the eyes, and the jaw is enormously developed, giving a very brutal appearance. The female is much smaller than the male and not nearly so repulsive, while the young are gentle and affectionate little creatures, quite without any of the hideous characters of the male parent. See Plate 1, Fig. I.

Numerous stories have been told of the ferocity and courage of the Gorilla, which, however, seem to be disproved by recent hunters. Paul Du Chaillu, the French traveller, some years ago gave a thrilling ac-count of his experiences with this animal, but it was afterwards declared that the skins he brought from Africa had been pierced in the back of the neck by spears, instead of the animals having been shot, as he asserted. In his book we read that the Gorilla, when wounded, advances in a threatening manner, uttering growls of rage, but if this were so when Africa was less explored, later explorers agree in saying that this animal is extremely shy and difficult to get sight of, hiding in the thickest parts of the woods on the approach of man.

The colour of the hair is almost black, sometimes grizzled over the shoulders of the older animals, and the body is somewhat more evenly covered than it is in the other species of Anthropoid Apes. The skin is black and shiny-looking, as if it had been polished with stove-polish. The ears resemble those of man more closely than those of other monkeys, being much smaller in proportion to the size of the head than are those of the chimpanzee. The males have enormous canine teeth, or tusks, which are probably used as weapons in protecting themselves against at-tacks of leopards.

It is said by those who have studied the habits of this animal that, no doubt owing to its heavy build, it does not climb trees with as great facility as other monkeys, and that the male usually rests at night with its back against a tree in the branches of which the female and young repose. Specimens have been shot that weighed four hundred pounds; and when it is considered that this weight represents bone and muscle with almost no fat, one realises what an enormous animal the Gorilla is. In walking, in a semi-erect attitude, the hands touch the ground and the soles of the feet are planted more squarely than are those of the chimpanzee or orang; but though it walks with some facility, it is not able to assume the complete upright position of man without aiding itself by grasping overhead branches of trees.

But little is known of the habits of this animal, owing to its very limited range and the dense character of the forests in which it makes its home. From time to time specimens of the young have been taken to Europe, and some years ago one was brought to this country, but none have lived except for a very short time in captivity, and no adult male or female has ever been captured alive. The young are rather intelligent, and, as has been said, are gentle and amiable, but as they grow older they become morose and savage and really seem to become less intelligent.

Chimpanzee (Anthropopithecus niger)

Next in size to the gorilla is the Chimpanzee, old males sometimes attaining a height of five feet. Its range is much greater, however, extending over several sections of Africa, in each of which it is, of course, known by the natives under a different name. For this reason the older naturalists believed there must be many species; but it is now generally admitted that there is but one or, at most, two, species of this animal, though there are a number of varieties.

The mode of progression is much the same as with the gorilla, the knuckles of the closed hands being placed on the ground in walking. The back is flatter than that of the orang-utan, and the head is carried more in line with the body. In the wild state the Chimpanzee is a very active creature, swinging from branch to branch in the trees which it inhabits, and in this respect it differs from the orang, which creeps about in a sluggish manner. See Plate I, Fig. 2.

The colour of the hair is blackish, but the skin, particularly in the region of the mouth and over the breast, is sometimes of a light pinkish hue. The ears are very large, much larger than in the gorilla or orang, and stand out from the sides of the head; the upper lip is long. The whole expression is much less brute-like than that of the gorilla. The young are extremely docile and intelligent, but as they grow older, like the rest of the Ape family, they develop more brutish characteristics.

Some years ago one of the large circuses 'of this country possessed two very fine specimens named " Chiko " and " Johanna." The male was an unusually large animal, probably the largest ever seen in captivity, and of a sullen and morose disposition. At one time he and his mate figured in an exciting incident that took place in the old Arsenal in Central Park, New York. These were confined for the winter in a large cage in one of the rooms, and a special keeper was detailed to take care of them. One night, when he approached the cage to see if they were in good condition before he retired, he was suddenly seized by the male and drawn up to the bars of the cage, where he was also grasped by the female. In spite of his efforts to escape, and his cries for assistance, which were not heard for some time, he was severely injured by the two monkeys, losing several of his fingers in the encounter.

Chiko lived for some years in captivity, Johanna surviving him, and exhibiting until she died an exceedingly fierce and treacherous disposition. She would sometimes throw oranges at people through the bars of her cage. Grasping one in her hand, she would runup and down the cage uttering a kind of coughing roar, and suddenly throw the orange with all her force, in an underhand throw, but without appearing to take any definite aim. Other individuals that I, have seen have not had these vicious characteristics, and the Chimpanzees that at different times have been in the Bronx Zoological Park have all been remarkably gentle and interesting pets. These animals seldom live long in captivity. They take cold easily and seem to have very little power of recovery, dying usually from consumption or disorders of the digestion. In the wild state their food consists of fruits, and of insects which they obtain from the bark of trees or on the ground; but in confinement their diet is varied. They drink milk with avidity, and even become fond of spirituous liquors. The Chimpanzee is very imitative and can be trained to use its hands with much cleverness, to eat from a table with knife and fork, drink from a glass, and so on, exhibiting a high degree of intelligence. When young, these animals are extremely affectionate, and become much attached to their keepers. When denied anything they want, they will cry like children.

Orang-Utan (Simla Satyrus)

In general form both the Orang and the chimpanzee closely resemble the gorilla, all three more nearly approaching man in structure than any of the other monkeys. This extraordinary Ape is a native of the swampy forest regions of Borneo and Sumatra. In appearance it is extremely grotesque—the back much arched in walking, being bent almost in the form of a bow, the arms very long and thin, legs short, fingers and toes curved, and the thumb almost lacking, a small digit taking its place. The head is high and somewhat pointed, the upper lip long and protuberant, the ears smaller than in the gorilla and chimpanzee, and the ludicrous expression of the face is enhanced by the light-coloured eyelids which are shown to advantage when the animal casts down its eyes in a coy manner. Old males have curious huge callosities—hardened naked places—on either side of the face, and a kind of collar about the neck which they are said to inflate when angry. These callosities are lacking in the females and young, being seen only in the fully adult males: Plate I, Fig. 3.

In movements the Orang is extremely lethargic, creeping about slowly, though powerfully, through the branches of the trees in which it dwells. It is somewhat smaller than the chimpanzee, the body and hind legs are weak in construction, and it assumes a partially erect attitude with difficulty, balancing with its long arms.

In captivity this strange animal is full of interest. It is usually remarkably gentle and evinces the greatest affection for its keeper, throwing its long arms about his neck, kissing and caressing him on all occasions. The keepers, on their part, often become much attached to them, in times of illness sitting up all night and attending to them with as much solicitude as if they were children. As usual with the larger monkeys, the Orang does not live long in confinement, although a young female brought to the Bronx Park lived for five years. Its mother, how-ever, died soon after her arrival, apparently of a broken heart, moping in her cage and refusing all food, her expression and attitude most pitiful. to see. This young animal developed into a splendid specimen, and was of much interest to visitors, swinging back and forth in its cage and exhibiting great strength and activity.

In its own country the Orang is somewhat feared by the natives, who tell numerous stories of its strength and ferocity, which, however, are discredited by white hunters. These describe it as unsuspicious and say that it is easily captured. Naturally, when wounded it will attempt to defend itself, but even then in a half-hearted manner. It climbs slowly about, feeding on various large succulent fruits, and is much more arboreal, or tree-living, than either of the foregoing species of Apes.

Agile Gibbon (Hylobates agilis)

The Gibbons form somewhat of a connecting link between the true anthropoid apes and the lower monkeys, in that like the former they are practically tail-less and without cheek pouches, but on the other hand, unlike them, they have small callosities on the hindquarters. Gibbons are characterised by small, rounded heads and large eyes, and have very long arms by which they swing from tree to tree with the greatest agility. It is a truly remarkable sight to see one of these active creatures in captivity literally flying about his cage, simply touching various spots in it with his fingers as he swings from bar to bar. There are several varieties of the Gibbon, but they differ little from each other except in the matter of colour, which is either blackish or greyish, usually with a white band about the face. See Plate I, Fig. 4. They go about in large troops, and are found chiefly in Assam and Sumatra, although by some writers they have been reported as far west as Canton. The Gibbons are practically tree-living forms, seldom coming to the ground at all except under dire necessity, living on fruits and insects, and even on birds which they are able to catch on the wing in their flying leaps. Some species have very loud voices, so that when calling, or howling, in chorus, they make a noise that can be heard at a great distance.

Vervet (Cercopithecus pygerythrus)

The Guenons include a large number of species in habiting Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Perhaps the two best-known forms are the Diana (Cercopithecus Diana) and the Green Monkey (C. callitrichus), both of which are often seen in captivity. They are rather small, with long, curved tails, which, how-ever, are not prehensile, or used as hands are, for grasping and holding. The Diana Monkey is very beautiful in colour. It has a beard somewhat like a goat, which, with the chest, throat, and inside fur on the hind legs, is a pure white, that of the rest of the body being a rich, shining black. The Green Monkey is olive-green in colour, which becomes darker on the head, hands and feet, the whiskers around the head a kind of yellowish-white, the under part of the body and throat also white. The skin on the breast and other parts of the body is a delicate bluish-green, which shows through the rather sparse hair. Both the species mentioned live in Western Africa.

The species figured is common in Southern and Eastern Africa, and is yellowish-grey above and white beneath, with black feet. See Plate 2, Fig. 7.

Barbary Ape (Macacus inuus)

Between the larger anthropoid apes and the true baboons there are a number of species of monkeys, prominent among which are the Crested Baboon, or Black Ape, from the Celebes and the Philippines, and the Macaque Monkey very often seen in confinement. These are common in the southern parts of India, and with a smaller species of this genus freely roam the streets and climb about the buildings of that country. In particular, the Barbary Ape, a native of Northern Africa, is an interesting form, found also on the island of Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. See Plate 3, Fig. 8. The Macaques are monkeys with variable tails—they may be either long, short, or lacking altogether, and one species, called the Pig-tailed Macaque, carries the tail curled up over the back somewhat like that of the animal from which it derives its name. All these monkeys live in large troops and are extremely mischievous, creating great havoc among crops. Many of the smaller monkeys that we know best and see most frequently in zoological gardens, are members of this genus.

Yellow Baboon (Cynocephalus babuin)

The next important group is known as the Baboons, the generic name, Cynocephalus (dog-headed), being given them on account of their some-what dog-like appearance, which is increased by their general habit of walking on all-fours. The face is lengthened into a dog-like muzzle, and the canine teeth are very long. The Baboons live on the ground, usually in a rocky country, and go in large troops. Their food consists of various fruits and vegetables, as well as insects and grubs, which they obtain by turning over stones and logs. Nearly all have very grotesque features, either in the matter of colouring or in the growth and disposition of the hair over the body.

Among the more interesting species may be mentioned the Yellow Baboon, which derives its name from the greenish-yellow colour of the fur. This animal has a rather long tail, which is carried in the curious manner characteristic of many of the Baboons, rising for several inches abruptly from its junction with the body, then hanging straight down, forming a kind of loop. See Plate 3, Fig. 11. In character all the species are extremely fierce and aggressive, old males particularly being dangerous antagonists, and it is said that even leopards will not attack them. The males are very much larger than the females and nearly always act as guardians to them and the young, running forward at the first intimation of danger.

The Hamadryas (C. hamadryas), from Eastern Africa, is one of the larger and better known Baboons, chiefly remarkable for the thick, furry cape of hair of a light-greyish colour which falls over the shoulders. The long tail is tufted at the end and carried like that of the species just mentioned. The face and the naked hindquarters are a brilliant pinkish colour, and the animal presents a very grotesque appearance as it sits in an upright position on the rocks, taking observations.

The Gelada (Theropithecus gelada) is another singular form of the Baboon, from the same region in Africa as the Hamadryas. It also has a cape over the shoulders, but instead of being grey, the whole back is dark brown, almost black. It has the long tufted tail, and on the breast are very curious patches of bare skin, one a crescent shape and light salmon in colour. A large Gelada Baboon kept at the Bronx Zoological Park for some years had a strange habit of drawing the skin tightly back from its eyes, causing the bony ridges above them to turn from black, the natural colour of the skin, to white, owing to the pressure of the skin on the bony ridges surrounding the eyes. It was a very ferocious animal, easily irritated almost to frenzy.

All in all, the Baboons constitute a singular group of monkeys, whose general appearance is quite different from the rest of the order, that is, from either the larger, man-like apes or the smaller succeeding forms. All are noted for remarkable keenness of vision and general alertness and ferocity. Unlike the rest of the monkey tribe, they seem possessed of an enormous amount of vitality and strength, and under favourable conditions live for many years in captivity.

The Mandrill (Papio maimon)

Besides the preceding forms, there are several other well-marked species, prominent among them being the great Mandrill, considered the most formidable of all the baboons. This is certainly one of the most grotesque-looking creatures in existence, owing to the extraordinary colouring of the face and hindquarters. In the adult male two enormous ridges rise on both sides of the nose, brilliant blue in colour, the centre and end of the nose is a bright scarlet, and the hindquarters are decorated most lavishly in prismatic colours, red, blue and violet. This colour is of course in the skin itself, not in the hair, which is a deep, rich olive, shading to black on the feet and darker about the head and face. The whiskers, which project below the chin in a double point, are a light yellow, and the hair just behind the small ears is pure white. The small, brilliant eyes are almost hidden under heavy projecting brows. A very unusual feature is the short stubby tail which sticks up apparently almost from the middle of the back; and, altogether, the appearance of this creature is grotesque in the extreme. Its strange and hideous features are not found in the female and young, and, as is the case with most monkeys, the female is much smaller than the male. See Plate 3, Fig. 1o.

I had occasion at one time to study closely a magnificent specimen of this animal in the Pittsburg Zoological Gardens, and became much interested in the character it developed. In order to hold its attention, during the course of each visit I presented it with some favourite food, such as nuts or bananas. On this account he grew rather fond of me, and one day when a companion approached and attempted to take a book from a satchel I had with me—in which the food was usually carried—the monkey sprang fiercely at the bars of its cage in the direction of the intruder, much as a dog would have done under similar conditions, evidently in an attempt to defend my property. In character this Mandrill was a strange mixture of ferocity and affection, and in order to keep him in subjection his keeper had to make him feel the weight of authority.

This particular animal and other members of the Baboon tribe confined in the same enclosure, had a curious trick of waiting until a number of people were gathered in the circular house, and then at a given signal each would leap to some loose bar in its cage and shake it violently, creating at the same time as much noise as possible. This always had the effect of frightening the women and children, whose alarm seemed to amuse the baboons immensely; but always before the scared observers could escape from the room, the monkeys would with one accord cease the disturbance and march up and down their cages in a most indifferent manner. This performance was repeated a number of times while I was in the house, and there was no mistaking the malicious or mischievous intention.

Nearly allied to the Mandrill, but smaller, and lacking the bright blue and red colours of that ape, is the Drill (Cynocephalus leucophmus). It has much the same general form, with white whiskers surrounding the almost black colour of the face. The edges of the lips are a brilliant red, and the tail is short, stubby, and carried erect.

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