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Profiling the Mysterious Apes of Africa

Just about everyone has heard of Bigfoot and the Yeti (the latter also known as the Abominable Snowman). And, if you are into the field of Cryptozoology, you’ll know the likes of Sumatra’s Orang Pendek. But, what about Africa’s mysterious apes? They are far less known. And it’s because of that I decided today to highlight some of the cases from the continent of Africa. The Republic of Kenya is found in East Africa and can boast of being home to more than a few kinds of unidentified, and unacknowledged, apes. Mount Kilimanjaro is the dwelling of the dwarfish Wa-mbilikimo, a hairy thing with a head of flowing locks. Perhaps related to the Wa-mbilikimo are the Dokos of Lake Turkana, stories of which surfaced in the 19th Century. That the Dokos reportedly had their own form of religion suggests they were far more evolved than the average ape – or, quite possibly, were an unknown form of human. The Maus of Kenya’s Mau Escarpment, which runs along Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, sound like a combination of both the Doko and the Wa-mbilikimo. Short and hairy, they seem to possess profoundly human traits, despite their primitive, animal-like appearances. This is made clear by their reported use of rudimentary tools and fire, and their odd obsession with herding cattle.

One of the most significant accounts of the Mau people came from big game hunter Roger Courtney. In his 1940 book, A Greenhorn in Africa, he related a number of accounts of sightings of, and confrontations with, the Mau – or “Mau Men,”” as Courtney was told they were also called. Courtney said that one of his interviewees “…went on to tell how his own father, who was driving his sheep to pasture on the slopes of Mount Longenot, fell into the hands of these gnomes when he went into a cave, following the trail of blood left by one of his sheep that had been stolen. He was stunned from behind, and when he came round he found he was surrounded by strange little creatures.” Courtney added that his source related his father’s further words as follows: “The Mau men were lower even than those little people of the forests for, though they had no tails that I could see, they were as the monkeys that swing in the forest trees. Their skins were white, with the whiteness of the belly of a lizard, and their faces and bodies were covered with long, black hair.”

Drakensberg mountains

Madagascar is specifically titled the Republic of Madagascar. It’s an island that can be found only around 400 kilometers off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel. Although there are vague stories suggesting that Madagascar is the domain of several, distinct kinds of anomalous apes, certainly the most talked about one is the Kalanoro. Like so many other such creatures in Africa, they are fairly small, falling into the Littlefoot category. These three-toed things reportedly have their own, fairly complex, language and speak in a soft voice that sounds eerily like a woman’s. Caves are their chief abodes; that is, when they are not raiding villages for food. A fascinating report of the Kalanoro surfaced in 1886, from G. Herbert Smith: “We next come to the forest, and from there we get endless stories of the Kalanoro, a sort of wild man of the woods, represented as very short of stature, covered with hair, with flowing beard, in the case of the male, and with an amiable weakness for the warmth of a fire.

“An eye-witness related that once, when spending a night in the heart of the forest, he lay awake watching the fire, which had died down to red embers, when he suddenly became aware of a figure answering to the above description warming himself at the fire, and apparently enjoying it immensely. According to the story, he put a summary end to the gentleman’s enjoyment by stealing down his hand, grasping a stick, and sending a shower of red-hot embers on to his unclothed visitor, who, immediately, and most naturally, fled with a shriek. Another tells how, on a similar occasion, the male appeared first, and after inspecting the premises and finding, as well as a fire, some rice left in the pot, summoned his better half; the pair squatted in front of the fire and – touching picture of conjugal affection – proceeded to feed one another!”

In 1938, a startling letter was published in the pages of Discovery magazine. It was written by British Army Officer Cuthbert Burgoyne. According to Burgoyne, nine years earlier – in 1927 – he had a close encounter with a pair of unknown apes or monkeys while aboard a Japanese cargo boat that was heading for Portuguese East Africa. They were, apparently, known locally as Agogwes. In Burgoyne’s own words: “We were sufficiently near to land to see objects clearly with a glass of 12 magnifications. There was a sloping beach with light brush above, upon which several dozen baboons were hunting for and picking up shellfish or crabs, to judge by their movements. Two pure white baboons were amongst them. These are very rare but I had heard of them previously.”

Then, as Burgoyne noted, something amazing happened: “As we watched, two little brown men walked together out of the bush and down among the baboons. They were certainly not any known monkey and they must have been akin or they would have disturbed the baboons. They were too far away to see in detail, but these small human like animals were probably between 4 and 5 feet tall, quite upright and graceful in nature. At the time I was thrilled as they quite evidently were no beast of which I had heard or read. Later a friend and big game hunter told me he was in Portuguese East Africa with his wife and three other hunters, and saw mother, father and child, of apparently similar animal species, walk across the further side of a bush clearing. The natives loudly forbade him to shoot.”

A West African country, Senegal is home to two distinct types of unknown ape with somewhat human-style qualities, one of which exhibits extreme hostility towards people. Its name is the Gnena. At around two to three feet in size, it lacks the bulk of Bigfoot. This does not, however, prevent it from being a potentially formidable opponent. The Gnena are very strong creatures, muscular, and possessing fierce tempers. As for their physical description, they are noted for their coats of extremely long, dark hair that hangs in lank fashion from their bodies. Somewhat strangely, they have large heads that are significantly out of proportion to their bodies and have piercing, yellow eyes. When confronted by people, the Gnena will invariably intimidate them with dog-like barks, and will, if it’s deemed necessary, launch an all-out attack. The Gnena are not exclusive to Senegal, however: reportedly, they live deep in the forests of numerous African countries, including the Cameroons, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Mali.

Within Senegal, the Gnena has a rival in the man-beast stakes; or, at least, it did until around the turn of the 20th Century, when reports of the creature began to tail off. It is called the Sansandryi. Although the fairly placid Sansandryi were said to have been far more ape-like than human, they apparently enjoyed wearing human clothes, whether stolen from villagers or found discarded. They reportedly had a sizeable colony in the forests surrounding the Casamance River, until around 1900 when something put an end to their presence and they were never seen again.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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