Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Jane Goodall and unknown primates

Dr. Jane Goodall needs no introduction anywhere on Earth. No one knows more about studying large primates in the wild.  One thing that piques her interest is sasquatch and similar reported creatures.  She once told an interviewer, of sasquatch, "I'm sure they exist." This article has a really interesting nugget: that she found hunters in Ecuador who, when asked if they had seen "moneys without a tail," responded they had - and the "monkeys" were 1.8m (6 feet) tall. She even speculated sasquatch-type creatures could be Neanderthal in origin.
New World apes do not, so far as we know, exist, either in the fossil record or today.  Apes never made it here.  While Latin America swarms with monkeys, the only large primate ever to reach this hemisphere was, as far as we know, Homo sapiens.  There is some VERY speculative thinking, based on the Cerutti mastodon site in California, that human ancestors, likely a Homo erectus group, showed up first (130,000 years ago!), but that's a long way from being proven. We don't know of Neanderthals coming within thousands of miles of the periodic land bridges that brought modern humans over.  Creatures like sasquatch are reported all over the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, a truly impossible range,but have we ruled everything out?
Goodall is almost alone among primatologists and mammologists in thinking sasquatch possible.  Aside from a few Americans like Dr. Jeff Meldrum, there is a near-consensus that no large animal with no fossil record, no bones, and no dead specimens is really awaiting discovery. Indeed, a lot of very qualified people find the topic ridiculous, especially in North America, where a new rodent is a huge discovery.
The sightings, of course, keep coming in. I have twice written Forewords for books by my friend Lori Simmons, who  believes her dad, Donald Wallace, while rarely glimpsing animals, established a kind of trading relationship, and no less than Touchstone Pictures is developing his memoirs into a film currently titled Underground Giants. I wrote that, while I considered sasquatch unproven and unlikely, the belief in and pursuit of this creature is a fascinating human story.
And there, for the moment, we must leave the topic.  Sasquatch, animal or myth, is pretty durable. We will be back.
(Thanks to the folks at the North American Wood Ape Conservancy for posting the Goodall article.)

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