Local legends have long stated that a clan of giant, lion-killing chimps roam the Bili Forest of the Democratic Public of the Congo. Known as the Bili apes, or Bondo mystery apes, the cryptic group of chimps has been said to kill big cats, catch fish, and howl at the moon.
It wasn’t until recently that scientists were actually able to make their way across 25 miles of thick jungle and croc-infested rivers to study the infamous apes. As It turns out, there are indeed a troop of “super-sized” chimps that, while they haven’t been recorded howling at the moon, have unique gorilla-like characteristics and an unusual appetite for wild cats.
Dr. Thurston Hicks of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology spent 18 arduous months observing the apes in the field. He witnessed first hand some rather unusual chimpanzee behavior — namely an individual feasting on a leopard carcass — though he couldn’t determine if the chimp had been the one to kill the big cat.
Hicks also observed that these particular chimps nested on the ground like gorillas, but in all other ways acted like chimps. And, unlike most wild animals, these guys possessed no fear of humans, but were rather quite curious at the sight of the researchers. This lack of fear is likely due to the fact that they have limited contact with gun-wiedling humans. “The further away from the road the more fearless the chimps got,” said Hicks.
In addition to this unique behavior, the Bili chimps are extraordinary in their appearance, too; they’re substantially larger than their eastern chimp cousins and are commonly seen walk upright. Standing up to 5.5 feet tall, these guys boast a footprint larger than that of a gorilla. They also have a gorilla-like prominent brow ridge, making their facial appearance distinct. Researchers speculate that the population is inbred, which explains some of the unique characteristics.
Unfortunately, the Bili apes are now under threat from poachers that began coming into the area around 2007. Adults have reportedly been killed for their meat, while babies are being sold at local markets.
Some of the only known footage of these apes was captured a few years ago using a remote trap camera set up in deep in the northern forest of the Congo. Watch: