The Cryptid Zoo: Ufiti

The ufiti is an animal that looks like something between a chimp and a gorilla, but closer to a chimp. It is reported in native folklore from Malawi, an area where chimps are not supposed to live. Similar creatures that seem halfway between chimp and gorilla have been reported from elsewhere in Africa, where they are given local names, such as the koolokamba, the choga, the bondo ape, the dodieka, and the Bili ape (of the Bili Forest in the Congo).

This creature was scoffed at until a single example was captured alive near the Limpasa River. A female, this animal proved to be a chimp, but one so different that it might count as a new subspecies. She was huge, black in color, and had a "silverback" like a silverback gorilla, a gray saddle-shaped marking that is only found in male gorillas, not in chimps, let alone female chimps. She certainly fit the ufiti described in folklore.

Unfortunately, she died in an English zoo in 1964 and there has not been much interest in discovering whether there are more ufitis in Malawi. In best circumstances, the ufiti might even be a new species, just as the bonobo was eventually declared a separate species after being thought a mere subspecies of chimp for a long time.

Other evidence for this animal includes skins and skulls collected near the border between Gabon and the Republic of Congo. These remains exhibit characteristics of both chimps and gorillas, so that experts remain divided over whether they represent anomalous, oversized mutant chimps or undersized, weird gorillas. So far, the physical remains and the single captive ufiti have not prompted any movement within the mainstream scientific establishment to declare the ufiti a new subspecies or species. The evidence has sometimes been explained by saying that such individuals represent chimp/gorilla hybrids, but such hybrids are not thought to be possible.

You can find out more about the Ufiti from the following sources:

Ammann, Karl. The Bondo Mystery Ape

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 243-244
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Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 218-219

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 64, 101, 129, 235-236, 470-471

Occultopedia, The. The Ufiti

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Pages 179-180

Wikipedia, The. Bili Ape

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The text on this page is copyright 2006 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.