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Ufiti, Pop Sci Monthly photo, July 1961

Photograph of Ufiti from a Popular Science Monthly report, July 1961

Ufiti (which means ghost) is a female chimpanzee from native folklore of Malawi people and reported to live in Nkata Bay. Nkata bay is on the western shore of Lake Nyasa, Malawi. Chimpanzee is native of Congo Jungle faraway from Malawi, the nearest colony is in Nkungwe Mountains of Tanzania which still far enough, so report of the sighting is ignored until its capture near Limpasa river which surprised zoologist. Ufiti reported to be curiously watching the road and bridge construction in the vicinity of Limpasa river shortly before its capture.

Description

Based on the photograph, Ufiti is definitely a common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), she is huge, black coloured and has short dense coat, she is also exhibit unexpected features like pale gray saddle-shaped marking on its back that is only found in male gorillas, not chimpanzee. Characteristic above are fit with creatures from Malawi folklore.

Capture

Ufiti, RGM Willan

Ufiti, on Wild Life Nairobi

In March 1960, a field expedition from the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, led by C.S. Holliday and B.L. Mitchell, travelled to Nkata Bay to observe and photograph Ufiti, as well as to obtain tape recordings of her vocalisations, and to study the prevailing ecology of the area. The information gathered during that expedition was then sent to anthropologist Dr W.C. Osman Hill which then in 1963 he documented within an article published by London's Zoological Society in a primate research papers.

In March 1964 she was sent to Britain's Chester Zoo, arriving there on 19 March. However, her health was found to be rapidly deteriorating, so, to prevent her from any further suffering, on 23 April the zoo had no option but to put her down. After her dead, the story of ghost chimpanzee is largely forgotten

Opinion

Zoologist opinion before Dr W.C. Osman Hill article is that Ufiti is just escapee from captivity, but the description above created speculation among zoologist that Ufiti represent new species or subspecies of chimps.

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 chimps or undersized weird gorillas.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus) are said to be subspecies of chimp and had been declared to be distinct from common chimps, but it's different case for Ufiti, so far, the physical remains and the single captive ufiti have not prompted any more research by 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.

Fallacy

Story of the "Ghost from Nkata Bay" repeatedly surfaced online and creating misinformation among reader, claims of her gigantic size are plain wrong, also her story frequently mixed with account of Bondo Mystery Ape or famously known as Bili Ape from Congo, which is a large variant of chimpanzee, this ape have gorilla's behaviour like nesting on the ground.

R.G.M. Willan (Nyasaland's Chief Conservator of Forests) said on an issue of Wild Life Nairobi, that : "Unfortunately its height was much exaggerated by some of the first observers, and their guesses varied from 5 ft 6 ins to 6 ft. In actual fact it is probably a little more than 4 ft in height [i.e. within the normal range for adult female common chimpanzees]"

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