Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Lost World of Apes: the Bili and Mangani
Mangani is the name of a fictional species of great apes in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and of the invented language used by these apes. In the invented language, Mangani (meaning "great-ape") is the apes' word for their own kind, although the term is also applied (with modifications) to humans. The Mangani are represented as the apes who foster and raise Tarzan.
Dr. Peter Coogan wrote a page on the synthetic language created for the Mangani and Tarzan, provided here in pdf:
The language of the great apes of Africa that Edgar Rice Burroughs depicts in the Tarzan
novels is not some simple, made-up collection of sounds substituting for English. It is a
representation of a deeply structured, complex linguistic sign system with a grammar and syntax of
its own. This grammar has never been worked out because its last living native speakers (with the
exception of Tarzan himself) went extinct in the last century. Unfortunately, Burroughs never
presents an untranslated sentence, so we also have no real sense of Mangani syntax. Below, I offer
two examples that follow English syntax. Given the universality of the Mangani language in
nature, according to Burroughs, it is possible that we can learn something about Mangani grammar
and syntax by studying the language constructions of signing ape.
The creation of fictional species will pre-occupy me when I prepare Lost World of Dracula. Johann gave me a link from Wiki to capture the species search aspect, in this instance regarding the Bili Ape.
Since a five year long civil war ended in 2003, it has been easier for scientists to conduct field research in the Congo. The first scientist to see the Bili apes, and also recruited by Ammann, was Shelly Williams, PhD, a specialist in primate behavior. Williams reported on her close - and chilling - encounter with Bili Apes, "We could hear them in the trees, about 10 m away, and four suddenly came rushing through the brush towards me. If this had been a mock charge they would have been screaming to intimidate us. These guys were quiet, and they were huge. They were coming in for the kill - but as soon as they saw my face they stopped and disappeared."
“The unique characteristics they exhibit just don’t fit into the other groups of apes,” says Williams. The apes, she argues, could be a new species unknown to science, a new subspecies of chimpanzee, or a hybrid of the gorilla and the chimp. “At the very least, we have a unique, isolated chimp culture that’s unlike any that’s been studied,” she says.
Scientists believe they are dealing with a very inbred population, in which even a large number of animals could share identical or near identical haplotypes. Bili Ape reports have also been investigated by Esteban Sarmiento, who has said "I would think there is a strong possibility that south of Bili on the other side of the Uele River there may be gorillas, and this would seem an important area to turn our attention to." Scientists working within these forests south of the Uele, however, have found no such evidence, nor heard any such reports from local communities. It remains an important region, however, based on the discovered presence of other flagship species, like chimpanzees and elephants.
In June 2006, British Science Weekly reported that Cleve Hicks and colleagues from the University of Amsterdam had completed a year-long hunt for these apes during which they were able to observe the creatures a total of 20 full hours. Hicks reported that he saw "nothing gorilla about them", stating that "they pant-hoot and tree-drum, and so on," and adding that "the females definitely have a chimp's sex swellings." DNA samples recovered from feces also reaffirmed the classification of these apes in the chimp subspecies Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii.