Published on July 8, 2014
Couple has an encounter while hiking in Palmetto State Park. Read more...
Recently, famed author and journalist John Green gave the North American Wood Ape Conservancy permission to publish the final chapter of his seminal book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. In it, he lays out the case that wood apes, or sasquatches, are not human or human-like and that the collection of a type specimen is necessary. Many of us here at the NAWAC agree with Green. It is our position that until and unless wood apes are firmly and finally established as living animals that the real work of protecting and conserving them – the very heart of our mission statement – cannot begin. We felt that Green's words were some of clearest and most convincing we've read, even if they are from 1978.
Indeed, Green is not alone in his advocacy of the collection of a type specimen. When asked, Jeff Meldrum has said, "there is no precedent for recognizing a new species on the basis of a DNA sequence alone," as well as, "the standard, the gold standard, the conventions of zoology have required and do still require, a type specimen," and, "I’m the first to acknowledge that the scientific community is under no obligation to recognize the existence of a species without the type specimen."
The Animal Ethics Review Panel, in their article "Collection of voucher specimens," perfectly summarizes the NAWAC's position:
Conservation needs are impossible to assess without the ability to recognise and differentiate species. Thus, identification, although often taken for granted, is fundamental to any animal-based study and particularly important when studying native animals.
The fundamental bases for identifications are whole animal specimens, usually maintained in a museum or similar institution. If necessary, identifications can be confirmed by reference to such collections. In some situations, e.g., distinctive species, a non-essential part of the animal such as a hair sample, or a photograph, sound recording or some other non-destructive record may be adequate for identification.
These, however, have limited value. They do not offer the range of information as do whole body specimens, initially or through re-examination, nor are they suitable for detailed study by alternative means, including new technology (e.g., biochemical).
There are many species for which these are not valid alternatives. Accurate identifications can only be made if there is one or more specimens already available for comparison and examination. If an animal is thought to represent a new species, a specimen should be taken. Types (the basis for taxonomic descriptions of new taxa) should always be specimens; other kinds of samples are not suitable alternatives.
It is in the spirt of science and the established practice of legions of naturalists like Charles Darwin that we pursue our research, and it is in that spirit that we are very proud to bring you, for the first time online, "Sasquatches, Humans, and Apes."
As mentioned above, Green's book was originally published in 1978. He could not provide us with an electronic version of the text so we transposed it manually. Any errors in what follows are the result of that transposition and are not the fault of the author. Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us is available from Hancock House Publishers.
Sasquatches, Humans, and Apes
By John Green
Science tells us that humans are animals, but we do not think of ourselves as such. The differences between any human and all the other animals are so many and so obvious that we make the distinction automatically, with no need to think about it.
It seems natural to us to be so different, and yet there is no obvious reason for it. If all the higher primates of which we have found fossil remains were alive today we might have to give very considerable thought to the distinctions between Homo sapiens and some of his relatives. We might find ourselves examining each distinction by itself, and the results might surprise us.
The most obvious differences are that we walk upright on only two legs, that our bodies are not covered in hair, that we have speech, and that we make and use things. The first two are the most noticeable, but are they really that important?
We recognize a human at a distance or from a fleeting glimpse because of the upright posture, so in that way bipedalism can be considered to be a basic distinguishable feature. That applies even if the person is sitting, on all fours, or lying down. The way we normally stand and walk upright has determined human proportions and shape to the point where they are readily distinguishable even when not in an upright position.
Actually, it is a particular type of bipedalism that makes the difference. Many dinosaurs used to be bipedal, and birds still are, but their bodies balance at an angle across the top of the legs instead of stacking everything straight up. Many other mammals are capable of standing upright on their hind legs and some can walk that way, including bears and apes, but the only one that customarily walks upright is the gibbon, and he does it with his long arms touching the ground. None of them look very human while doing it.
Does our posture really make that much difference? If a gibbon's legs were longer and its arms were shorter that would obviously fail to make it a person. There is a strange chimpanzee named Oliver that stands and walks more upright than most humans, and that does not associate with other chimpanzees, but no one would mistake it for a man. A trained bear can not only walk upright, it can perform feats of balance that the average man would not dream of attempting, such as standing on a rubber ball and walking it backwards, around corners, up an incline. Still, no one would consider it a human. On the other hand, people too crippled to stand up are still people. Our upright posture may well have contributed to other differences that are more decisive, but plainly there is no reason why there could not be creatures that stand and walk like humans without having developed the other attributes of humanity.
Nakedness, the other difference that strikes the eye, is not really a basic distinction at all. Whole classes of animals are without either fur or feathers, and even among mammals there are some, like the elephant and the hippo, much less hairy than humans. Lack of hair serves mainly as an easy way to distinguish us from our close relatives, the apes. There are, however, some very hairy humans. They are still humans, while an ape kept shaved would only be a chilly ape.
It is not really our physical attributes that distinguish humans from other animals so much as the things that we do. Most creatures use sounds as a means of communication, but not in anything like the way that people do. A few animals make and use things, but again there is little similarity between what they do and what humans do.
Members of the most primitive of human societies have the ability to communicate complicated information by sound. A person can tell others about things that they have not experienced themselves; plans can be presented and discussed, and arrangements can be made for concerted action by many individuals. Information can even be transmitted by sound, and remembered in the form of sounds, so that people can call upon the experience of others to guide them in situations that are new to them, and in places where they have never been before. No animal is known to be able to do anything of the sort.
Field studies of wild animals have produced a wealth of new information in recent years, and have disproved a lot of what everyone thought was known of animal abilities and activities, but there has been no suggestion that any animal has a language. Chimpanzees have shown an unexpected ability to learn how to use words, even combining them correctly in simple sentences, but they deal with them in sign or with printed words on computer keys. No one has been able to teach an ape to speak, or a parrot to understand what it can say.
When it comes to making things, animals have some truly remarkable abilities, as anyone who has watched a spider spin a web must realize. Many mammals and birds construct elaborate nests or burrows. A beaver builds an actual house, and that is just one of his accomplishments. He can also build dams and canals that would be beyond the ability of an untrained human to engineer. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about a beaver's ability is that it is entirely instinctive. In African Genesis, Robert Ardrey reports that the few beaver which have survived throughout the centuries in Europe got along without building anything, until those in the Rhone Valley in France were protected and began to increase in numbers. They proceeded to build dams and lodges with a skill exactly equal to that of their North American cousins who had been doing it all along.
There are also animals which use things. Hugo van Lawick has photographs in Innocent Killers showing Egyptian vultures and mongooses throwing rocks to break ostrich eggs, and the National Geographic showing wild chimpanzees soaking up drinking water with a sponge of pre-crushed leaves, and trimming twigs to poke into holes of termite mounds. Those are remarkable accomplishments for animals, and they have forced abandonment of two attempts to define the difference between man and animal—that man is the only tool user and and that man is the only tool maker. The fact remains, however, that man is the only creature that depends on tools or that uses them in more than a very rudimentary way. He is also the only creature that uses or makes fire. His technological progress has proceeded unevenly, and there are still groups found occasionally that have not even discovered the use of metals, but a baby born into any cultural group has the inherited capacity to master any other culture if he or she is raised in it.
The differences between humans and all known animals are so plain that no confusion is possible, and this would remain the case if there were animals with many times the mental ability of any now known. Unfortunately, as our mental abilities have grown our physical gifts seem to have atrophied. We have retained good eyesight, but our hearing is second rate, and our sense of smell all but useless. Our muscle tissue is poor stuff compared even to that of our closest relatives. It doesn't matter whether the development of the human brain was a compensation for physical deficiencies, or whether human physical ability declined because brain power made it unnecessary for survival; in either way, and almost certainly in both, our bodies and our brains have been tailored to each other. No species without such a brain could have survived with such a body, and no animals that remained physically the master of its environment would have had to evolve such a brain.
Those considerations and a host of others have to be taken into account in assessing any creature that appears to be something between man and animal, whether it is something known only from fossil evidence, or something reported seen in the present day. It certainly makes no sort of sense to say, "It walked upright, therefore it was human." Yet that is exactly what a lot of people are doing.
In 20 years of active participation in the investigation of reports of giant, hairy, humanlike creatures, I have constantly looked for indications of whether the things described were human or animal or something in between. The initial impression, from Indian traditions, was they were some sort of wild humans, a tribe that kept aloof from its smaller relatives, but nonetheless lived in villages, spoke human languages, used fire, and even carried off human females for breeding purposes. Indeed the non-Indian community generally had the idea that the Sasquatch were hairy only to the extent of having long hair on their heads, something almost unknown among Canadian males at that time. I have seen a drawing in a high school yearbook depicting a handsome long-haired Sasquatch wearing a breechclout. At the same period a sasquatch costume was made by an Indian living in the same area and it was a complete fur suit.
Some of the earlier reports, particularly Albert Ostman's story of being kidnapped by a sasquatch and observing the activities of a family group, gave support to the idea of the near-human giant, although there was no suggestion of villages, clothing or fire in any report. Ostman's physical descriptions of the individual creatures, however, contained little hint of humanity. In fact there are no eye-witness descriptions that do. A sasquatch walks in much the same way as a man, and therefore has considerable physical resemblance to him. It is also like man and unlike other primates in its omnivorous diet, its ability to swim, and it successful survival in areas that differ widely in climate and vegetation. That practically completes the list of resemblances. The list of differences is much longer.
A sasquatch has a fur coat. It has size and strength to discourage most predators, if not all. It may have the speed to run down its prey, and certainly has the strength to kill most other animals. It can see in the dark. It requires no shelter and no clothing. It does not depend on tools or weapons, or need or use fire. In all those things it is the opposite of man. It cannot be proved until a specimen in dissected, but it appears that a sasquatch has a ridge on the top of its skull to which powerful jaw muscles attach, enabling it to eat types of food man's puny jaws can deal with only if they have been softened by cooking.
Most significant of all, the sasquatch is a solitary animal. It appears most likely that the largest groupings, normally, consist of a female and young. At most there may be single families including the adult male. Mankind, for probably millions of years, has depended on numbers for survival. His societies always include groups of families. The interaction within such groups probably had as much or more to do with making him what he is as did his upright posture or his use of weapons. It was surely essential to his development of language. Speech, co-operative effort, and the use of weapons and tools go with the big brain, which is what really distinguishes man from all his animal relatives. All those things the sasquatch never needed.
To put the matter in perspective, consider the implications if the sasquatch were ruled to be human. Not only would they be free of hunters and of zoos, they would be entitled to welfare. In the U.S. they could have food stamps, while in Canada they would have baby bonuses and free medical care. Not only would they be entitled to send their children to school, they would be required to send them. So instead of being in zoos, they would have to be put in jails, or perhaps homes for the retarded. It would not help them to take to the bush. The census takers would have to find them and count them. Civil rights workers would be after them to make sure that they registered to vote. Activists would point out to them that since they had signed no treaties their aboriginal rights should be worth billions. Fair employment laws would require that every business have its token sasquatch. How would they look in the mail-order fashion ads? There is more to being a human than walking on two legs.
Why, then, is there an apparent tendency for people to want to see in the sasquatch some kind of human — to insist on its humanity in spite of all the evidence? Partly it must involve the initial reaction that anything sitting, standing and walking like a human is a human, since in all our lives everything we have ever seen that looked like that was a human. Partly the problem is caused by people who claim that their studies of sasquatch indicate that they are human — a clear case of telling the public not what they have learned about the creature, but what they have learned the public wants to hear. Partly, I believe, it is a yearning for our own innocence, for the noble savage we never were.
Many people seem to have a need to believe that man in the wilds, without civilization, is purer, better, happier then they. Since studies of primitive societies have provided no consistent support for such a belief, the sasquatch is asked to fill the role. It has to be out there avoiding contact with its unsavory cousins, living in harmony with its environment, because it has looked us over and found us wanting; not because of its lack of weapons and inability to act in groups having rendered it unable to compete for more desirable territories, leaving for it only the mountainsides and swamps where man does not choose to live. It is a beautiful thought, but only a thought. It exists only in the mind.
Lacking physical evidence, there is a question whether sasquatches exist at all, but if they do we know a lot about them and all of it says one thing. They are all animal. Magnificent animals, completely self-sufficient on their physical endowments alone, but no more than animals. As higher primates, and huge ones, sasquatches undoubtedly have bulky brains but until their smaller cousins acquired technology they never faced a challenge requiring that the big brain be used. When that day did arrive it was too late.
How, then, should we treat this animal that walks like us? How do we treat other animals? How should we treat other animals, and why?
I do not subscribe to the belief that nature exists solely for man's use, nor do I believe that all of Earth that can support a human population should be used for that purpose. In my opinion our species is a blight that the world would have been better off without. Had we realized a century to two ago that we were becoming too numerous, and had we been able to halt human multiplication, everywhere, man might have been the crowning glory of the planet. With his present numbers and continued growth, man can only be considered a cancer that is destroying the planet. We are already far too numerous to hunt for our food, the world could not support us that way. We are also too numerous to be supported by the normal growth of such normal plants as we can eat. Our dependance on huge acreages of specially-bred single crops, on herbicides and on favorable weather patterns, has already made us very vulnerable, so that the problem of our numbers may contain its own solution.
I don't have any objections to animals being killed for food, or for research, or even for furs, provided that the species concerned is sufficiently numerous to recoup the loss, but I am opposed to the elimination of animal populations or the animal habitat, both of which are inevitable as long as the human population continues to grow. I consider this alone to be sufficient reason why the proliferation of humans should be stopped.
In short, I am entirely susceptible to arguments suggesting that man reduce his interference with other animals, but what I think, or what the reader thinks, is of little significance in this matter. The pattern of mankind's treatment of animals is thoroughly set and subject to only gradual change. The question of the sasquatch must be considered in relation to things as they are, not as we might wish them to be.
How, then, should we treat an animal that walks like us? No differently than we treat anything else. To give special treatment to one type of animal because it reminds us of ourselves obviously reflects concern for ourselves, not for animals.
Leaving ourselves out of consideration, let us consider the animal. Does it perform some beneficial function for which it should be protected? There is no present evidence one way of the other, but it seems unlikely. Is the species endangered? Certainly not by hunting. There is no record of one being hunted successfully. By destruction of its habitat? That could quite possibly be the case in a few areas, but in general there does not appear to be any pressure on the mountain forests where most of the reports originate. Logging does disturb those areas from time to time, but it increases their ability to support animal life by letting sunlight get down to the ground level. Logging roads can have a very adverse effect on the population of game animals by providing easy access for hunters, but there is no evidence that sasquatches have been shot in appreciable numbers, or ever killed, and there is ample evidence that logging activity in an area does not drive them out of it.
Is there any other reason why sasquatches should be treated in a special way? I am not aware of any except for their resemblance to men.
Should sasquatches be hunted for sport? Fortunately there are many precedents for denying hunters the right to hunt one type of animal or another, so it should not be difficult to have this species protected from trophy hunters. Should they be hunted for food, or for their hides? They are presumably slow to reproduce and slow to mature, so they could not be a significant source of animal protein, fur or leather. Nor is it likely that many people would care to eat one. Descriptions suggest that their pelts would not be particularly attractive, but it is possible that they might have other valuable qualities. Should they be hunted for scientific purposes? Definitely yes. To begin with, one must be presented to the scientists in the flesh in order to establish that such a creature exists at all. Until that is done there is no possibility of having them studied effectively, or of preserving their habitat in areas where it is being destroyed. It would be difficult enough to hold back the tide of real estate development in western Florida, for instance, on behalf of any animal, no matter how manlike. To attempt it on behalf of an animal considered to be imaginary is obviously impossible.
Following that, should they be captured for public display and for study? The same considerations apply to them as to other animals. If there are sound reasons for having zoos, then there are the same reasons for having sasquatches in them. Should they be killed for dissection? Each question is more emotionally charged than the one before. A few people are beginning to protest the imprisoning of animals for man's benefit. A considerably greater number object to killing them for experimental purposes.
Dr. Geoffrey Bourne heads the Yerkes Primate Centre at Atlanta, Georgia, where large numbers of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are kept for scientific study. The centre is one of a chain maintained by the U.S. government to raise primates for medical research, and in many cases the animals must be killed. Thousands die each year, which is why the government uses taxpayers' money to breed them. Dr. Bourne told me, however, that public objection to the killing of any of the great apes for research purposes has risen to the point where projects involving it are not approved, even though there are sufficient animals available.
The situation of the sasquatch differs considerably from that of the other great apes in at least three ways. First, there is no shortage of wild sasquatches. They cover such a tremendous area that there must be many thousands of them, and there is nothing to indicate that their numbers are declining. On the contrary, their appearance in more and more places where they were not previously known suggests that they are steadily becoming more numerous.
Second, the sasquatch as an experimental animal is of unique importance. Primates are expensive and bothersome to raise. They would be little used for medical research if other animals would serve as well, but for some purposes their close relationship to man makes them essential. As the only other primate that walks in the same manner as man, the sasquatch is the only potential experimental animal for the whole range of human ailments that are linked to upright posture. Whether it will be worthwhile to breed them for experimental purposes remains to be seen but before the answer is known they will need to be studied, and study will have to include dissection.
The third difference is that sasquatches are not available for study without killing them. With the other apes a great deal of information is already available as a result of earlier research, and if new cadavers are needed there are enough natural deaths among captive animals to provide a fair selection. Thorough study of all the various systems—muscles, nerves, glands, blood vessels, digestive organs and so on—requires dissection of quite a few bodies. The only way they can be obtained, in the case of a sasquatch, is by hunting.
Many people will find those statements unacceptable, and I sympathize with their feelings, but there is no point in ignoring reality. Mankind is still killing the animals that are truly endangered, and doing it merely for sport or profit. Where there are genuine and important scientific reasons to collect animals for study it is going to be done, especially when no case can be made that the species can not afford the loss. Death is a basic element in nature, the inevitable end of all but the simplest forms of life, and the majority of animals die violently. It seems certain that the sasquatch do their share of killing. There are simply no grounds for concern if a few sasquatches are killed for research purposes.
It is often proposed that there is no need to kill a sasquatch to prove their existence, that one should be captured instead or that good photographs would constitute proof. I don't suppose there are many people who have concerned themselves with the matter at all who have not gone through a period when they held those opinions, but they turn out to be in conflict with the facts. For photographic proof to be decisive, it would have to be studied, but an adequate film already exists, and no such study has taken place. Everyone knows that films can be faked, and there is nothing to suggest that additional footage, or better footage, would be treated differently from the film that has already been available but ignored for a decade. Even if studies were made and the verdict was favorable, photographic evidence would always be open to challenge and the more of it there was the more pointed would be the question, "If people can get pictures of it, why not the animal itself?"
As to capture, that would be decisive, certainly and I don't doubt that when he applies enough resources to the problem man will find ways to trap sasquatches. The difficulty is the usual one — the resources will never be available until the animal is proved to exist. To trap an animal you must first have a trap that will hold it. Then you have to be able to put the trap in a place the animal frequents, and you have to have some way of attracting the animal to the trap. In the case of sasquatch suitable traps are not available, unless one would be obliging enough to crawl into one of the large culvert traps used for bears. The knowledge of where traps should be placed is not yet available either, despite years of effort towards that end, and there is no saying when it will be. Finally, no one has yet demonstrated an ability to attract a sasquatch, even in the most general way, let alone persuade one to get involved with a contraption that could imprison it. If anyone wants to try trapping sasquatches there is no reason why he shouldn't, but it won't rate as a practical possibility until a lot more is learned about the quarry than is known now.
The other method of live capture, more frequently proposed, is with a tranquilizer gun. That sounds easy, and one of the favorite practices of some of the publicity-seeking sasquatch hunters is to talk about how they would never kill one, or even have one in captivity, but would just tranquilize one for a while and then let it go. Again, it is an idea that appeals to almost everyone, but in fact has to be abandoned by realists because it conflicts with the facts. If tranquilizer guns were accurate at long range and could be loaded with something that would drop a sasquatch in its tracks but do it no harm, they would obviously be the thing to use. In fact they are good only at a very short range, and for practical purposes the animal should be fenced in, or at least in the open where it can't get out of sight.
Experts do use tranquilizer guns on wild animals in the woods, but they know how to hunt them and what quantity of drug to use for each species, and it isn't terribly serious if the animal gets away or dies. The odds of getting a shot at a sasquatch at all are so poor that it makes no sense to try to do it with an inaccurate weapon of doubtful effectiveness. If the dose of tranquilizer in the dart is too heavy it may be fatal, and if it is too light it won't work, but to use the correct dose you need to know both the weight of the animal and the tolerance of its species for the drug. If you do hit it, and the dose does happen to be correct, it may go a long way before it falls down.
Improvements are being made, and there may come a time when tranquilizer guns will do all the things people imagine they can do now. There is, however, no point in waiting. Even if, through some remarkable chain of circumstances, the first sasquatch to be collected should be a live one, there will still be just as many killed for dissection. Any contribution that anyone makes towards advancing knowledge of the subject helps to speed the day when sasquatches will be studied on slabs. A lot of people involved in the hunt would like to believe that isn't so, and a few who know better still pretend publicly that it isn't, but there is no escaping reality.
Another appealing dream is that the sasquatch could be left unmolested, but studied in the wild as has been done with other great apes. That would be very desirable, but probably not very practical. Gorillas travel in groups, leaving plenty of evidence of their passing, and they travel slowly. It is possible for an observer to find them readily and hang around long enough so that they get used to him. Orangutans present a different problem, since they are generally up in trees, but they too are generally slow moving, and recently have been successfully studies in the wild.
Chimpanzees can easily avoid humans who try to follow them, but they are numerous enough in some areas so that it is not too difficult to make observations. Like orangs they can readily be watched when they congregate in the trees to eat fruit. Even so, for intensive observation it has proven necessary to attract them to the observation point with bananas.
Sasquatches are probably far more mobile than chimpanzees, or men, as well as being infinitely harder to find. Present experience suggests strongly that it will never be possible to find or follow them with sufficient regularity for any sort of study. The head of the U.S. Inter-Agency Grizzly Bear Study Team has been quoted as saying that the bears' ability to travel 20 or 30 miles in a night over mountains makes them almost impossible to study first hand in the field. The situation with the sasquatch will probably be the same or worse. Perhaps eventually some food will be found that will attract them, but bananas have already been tried without success, as have a great many other things. Vocalizations may also help make observations possible, if it is first established just what sounds sasquatches make. In any event such studies would compliment, not replace, those that will involve captive specimens and dead ones.
Probably no student of wild primates has ever had a closer relationship with or affection for the subjects of study that Jane Goodall with her chimpanzees. Near the conclusion of her book In the Shadow of Man she makes the following comments:
I should make it clear that I'm not trying to say we should never use the chimpanzee as an experimental animal . . . He is as closely related to us in some respects as he is to the gorilla. Because of this, he is probably the only really effective substitute when for ethical reasons research cannot be carried out on humans. Kuru, a strange trembling illness of New Guinea, was a mystery of the medical world and claimed countless victims. Research with chimpanzees established it as a slow-acting virus disease and made the present dramatic cure possible.
My contention, in brief, is that there is not the slightest possibility that sasquatches can be considered humans or near-human, neither are they an endangered species, and no other reason is known giving them any unique claim to total protection. On the other hand, they offer unique opportunities to learn things of value to man through the study of an animal. The appropriate action under the circumstances is to collect a sasquatch and get on with the study. Since no scientific institution is attempting to do so, it is perfectly reasonable for some private individual with a gun to get the ball rolling.
It is a normal and common reaction for people suddenly confronted with the prospect that such a creature actually exists to assume that on no account should one be shot, and sometimes people in positions of prominence will support that idea publicly, but they are acting in ignorance. Nor does it make any difference whether the person doing the shooting is some responsible, even reluctant individual who has reached the correct conclusion after the deliberation, or one of the "trigger-happy" types that sheriffs tend to worry about. The mostly likely person to have the opportunity is a person out hunting for something else. Whoever it is, the man who first succeeds in killing a sasquatch and bringing some part of it back for identification will be doing the right thing.
Barring the unlikely eventuality that governments or major scientific institutions will involve themselves in the investigation, that seems to be the only likely way for the matter to be brought to a successful conclusion.
In summary, I hope that I have been able to convey adequately the main points of a rather simple message:
There is evidence that another erect primate shares this globe with mankind.
The evidence may not be conclusive, but it is certainly ample to establish that the matter should be further investigated.
In the meantime, the person who finds himself in a position to obtain a specimen should do so, in the knowledge that it is important, and that such creatures are neither rare or human.
Finally, don't worry about them. They are big, but they are nothing to be afraid of.
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