Why Do We Care?

At the most basic level, the quest for knowledge is always the primary driving force in scientific endeavors, including the quest for knowledge regarding the natural world in which we live. There can be little argument that much remains to be learned about Earth and the many species that inhabit it, both known and unknown.

The North American Wood Ape Conservancy is investigating one of the great natural enigmas of our day. Some of us in the NAWAC seek the answer to the question of the wood ape’s existence for ourselves, on a personal level. On the other hand, some of us have had experiences that, for us, solved the puzzle in a definitive, life-changing manner, and we seek to tackle the more challenging and ultimate task of scientific cataloguing.

Having said all that, reasons for our interest involve other factors as well, such as positively influencing societal attitudes and natural resource policies.

When the existence of the wood ape is considered as an objective possibility and the potential ramifications of its documentation are carefully evaluated, the subject often invokes strong visceral reactions. In a scientific context, the discovery of a species of bipedal primate, one that is perhaps closely related to Homo sapiens, would certainly have enormous implications for current theoretical frameworks and would surely alter prevailing concepts regarding the past and lineage of humans and that of our biological cousins, the great and lesser apes (orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and gibbons). At the very least, authoritative physical anthropology books would need to be drastically revised in light of such a discovery. Organizations or individuals outside the scientific community might fear the discovery of such a species for religious reasons, while potential economic impacts might be seen as a major concern for entirely different agencies or special interest groups.

In any case, documentation of the wood ape would also demonstrate that twenty-first-century Earth is not as “small” as many seem to think, and that the potential for discovery is not diminishing in the least (as if the discovery every year of thousands of new species is not enough to convince us). This kind of dramatic discovery could usher in an exciting new era of heightened environmental consciousness and interest in anthropology and the life sciences.

Strong reactions or emotions are also often invoked when the possibility of species extinction is considered. Many people are moved to roles of activism in order to promote the survival of critically endangered species, especially high profile species such as the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). There is ample evidence to support the contention that habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, and other negative human-mediated interactions affecting the environment (such as the introduction of non-native organisms and the spread of disease) have significantly accelerated the current pace of extinction over natural rates. Official recognition of the wood ape could serve to prompt individuals, organizations, and governments to take unprecedented actions towards conservation.

Finally, once its existence is appropriately documented, the wood ape may turn out to be the closest living relative to human beings. Its discovery could prove to be beneficial to us in ways that no one can now anticipate. It would truly be a travesty if the species became extinct during a period when we had the capacity to protect it and its habitat.

We trust that when the investigation of the wood ape phenomenon is considered in these contexts, answers to questions regarding why NAWAC members care enough to risk reputation and livelihood and dedicate time and resources towards documentation efforts are more clearly understood.

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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Occurred 7/9/1988 in Sebastian County, AR

Published on November 3, 2017 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Fisherman has close encounter on lake in western Arkansas. Read more...

Occurred 5/7/2016 in Atoka County, OK

Published on June 17, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway.

Occurred 1/4/2016 in Walker County, TX

Published on March 22, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Husband and wife observe massive upright animal in Sam Houston National Forest on FM 1375 Baker Bridge at Lake Conroe one hour apart. Read more...

Occurred 6/8/2014 in Gonzales County, TX

Published on July 8, 2014 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has an encounter while hiking in Palmetto State Park. Read more...

Occurred 12/20/1983 in Walker County, TX

Published on December 21, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Hunter has close encounter in Sam Houston National Forest near Stubblefield Recreational Area. Read more...

Occurred 12/24/1976 in Tyler County, TX

Published on March 11, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville.

Occurred Fall 2003 in Polk County, TX

Published on March 7, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has highway encounter near Big Thicket National Preserve. Read more...

Occurred 4/3/2012 in Liberty County, TX

Published on April 21, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Man out walking for exercise at local track has unexpected encounter with upright hair-covered subject. Read more...

Occurred 5/15/2009 in Burnet County, TX

Published on April 11, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Motorist has late-night encounter near Balcones Canyon Lands National Wildlife Refuge. Read more...

Occurred 5/1981 in Travis County, TX

Published on November 15, 2011 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Airman reports night-time encounter on Bergstrom AFB.

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