Columbuss Ape Faced

Odd c at or other mammal of Central America, seen on Columbus's fourth voyage.

Physical description: Large cat. Apelike face. Prehensile tail.

Behavior: Aggressive. Killed a peccary with only its foreleg and thick tail. Distribution: Costa Rica. Significant sighting: Christopher Columbus sent an armed party into the interior of Costa Rica in 1502, and this odd-looking animal was captured.

Possible explanations:

(1) The Central American spider monkey (Ateles geojfoyi) has a prehensile tail and a catlike body 1-2 feet long. The Costa Rican variety is brown to silvery above, lighter below. It growls and acts threatening when disturbed, but whether this fruit-eating

112 coleman frog monkey, even if provoked, could dispatch a pig is doubtful.

(2) The Kinkajou (Potos flavus), a relative of the raccoon, is even more catlike, also has a prehensile tail, and is common in Central American forests. However, it is extremely docile.

(3) An unknown species of carnivorous cat, now extinct, suggested by Herbert Wendt. Sources: Letter from Christopher Columbus to the King and Queen of Spain, July 7, 1503, in J. M. Cohen, trans., The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus (New York: Penguin, 1969), p. 298; Herbert Wendt, Out ofNoah's Ark (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959).

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