Gorillai

Either a Wildm an of West Africa or an ancient encounter with an anthropoid ape.

Etymology: Unknown; probably derived from an African word that Hanno the Carthaginian heard. One hypothesis is that it represents the Kongo (Bantu) word ngo dtida ("powerful animal that beats its chest"), which assumes Hanno made it south of the equator; other hypotheses include the Wolof (Atlantic) word goloh ("ape") in Senegal and the Benga (Bantu) word ngiya, used for the gorilla in Gabon.

Physical description: Hairy and wild. Behavior: The males run away into the mountains and let the females be slaughtered.

Significant sighting: Hanno the Carthaginian discovered Gorillai' on his voyage along the African coast in the early fifth century b.c and is said to have taken two skins back to Carthage, where they were displayed in the Temple of Juno.

Distribution: An island on the West African coast. Bernard Heuvelmans thought the location was Morocco; others think it was Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, or Gabon. Possible explanations:

(1) Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) surviving into historical times in North Africa, suggested by Heuvelmans. However, so far there is no unambiguous evidence that Neanderthals migrated into Africa from either Europe or West Asia. Also, there is no nautical reason to suppose that Hanno did not actually travel past Cap Vert to the Gulf of Guinea.

(2) An early account of the Lowland gorilla (Gorillagorilla), if Hanno made it as far as Cameroon. The name of the animal itself derives from Hanno's account. Gorillas can't swim, however, so if Hanno actually found them on an island, this explanation is problematic.

Sources: Hanno, The Periplus ofHanno (Philadelphia: Commercial Museum, 1912); Jona Lendering, Hanno, http://www.livius.org/ ha-hd/hanno/hanno02.html#Translation; Pomponius Mela, De chorographia, iii. 9; Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis, in John F. Healy, ed., Natural History: A Selection (New York: Penguin Classics, 1991), p. 71 (vi. 200); Bernard Heuvelmans, Les bĂȘtes humaines d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1980), pp. 168-201.

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