Ufiti

Mystery Primate of Central Africa.

Etymology: From the Nyanja (Bantu) mfiti ("ghost").

Variant names: Fireti, Ogo. Physical description: Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Short, dense fur. Two colorations, gray and black, indicate sexual dimorphism. Pale gray on the back. Completely black face, ears, hands, and feet.

Behavior: Takes an amiable interest in construction work.

Tracks: Four toes show in one available photograph.

Distribution: Nkhata Bay, Malawi. Significant sightings: In November 1959, a large ape covered with long, black hair was seen watching construction workers repairing a bridge and a road near the village of Nkhata Bay on the western shore of Lake Nyasa, Malawi. Photos taken by J. Leonard Goodwin in February 1960 clearly show an adult female chimpanzee. Sightings persisted for several years before a specimen, nicknamed "Ogo," was finally captured in March 1964 and sent to the Chester Zoo in England, where it died shortly afterward (on April 23) of a parasitic lung infection. Apparently, no definitive examination was made, and sightings in Malawi seemed to stop abruptly.

Present status: Chimpanzees are not native to Malawi, and the closest live about 500 miles away on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. A larger variety of unknown ape, called Fireti, is also said to inhabit Malawi. Possible explanations: (1) The Ufiti might have been an errant Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) from Tanzania. However, the description is closer to the West African chimpanzee, P. t. verus (dark mask, high and narrow head, light muzzle that darkens with age, bearded, flesh-colored palms and soles), than the geographically closer Eastern chimpanzee, P. t. schweinfurthi (light to dark face, dark hair, beard). The gray lumbar saddle is more characteristic of a male gorilla.

(2) An unknown subspecies of chimpanzee, suggested by W. C. Osman Hill, since earlier accounts were also recorded in the area and could indicate a stable population.

(3) The last of a remnant population of chimpanzees, isolated for many years in this pocket of Central Africa.

Sources: Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961), pp. 195-203; "Camera Captures Unknown Ape," Popular Science Monthly 179 (July 1961): 83; W. C. Osman Hill, "The Ufiti: The Present Position," Symposia of the Zoological Society ofLondon 10 (1963): 57-59; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les bĂȘtes humaines d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1980), pp. 460-473, 548.

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