The Lethal Search for De Loys’ Ape

In the first part of Environmental Graffiti’s Cryptozoology Series, Karl Fabricius examines the story behind the Ameranthropoides loysi
Ameranthropoides loysi Photo via Cryptomundo

The three-year oil expedition had been unsuccessful, not to say costly. Men had died, killed in clashes with Motilone Indians or taken by disease, and of the original 20 members of the party, only four would survive. The group was taking respite near the Tarra River when suddenly the incredible happened.

Out of the dense jungle came two upright walking creatures, gripping and shaking branches while screaming in apparent anger. The ape-like animals began flinging their own faeces at the frightened men, who grabbed their guns, shooting their female assailant dead as the male, wounded, fled into the forest.

Sierra de Perija forests Photo via Clogers

So the story goes, as recounted in a much later report by Swiss geologist François De Loys, who led the party into the remote forests of Venezuela and Colombia. Recognising they had encountered something extraordinary, De Loys and his men photographed their find – posing it by seating it on a crate with a stick propping up its chin – then skinned the creature with the intention of keeping its hide and skull.

According to De Loys, the animal was much bigger than the spider monkey it in other ways resembled – over 5 feet tall as opposed to just over 3 – and had no tail. Even so, all evidence barring one picture was later lost by the troubled expedition.

Ameranthropoides loysi Photo via Cryptomundo

It was nine years after his return home that François De Loys finally publicised his account of what had happened back in 1920. Nazism was on the rise, and French anthropologist Georges Montandon had found the photo of what he would name Ameranthropoides loysi in one of his friend De Loys’ notebooks. Montandon persuaded De Loys to tell his story to the press and soon after himself presented the supposed evidence to scientific circles.

From the outset, the discovery was met with scepticism, as opponents lined up to question what they saw as monkey business – a mere spider monkey with nothing in the photo to indicate its size and a tail cut off or deliberately excluded from the shot.

Spider Monkey Photo via From Cryptid My

Montandon and De Loys were ridiculed and their tale became one of scientific fraud, but the debate still wages as to the credibility of what Montandon proclaimed to be a missing link – an undiscovered New World great ape. So did De Loys really happen upon a species unknown to zoology, or was this the hoax of the century?

Sceptics might point to the puzzling period during which De Loys seemed to forget about his encounter with the mysterious monkey. Still, this fails to overturn certain points that could validate the story, like the fact that the crate the primate is sat on looks like a regulation gasoline crate that would support De Loys’ contention about its size.

Ameranthropoides loysi Painting: Pieter Dirkx

Arguments in favour of the creature’s existence put forward by Michael Shoemaker focus on marked physiological differences between the animal photographed and the spider monkey including chest, hands, and the former’s more oval face, higher forehead, and lack of a pronounced underbite.

But for Loren Coleman, Georges Montandon’s championing of De Loys’ Ape had a sinister aspect. The Frenchman’s profile shows a man with deeply racist views who could have used the discovery to support his proto-Nazi ideas on the anthropoid origins of Native South Americans. Such extreme political motives are plausible, despite no direct evidence of them in Montandon’s writings on this subject.

Sierra de Perija Photo via Aporrea

In the absence of similar documented sightings of such an animal, a hoax – just the corpse an unusual-looking spider monkey – seems probable – especially given a recent revelation that there is a banana plant in the photo which would have been highly unlikely to grow where Ameranthropoides loysi was purportedly shot. Even so, more proof may be needed to bury this famous unidentified ape once and for all.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6