Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/July 1892/Two Rare Monkeys

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By Dr. L. HECK,


THE slender and the short-thumbed monkeys belong, in the truest sense of the word, to an old simian family. The fact is demonstrated as to the Indian slender monkeys, for indubitable representatives of this genus (the Semnopithecus) lived in the Tertiary period.

The form of the skull gives the slender and short-thumbed monkeys a peculiar appearance. It is roundish, the snout advancing but little in front of the forehead, and the bony crests and edges, which often give the skull of the male an appearance like that of a beast of prey, are hardly distinguishable. In a corresponding way the jaw is relatively only slightly projecting, and less obvious in the slender than in the short-thumbed monkeys. The entire skeleton in both groups is distinguished by the slenderness and lightness of its form, from which the slender monkeys get their name. The name of the African short-thumbed monkeys relates to a peculiarity of their bony structure, in that the thumbs of their fore limbs are not visible externally except as stumps; and, while in the slender monkeys, too, the thumb is behind the other fingers in development, the complete arrest of it in the others has been held sufficient to mark a distinction between the two families. On the other hand, I find a peculiarity of the skeleton of the slender monkeys mentioned in only a few descriptions, and in those casually, which appears to me as doubly striking in the monkeys as climbing animals, and is not elsewhere repeated in them, at least in those of the Old World. It is that the slender monkeys have much longer and thicker hind legs than fore legs; the development of the hind limbs evidently surpasses that of the fore limbs; and this occasions characteristic deviations in the attitudes and movements of the animals, as I have observed daily with my pets. The slender monkeys run half erect with their hind legs bent up, and make great leaps from this position direct. Thus, notwithstanding their great agility, they have something hasty and angular in their motions, and maintain so peculiar a gait that any one who has studied them continuously in living specimens can distinguish at a glance whether a picture of them is made from life, or whether it has been constructed by adding a few special outward marks of the slender monkey to the figure of a common monkey. In their inner structure the slender monkeys and the short-thumbed monkeys have a highly important peculiarity, unique in its way, in the shape of a composite, divided stomach, suggestive of the ruminants, or rather of the kangaroo, Fig. 1.—White-bearded Slender Monkeys. which is sufficient, in my opinion, despite some special differences, to characterize them as closely related. This peculiar structure of the stomach, unprecedented in a monkey, naturally induces the presumption of a peculiar method of feeding, and indeed shows indubitably that the slender monkeys and the short-thumbed monkeys are more fully and exclusively vegetable feeders, or, to be more exact, greens-eaters, than the other monkeys. This inductive conclusion is fully confirmed by observation of the animals in captivity. Our representative of the short-thumbed monkeys, the guerezas, as well as the two species of short-thumbed monkeys which I have tamed, eat regularly but daintily of the hay that serves them for straw and bedding, and the guerezas eat with particular relish the heads of green salad which they have learned to expect eagerly for their daily supper. In outer general appearance, which is chiefly dependent on the character of the hair coating, the slender and short-thumbed monkeys exhibit some important peculiarities which distinguish both groups, while the Indian slender monkeys generally have a short fur and their hair makes a conspicuous growth only in spots in the shape of head-tufts, manes, whiskers, and gorgets. The African short-tailed monkeys are distinguished by a long, luxuriant hair covering over the whole body, the effect of which is enhanced by handsome and conspicuous markings. The more delicate differences of hairiness, coloring, and marking serve, in both groups, to fix the distinctions of a considerable list of species. We shall confine ourselves chiefly to the species represented in the pictures.

First, we have the two comrades so pleasantly sitting together on the limb in Fig. 1. They are White-bearded Slender monkeys (Semnopithecus leucoprymnus, Desm.) of Ceylon, the single species which has been brought to Europe with considerable frequency, and which is therefore easily found in the zoological gardens. This harmless, quiet, gentle animal is easily distinguished by its external appearance, which is felicitously in harmony with its name. It has a white cheek-beard, with the tips of the hairs turned forward. The lower part of the back and the tail are grayish white. The rest of the body is brownish black, while the hair on the head is longer and more distinct. Sailors can always buy these monkeys cheaply in the port of Colombo, and they are probably common on the island.

In Fig. 2 are moving some representatives of a famous species of monkey, the Hulman or sacred monkey of India (Semnopithecus entellus, Cuv.). This monkey is accredited with having performed great acts of heroism in primitive times. It is in the Indian mythology a kind of Perseus and Prometheus in one, inasmuch as it delivered a goddess from captivity to a giant, and used its opportunity to give to India, not tire, but the mango. It extinguished the funeral fire on which it was to have expiated its rash adventure, and therefore appears now with singed face and black hands. The rest of its body is colored a whitish gray; on its forehead, cheeks, and chin it wears long, stiff, bristling hairs, out of which, as from a frame, peers the round black face with a lively and peculiarly droll expression. The pious Hindu, who will kill hardly any animal, of course does as little harm as possible to his ardently revered monkey-saint, but gives it freely of the fruits of his gardens and fields. He even in a literal sense lets it take the already prepared meal from his own mouth. Through the credulous simplicity of men, which has permitted them in quiet acquiescence from time immemorial to do their pleasure, the hulmans have become so bold and impudent that they go into the houses as well as into the gardens and steal, plunder, and destroy at their hearts' desire. In many parts of India they have become a real plague, and the English officers are at times obliged, in order to limit the nuisance, to proceed against the tail-wearing saints with destructive measures, to the joy of the enlightened, intelligent natives, but to the disgust of the

Fig. 2.—Sacred Hulman Monkeys of India.

pious, who are obstinately convinced that the place where a monkey is killed is unlucky forever afterward.

Another species of slender monkeys is distinguished by a striking peculiarity which is expressed in their name—the proboscis monkeys. In their more vigorous and heavier bodily structure they are more like the macacus monkeys, the principal and most numerous group of the family in the Indo-Chinese region, and the one, too, to which the mass of the population of our monkey-houses belong.

The proboscis monkey (Semnopithecus nasicus, Cuv.), in the outer development of its nasal organ, so surpasses all the monkeys and even all men that it has been set off as a distinct genus solely on account of this feature. It lives in the island of Borneo. The longitudinally furrowed, hook-shaped, flexible nose, impending over the mouth and an inch broad in the middle, is peculiar to the old male. Females and the young have instead of it only a small, depressed pug-nose. The tufted monkeys also deserve to be mentioned on account of their outward resemblance to the short-thumbed monkeys, which is given them by the long, rich hairiness of the whole dark-gray body, even of the under side and the exposed surfaces of the hands and feet. On the head the hair is prolonged and erected in a peculiar way to form a long, stiff tuft, or rather mane, which extends down to the neck. Its habitat is in Farther India (Siam) and the larger Sunda Islands (Java and Sumatra).

The most prominent members of the group of South African short-thumbed apes is the guereza (Colobus guereza, Rüpp). This monkey is one of the most famous animals, and one of those which are most fully and imaginatively described in all special works and portrayed in plain and in fantastic styles; so that every owner of a natural history knows it by name, but nobody has seen it living. We do no wrong to truth when we say that the first guerezas which were seen living in the European public were the three specimens which were carried in a drosky in August, 1890, before our offices in the Berlin Zoological Gardens. A Greek had brought them from Massawah to Berlin, but our privilege of becoming acquainted with them is due chiefly to the disinterested intervention of Herr Menges, a much-traveled dealer and the director of the Somali exhibitions. I paid a considerable sum for them, and am not sorry for it, for, although none of these specimens is living now, they made students, artists, and friends of animals acquainted with one of the handsomest and most remarkable creatures known, and gave them opportunity to make the first correct pictures of it from life. The picture makes a more detailed description of the coloring of the guereza unnecessary; and I will only say that the way in which the white appears, as in a certain sense a border and trimming of the dark ground color, varies somewhat and might probably afford a means of distinguishing between the geographical varieties of a species that is distributed over the whole of interior Africa. Hans Meyer, the hardy conqueror of Africa's giant mountain Kilima Njaro, found in that region a form which he named caudatus, in which the whole tail is white; our specimens belong to a variety called occidentalis in Rocheprune's monograph on the short-thumbed monkeys. A considerable number of species of monkeys of western and central Africa are pictured and described in this special work; many of them, including the bear short-thumbed monkeys (Colobus ursinus, Waterh.), look much like a guereza without a side-mane; others, like the devil-monkey (Colobus satanas, Og.), are described as black; and still others are red. Of all these we know little except concerning the skins and the skulls, for they reach us living only exceptionally. I return to the guereza, the handsomest and most interesting species.

The trio of them which I got, all three young, perhaps half-grown fellows, were distinguished by something pretty and pleasing in their behavior, and a similar account is given of them by those who have observed them in the wild state. The guereza

Fig. 3.—Guereza Monkeys. (From a picture by W. Kuhnert.)

is not one of the hated field robbers, and it has therefore been hunted in Abyssinia only so much as is necessary to get material for the adornment of the small, round leather shields formerly in use there. These shields have gone out of use since the style of armor has been changed, and it is now molested but little, and leads a peaceful life away from the dwellings of men. "In Gallaland, whence your specimens have come," Menges writes to me, "the guereza lives in the thick woods, especially in deep, moist, and warm mountain gorges. It prefers a home in the giant sycamore trees, or wild figs, the fruits of which constitute its principal food. The Abyssinian juniper, which is from twenty-five to thirty metres high, and forms whole forests there, is also much resorted to by it." Brehm, relying upon the unanimity of the accounts which have appeared since the discovery of the guereza by the Abyssinian traveler Rüppell, of Frankfort, enthusiastically praises the beauty, gracefulness, and elegance of the outward appearance of the animal and the agility and grace of its motions, especially its colossal leap, in which the body seems to be carried along by its waving robe. Hans Meyer unconsciously complements this sketch with a description of the quiet, still life of the societies of four or five members in the secure height of their tree-top, and in connection with it mentions a habit not to my knowledge observed before, by which the presence of a band of guerezas can be recognized from a distance. It is a monotonous, sing-song humming, with an alternating crescendo and diminuendo, proceeding from the members of the families sitting lazily together, and to all appearance expressive of complete satisfaction. Perhaps it was because of the absence of this satisfaction that I never heard this humming from my pets. They usually kept themselves quite still, and were accustomed only to greet their beloved greens with a peculiar cry toned between the whimper of the capuchin and the crowing of the young mandrill. With this we have come to the end of our observations on these two peculiar families of monkeys which have been crowded away into the background in our zoological gardens by their livelier, more striking, and more hardy congeners. But we hope that what we have said of their remarkable organization will be enough to make them seem worthy of some attention from the animal-loving reader.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from Die Gartenlaube.

One of the incentives that send explorers so often back to their work was described by Captain Younghusband after relating to the English Society of Arts the story of his experiences in the Pamirs. Like most travelers, he said, he bad often thought he should not go again on such arduous adventures; but when the traveler returned to his native country, and saw that an interest was taken in what he had done, and that people would still be interested in further journeys he might make, he felt his energies renewed and was quite willing to undergo the hardships which must necessarily befall him, feeling that he was doing something for his government and his country.