The following letter appeared in the 'The Australian Town and Country Journal' of 9 December 1882, and was written by a naturalist, H.J McCooey, who I am told was quite well known in Australia in the late 1800's. McCooey's experience took place on the New South Wales south coast.

The Naturalist - Australian Apes

 

 

Reports occasionally reach us through the medium of the press of strange animals of the monkey tribe being seen in different parts of the colony, but such reports seem to attract little or no attention, and in many instances the truth of them is gravely doubted, if not entirely disbelieved.

 

The general belief amongst Australian naturalists seems to be that the nearest approach we have in this colony is the native bear. Now I am in a position to state, and if necessary to prove, that a more egregious and unpardonable error does not exist.

 

The mere fact of no apes being found in the Sydney Museum does not justify us in rushing to the conclusion that there are none in the colony, for it is extremely improbable that any ape will be foolhardy enough to present itself at the museum to undergo the somewhat delicate operation of [staining?]; and beyond the fact that there are none to be found in the Sydney Museum there is not one scintilla of evidence to prove that there are none to be found in the colony, while there is abundance [sic] of evidence to show that they are [sic].

 

A few days ago I saw one of these strange animals in an unfrequented locality on the coast between Bateman's Bay and Ulladulla. My attention was attracted to it by the cries of a number of small birds which were pursuing and darting at it. When I first beheld the animal it was standing on its hind legs, partly upright, looking up at the birds above it in the bushes, blinking its eyes and distorting its visage and making a low chattering kind of noise. Being above the animal on a slight elevation and distant from it less than a chain, I had ample opportunity of noting its size and general appearance.

 

I think that if it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly 5ft high. It was tailless and covered with very long black hair, which was of a dirty red or snuff-colour about the the throat and breat. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were partly hidden by matted hair that covered its head. The length of the forelegs or arms seemed to be strikingly out of proportion with the rest of the body, but in all other respects its build seemed to be fairly proportional.

 

It would weigh about 8st. On the whole it was a most uncouth and repulsive looking creature, evidently possessed of prodigious strength, and one which I should not care to come to close quarters with. Having sufficiently satisfied my curiosity, I threw a stone at the animal, whereupon it immediately rushed off, followed by the birds, and dissappeared in a ravine which was close at hand.

 

I do not claim to be the first who has seen this animal, for I can put my finger on half a dozen men at Bateman's Bay who have seen the same, or at any rate an animal of similar description; but I think I am the first to come forward in the columns of a newspaper and give publicity to the fact of having seen it. I may mention that a search party was organised at Bateman's Bay some months ago to surround the locality the supposed ape frequents and shoot or capture it, but the idea was abandoned in consequence of the likelihood of gun accidents; and I may further state that the skeleton of an ape, 4ft in length, may be seen at any time in a cave 14 miles from Bateman's Bay, in the direction of Ulladulla.

Yours truly,

H.J McCOOEY"

 

 

 

 

 

 

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