A group of researchers from the University of Guangzhou discovered a new breed of Gibbon monkeys and as the scientists are fans of the Star Wars franchise they want to name it “Skywalker.”

The researchers found the animal in the forest area of Southern China, and Mark Hamill, the actor who plays the role of Luke Skywalker, greeted with delight the intentions of the discoverers.

A group of researchers found a new breed of Gibbon monkeys and named it "Skywalker." Photo credit: Zoological Society of London / PA / Belfast Telegraph
A group of researchers found a new breed of Gibbon monkeys and named it “Skywalker.” Photo credit: Zoological Society of London / PA / Belfast Telegraph

Hamill was so thrilled about the news that he published his excitement on his official Twitter account, as well as mentioning many other things that are named after him, like the Pez dispenser, the Underoos, and the U.S. postage stamp.

The official discovery and previous investigations

The research team was from the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou and included experts from the Zoological Society of London ZSL. The study was led by Professor Fan Pengfei from the Chinese University and started the research back in 2008.

The primate breed that was studied were the hoolock gibbons that are located primarily in eastern Bangladesh, Northeast India, and Southwest China. The research team already knew that there were two types of hoolock gibbons before the investigation began.

The study was conducted between work made in the forest itself and animals that were held in captivity. For almost ten years, the team studied the genetic conditions, and both teeth and coat patterns present in the simians. The third encountered species was diagnosed as a new type of hoolock gibbon this Tuesday.

The official name of the primate is “Hoolock tianxing.” Tianxing is Chinese for “heaven’s movement” or “Skywalker,” hence the recommendation from the research team to use the name of the Star Wars character.

“Skywalker refers to the distinctive gibbon behavior of moving rapidly through the forest canopy, and it also refers to the ancient Chinese belief that gibbons were highly venerated and almost mystical beings that were above other mortal animals. However, it doesn’t hurt that this name also relates to an icon of modern popular culture,” Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London, a member of the research team, told CNN News.


The Skywalker Gibbons are in danger

Turvey also expressed the emotion the team had when making the discovery of this new breed, without leaving aside the fact that these type of primates must be considered as one Endangered species by the Union for Conservation of Nature. He explained that along with the hoolock gibbons, most of the small ape species in China and Asia, in general, are at risk of disappearing.

According to recent investigations, there are only about 200 “Skywalker” simians living in China, while there are also small populations of the primates located in Myanmar. Turvey said that is crucial to raise awareness regarding the ecosystem of the habitat in which these animals live “before it’s too late.”

The scientist team hopes that naming the gibbon after a pop culture reference translates on the world paying attention concerning the conservation of this species.

Source: Wiley Online Library