Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Saturday 17 December 2022


Vintage illustration for Jocko ou le Singe du Brésil (public domain)

It’s been quite a while since I last posted a ShukerNature Picture of the Day, so the recently-received eyecatching illustration presented above provides an ideal example with which to remedy this situation.

Not so long ago, I was sent this picture by a correspondent who had encountered it by chance online but without any accompanying details. So he wondered whether it may depict anything of cryptozoological interest or significance.

I had never seen this very dramatic-looking but decidedly strange image before, and was greatly intrigued by it, bearing in mind that it seemingly portrayed some form of giant indri-like lemur abducting a young child while being viewed closely by a large aquatic serpent. As I was unaware of any such event ever having been reported, however, I wondered whether it may instead be some form of satirical representation, a pictorial joke of some kind, rather than any literal depiction.

But as is so often the case with cryptozoological matters, first impressions can be deceiving, as I soon discovered after conducting an image search online.

It turns out that this picture is actually an illustration of an event in a two-act play by French writer and dramatist Edmond Rochefort entitled Jocko ou le Singe du Brésil ('Jocko or the Monkey of Brazil'), first staged in 1825, and inspired by Jocko, a bestselling novel by French author Charles de Pougens, published the previous year. Also inspired by this novel and again first staged in 1825 was a ballet by Fredéric-Auguste Blache, with music by Alexandre Piccinni, and sets by Pierre-Luc-Charles Cicéri, which proved so successful that numerous adaptations and copies of it were subsequently produced and staged for many years thereafter.

Famous French dancer and mime artist Charles-François Mazurier taking the role of Jocko in the original ballet version, as illustrated by French artist Godefroy Engelmann, 1825 (public domain)

The principal storyline of Jocko centres upon the capture of a large monkey in Brazil by a rich travelling Portuguese man, who names his captive Jocko. During the subsequent Atlantic crossing back to Europe, the man's vessel is shipwrecked, but Jocko saves the man's small son, Laurençon, from drowning, though in so doing Jocko is himself killed. When the play was performed for the very first time, however, the audience was so outraged by the death of the brave Jocko that it insisted he survive, and so in all subsequent performances he did!

What I find so interesting about the above picture, in which Jocko is in fact rescuing Laurençon from the clutches of the snake, is just how lemur-like, and just how monkey-unlike, he is portrayed, not to mention his great size and bipedal stance. Whoever had depicted him had clearly not based their portrayal upon an actual specimen of any known modern-day species of New World primate, that's for sure!

Speaking of known – or, rather, unknown – modern-day species of New World primate, however, Jocko's great size and bipedal nature do readily call to mind various cryptozoological reports describing alleged encounters with very large bipedal ape-like monkeys in many different parts of South America, including Brazil (where they are known locally as the caipora) – creatures that still remain undescribed by science.

(Indeed, incidentally, such reports even inspired the infamous hoax photograph of a supposed shot specimen of just such an entity that was published in an Illustrated London News article by Swiss geologist and Venezuelan explorer Dr François de Loys in 1929, and which French zoologist Prof. George Montandon deemed to be a major new species, naming it Ameranthropoides loysi – click here for Part 1 of my extensive 3-part ShukerNature coverage of this controversial saga, which is also contained in my book ShukerNature Book 2.)

Is it possible, I wonder, that the artist responsible for this illustration of Jocko had also heard of such reports, some of which do indeed date back as far as the early 19th Century (and even earlier, in fact), which duly influenced his portrayal of his simian subject? A memorable example, if true, of cryptozoology and culture combined!

De Loys's infamous fake photograph of a supposed bipedal South American ape-like monkey shot by him in 1917 and subsequently dubbed Ameranthropoides loysi by Montandon – it was actually a dead pet spider monkey artfully arranged to look bigger than it actually was (public domain)



  1. So this is where the popular name "Jocko" for apes and monkeys come from. See also the 1920's era young earth creationist pamphlet "Jocko Homo Heavenbound" later satirised by the 1970's new wave band Devo. As well as one of Tintin creator Hergé's lesser well known comic books "Jo, Zette and Jocko" about 2 children and their pet monkey.

  2. Actually the term "jacko" for a chimp dates back to at least Buffon's animal illustrations in the 18th century