The Tokoloshe: Superstitious villagers kill harmless South African primate

This story is from South Africa where villagers killed a bushbaby thinking it was a tokoloshe, a mischievous spirit that causes trouble.

Details Page – “It is a tokoloshe”.

A strange animal with fingers like a human being has put a Tshauli-Tshamahala family in a spin. After its discovery on the roof of the family’s house on Monday, everyone is a bit restless and no one is able to explain the identity of this queer animal.

“It is a tokoloshe,” said one resident and other villagers harped on the same string. The fact that it was found on the roof in the wee hours of the morning strengthened the belief that it was a tokoloshe, sent by enemies of the family to cast a spell on them.

Takalani Ramadzhiela, a family member, said he was called by his brother at around 01:00 and told that there was some strange movement on the roof of the house. “I did not waste time and rushed to the house, which is not very far from my home. I thought it was perhaps one of the cats or animals that we are used to, but what awaited me was frightening. [We found] an animal that has features like a human being. I have never seen such an animal,” he said.

“We struggled to get it off the roof, but it resisted and I was left with no choice but to hit it with a stone on the head and it died,” he said.

Meanwhile, it is not known where the creature ended up as the family could not shed any light on its whereabouts. Rumour has it that women are celebrating in the village, saying that now that the creature is dead, perhaps their husbands will start giving them the attention they deserve.

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I have not reproduced the photos here for copyright reasons, click on the original link to see them.
The editor of that site writes:

The photos where shown to some animal experts and the most plausible explanation is that the animal is a thick-tailed bushbaby. These are fairly endangered.

Thick tailed Bush Baby

How sad that people would fear and kill such a small harmless creature in the name of baseless superstition. These small primates are nocturnal animals that live in the trees across South Africa.

In Zulu culture, however, they are associated with a gremlin-like creatures that only cursed people can see, known for raping women (and by sucking out the energy) and biting off people’s toes.

  7 comments for “The Tokoloshe: Superstitious villagers kill harmless South African primate

  1. Massachusetts
    June 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Yes very sad. I struggle with some of these stories because I studied anthropology and was taught to respect other cultural traditions and think twice before trying to impose western cultural norms on traditional societies. But some of the decisions that are made in some of these cultures are pretty darn awful. Some groups in our own country make pretty poor decisions too, of course, as we’ve discussed many times here on this site

  2. Massachusetts
    June 10, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    It also strikes me as very odd that they didn’t identify the species. I live in the suburbs and occasionally walk in the woods and I’m pretty aware of the critters I might run into, from raccoons to coyotes. I would think that these villagers would have logged a lot of observational hours going about their business and would recognize a natural animal vs. something from their worst nightmares. I’m very surprised they couldn’t recognize a bushbaby, or at least think it was likely a primate of some kind, rather than a demonic entity of sorts.

  3. bert
    June 10, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    well thats put me of attending a fancy dress party in south africa!

  4. June 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    In case you are wondering what cryptozoologists think the tokoloshe are, they appear on pages 100-101 of Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe’s book

    Coleman, Loren, and Patrick Huyghe
    1999 The Field Fuide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide. Avon Books, NY.

    They give it as one of many names for the creature, which they class as a “proto-pygmy,” a classification with many details on pp. 29-30. The authors discuss discoveries of primates on pp. 170-174, though not with quite the same connection as here.

  5. peter
    June 11, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    I worked in Botswana for 2 years where one of the teachers, lacking stature, was nicknamed tokolose, (I’ve never seen the word written down until now, although I studied Setswana this word wasn’t in the course) apparently the trick is to put your bed on paint tins to be safe.

  6. Massachusetts
    June 11, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Yes, I read that in a support article (link off of a link.) Partly I guess it’s because you can see it under the bed before you get in. But what are you supposed to do if you do see it?

  7. Bob Jase
    June 14, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Interesting considering how much cryptozoologists insist that local natives are experts on local animals.

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