Actor Mark Hamill tweeted his excitement over a new species of gibbons in China being named after his “Star Wars” alter-ego Luke Skywalker.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) January 12, 2017
According to Seeker.com, an international team of primatologists first spotted these “rambunctious” creatures swinging from treetops in eastern Myanmar and southwestern China, and realized they were something new.
“The thick, white grandfatherly eyebrows of these primates was unique, and the males had fluffy tufts of white fur covering their genitals.” Their “seemingly effortless ability to leap high in the treetops” inspired the name Skywalker, which translates to tianxing in Chinese.
The official name for the species is Hoolock tianxing sp. nov., which also means “Heaven’s movement,” according to MSN. Gibbons, which are also called “smaller apes” or “lesser apes” live in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of Bangladesh, India and Indonesia as well as China. Like all apes, they have no tail.
Gibbons, which are illegal to own in the U.S., used to be more plentiful in China, with known species. In the last 30 years, two of those, (Nomascus leucogenys and Hylobate lar yunnanensis) have gone extinct, according to Seeker.
Kai He of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Kumming Institute of Zoology, told Seeker that the species should be classified as endangered. “We really hope the discovery of this new species could call some attention to the protection of gibbons in China.”
Perhaps future “Star Wars” films can find a place for the Skywalker gibbon alongside Space Monkey, the Moviepaws Cheekiest Chimp of 2016!