In a rainforest far, far away, a new species of endangered ape has been discovered and given an otherworldly name. Since 2008, experts from Sun Yat-sen University and the Zoological Society of London have been studying primates in this area. After studying two other hoolocks gibbons — the western and eastern hoolocks — for a number of years, they were lead to recognition of the hoolock tianxing, now know as the Skywalker Hooklock.
In Chinese, tianxing means “heaven’s movement” or “skywalker,” so the name is a perfect fit. These Star Wars-loving scientists who found the gibbon got the stamp of approval from Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, who tweeted “So proud of this!” and compared the moment to his Skywalker Pez dispenser and Underoos.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) January 11, 2017
The word “skywalker” refers to a distinct gibbon behavior that the ancient Chinese thought to be mystical and made them above other mortal animals. The relation of the name to modern pop culture is by chance, but with the Jedi thought of as myths and mystical beings themselves it makes the name all the more extraordinary.
While this discovery is a remarkable one, it is estimated that only 200 of the Skywalker gibbons are left in China, with some in the neighboring countries of Myanmar and India. Because of hunting and human overpopulation, the area the gibbons inhabit has been seeing a decline in many different species including leopards and elephants.