In the heart of Africa lies the Likouala Swamp. Located mostly within the countries of the People’s Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Cameroon, this 55,000 square mile region is 80% unexplored and is reportedly home to a dinosaur who escaped extinction known as the Mokele-Mbembe.
The Mokele-Mbembe is said to have the long neck and tail of a sauropod dinosaur. Its body size is said to be between the size of a hippopotamus and an elephant, or about sixteen to thirty-two feet. The neck and tail are said to be between five and ten feet long. Some reports claim the animal is up to seventy-five feet. The Mokele-Mbembe has been seen with a frill on the back of its head like a chicken. There have also been occasionally claims of horns on its head. It is usually reported as being reddish-brown, but claims range in color from grey to brown.
Sightings of the Mokele-Mbembe date back more than 200 years. In 1776, French missionaries passing through central Africa reported huge footprints on the ground. The prints were clawed and about three feet in circumference and spaced about seven feet apart. Prints this large could only be made by a creature as large as an elephant, but elephants possess no claws. One priest even claimed to see several of these large animals wading in the river and chewing on vegetation.
In 1932, biologist and zoologist, Ivan T. Sanderson and animal trader, Gerald Russel, were padding up the Mainyu River in western Africa when they heard the “most terrifying sound [they] had ever heard which sounded like an on-coming earthquake”. The water rolled and bubbled in front of their canoe. As they watched, a darkish lizard-like head rose from the water. They described the head as being as big as a hippo and claimed it sat on a thick, swan-like neck. The Mokele-Mbembe just stared at the men. Sanderson later said, “It looked like something that ought to have been dead millions of years ago.”
Herpetologist, James Powell, traveled to Gabon to study crocodiles in 1976. While there, he learned from the Fang people about a large river monster. Local witchdoctor, Michael Obang, picked a picture of a diplodocus from a book as a dead ringer for the creature.
In 1985, cryptozoologist, William J. Gibbons, made his first trip to Congo. On this trip, he talked to several eyewitnesses who gave him valuable information about the Mokele-Mbembe. He also brought back a new subspecies of monkey to England.
Gibbons returned to Congo in 1992. Locals knew where he could film the Mokele-Mbembe, but refused to take him there. They believed that to speak openly to white outsiders about the animals would mean death.
In November 2000 and February 2002, Gibbons returned to Africa. Because of Civil War in Congo, he went to Cameroon. He discovered that the pygmies of Cameroon were less superstitious about the Mokele-Mbembe and he was given many first-hand eyewitness accounts. The pygmies described the Mokele-Mbembes’ frilled neck and horns and claimed the monster had been seen attacking and disemboweling elephants. Gibbons showed the pygmies a picture of a North American bear, which they did not recognize. They picked out a picture of a triceratops as a ringer for the Mokele-Mbembe. Gibbons believes he is “a hairsbreadth away from locating and filming a specimen of Mokele-Mbembe” and plans to return to Africa.
Like most cryptozoological creatures, no specimen has been found alive or dead, nor has the Mokele-Mbembe been filmed clearly. It is also possible that the pygmies and other natives seeing the creature are misidentifying a known animal. With so much of the Likouala Swamp left unexplored, we may never know the true identity of this animal.
Other Cryptozoological Creatures:
The Beast of Bray Road
The Dover Demon