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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

RAHEEL MUGHAL MSc: Congo: Lesser Known Mystery Beasts from the Heart of Darkness

I have always been fascinated by dinosaurs, palaeontology and zoology. I remember that I developed a deep interest in cryptozoology soon after hearing about the Mokele Mbembe on Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World (incidentally, I saw the re-run on Discovery Channel in the early 90s – I must have been 8 years old then); the idea that dinosaurs or dinosaur-like creatures may still exist in largely unexplored places on earth didn’t seem so odd any more.

However, when you get older and you start to see things a bit more logically (the sad truth of life; I wish I still had that wishful thinking streak that we all had when we were children).

Nevertheless, that being said there a number of other lesser known mystery animals with allegedly dinosaurian identities from in and around the Congo basin region. In this blog I will attempt to describe these creatures in more detail along with my own opinion on what the creatures may be based on my research. Please note that the Kasai Rex has not been included in the following discussion because there isn’t enough evidence to support its alleged existence.

(1) The Dodu: Gorilla Killer
The Dodu or Gorilla Killer is said to be a bloodthirsty 8-10 ft tall ape man, for it is said to decapitate and disembowel Gorilla’s and Chimpanzees. Locals live in fear of this monstrosity which is known to eat the maggots which are found soon after death in the abdominal cavity of its unfortunate simian victims, only to scoop them up in handfuls to eat, the dead apes serving only as reservoirs for the grubs to accumulate. Reports of this horrifying beast were collected by Dr. William Gibbons during his Operation Congo expedition during the early twenty first century.

(2) Emela Ntouka: A New Species of Forest Rhino?
Also known as "the killer of the elephants" in the Lingala language, is believed by some researchers and cryptozoologists to represent a relic population of Ceratopsian dinosaur – most notably Centrosaurus.

This particular cryptid is described as being as large as an African Bush Elephant. Having a body of similar shape and appearance to a rhinoceros, including one long horn on its snout and a heavy tail. It is described as being brown or grey in colouration and it is said to possess four short, stump-like legs supposedly to keep its bulky body at ground level. It is described as having no frill or ridges along the neck. The animal is also described as being semi-aquatic and herbivorous (with its favourite food being the leafy plants of the Malombo). The Emela-ntouka has been claimed to vocalize regularly, this noisy beast has been described as making calls that resemble a snort, rumble or growl, respectively. They are claimed to be solitary, herbivorous animals. The beast is said to inhabit the vast shallow waters of the Congo River Basin. The inhabitants of the area are said to treat the creature with great fear. In the 1930s an alleged Emela Ntouka was killed near Dongou.

The New Zealand Documentary World Mysteries included an interview with a man who claimed to have encountered a dead Emela Ntouka. He claimed to still possess the animal's horn, which he removed from the body. Unfortunately, the episode was filmed but never aired.

Nevertheless, there is considerable controversy to what an Emela Ntouka horn (if the creature does exist), could be made of, if scientists ever retrieve a horn it would also help in revealing the creature’s true identity. If a horn is found and DNA tests reveal the horn to be made of ivory, then it would undoubtedly prove to be a tooth. In fact a species of rhinoceros, namely the Asiatic One Horned Rhinoceros does possess small tusks. If on the other hand, the horn turns out to be made of keratin then it is most certainly belongs to an as yet unknown semi-aquatic rhinoceros. However, if the horn turns out to be made of bone then it most certainly belongs to an as yet hitherto unknown species of semi aquatic reptile or possibly a relic from the Mesozoic though I doubt this hypothesis along with other alleged dinosaurian survivals.

Moreover, in terms of evidence pertaining to the beast’s alleged survival a number of curious stone currency in the form of both Mokele Mbembe and Emela Ntouka has been found by archaeologists in this remote region, some native tribes still use it today.

(3) Giant Spiders: More than a Hollywood Myth?
Many Mokele Mbembe expedition members over the years have come back with tales of giant spiders. The Ba’Ka Pygmies of the Congo Basin Region and the Cameroons refer to them as J’Ba FoFi. They are described as having a leg-span of five to six feet and capable of killing many men. Moreover, they are said to make intricate blankets of web found throughout the deeper parts of the jungle to ensnare unwary potential prey.

(4) Mahamba: Cryptic Crocodiles!
From the humid and impenetrable jungles of the Congo (formally Zaire), come reports of the ‘Mahamba’, a lesser-known water monster from native Bobangi accounts. This fearsome beast is said to resemble a gigantic crocodile which is reported to reach an astounding 50 ft (15.2 metres) in length. Reports collected by cryptozoologist Dr. Roy Mackal during his 1980 expedition to hunt for the Mokele Mbembe (an alleged living sauropod dinosaur) also turned up amazing accounts of other alleged ‘prehistoric survivors,’ one of which is the Mahamba. According to eyewitness testimony from the Bobangi, the animal in question resembles a Nile Crocodile but it is not a ‘Nkoli’ (the native term for a Nile Crocodile). The creature may in fact pertain to a new species of undiscovered giant crocodile. That having been said, some researchers such as Dr. Mackal believe that the Mahamba indicates a ghost-lineage of a large freshwater variety of Mosasaur from the Late Cretaceous.

(5) Mbeilu-Mbeilu-Mbeilu: When is a Stegosaur not a Stegosaur?
The Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu is another lesser-known cryptid reported from the Likouala Region of the Republic of the Congo.

The creature is described as semi-aquatic, herbivourous and most notably having planks covered in algae growing out of its back. Some cryptozoological investigators tentatively suggest that it could represent a relic population of Kentrosaurus (Stegosaur from the Late Jurassic of Africa). However, I would liken it to a large turtle (Ndenki are purported to be large turtles living in Likoula region lakes, as we shall see later). Unfortunately, only a few claimed sightings have been reported, at the villages of Bounila and Ebolo, so if it did exist in one point in time, it may possibly be extinct. All reports of Mbeilu Mbeilu Mbeilu along with other Likoula Mystery Beasts were collected by Dr. Roy P. Mackal during his expeditions to the region.

(6) Mulilo: The Mighty Mollusc!
The Mulilo is described as a giant slug purported to live in the dense forests of the Congo, Zaire and Zambia. Not much is known about this mighty mollusc except that it is herbivorous, greyish-white to brown in colouration and tends to climb trees albeit at a slow pace. Nevertheless, it could be possible that such a creature does indeed exist. For example, one species of land snail, the Giant African Snail, can grow to be 15 inches (38 cm). So it is not that much of a stretch of the imagine to suggest that other land-dwelling molluscs can grow to be much larger than the Giant African Snail.

(7) Ndenki: Titantic Turtles in Lake Tele
Little is known about this particular cryptid other then the fact that it is described as a giant turtle and is said to inhabit more or less the same area as Mokele Mbembe, Emela Ntouka, Mbeilu-Mbeilu-Mbeilu, and Mahamba, respectively.

(8) Ngoima: The Monkey Eating Eagle
The Ngoima was seen by visiting French political commissioner AndrĂ© Mouelle during the early twentieth century. He described it as eagle-like, dark brown to black (black above, with a lighter shade below), and it is described as having a hooked beak. It is also described as having a wingspan of 9-13 ft (4.2 metres) and it said to possess sharp talons. Furthermore, it is said to prey on monkeys and small goats and is thought to prefer forests (where it nests on the tallest trees) and in some cases open savannah. Unfotunately, this is the only report that the author is aware off. Based on the somewhat detailed description above, the Ngoima may represent a subspecies of Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus (the Ngoima having a larger wingspan at 9-13 ft as opposed to the Martial Eagle’s 5 ft).

(9) Ngoubou: Emela Ntouka’s Long Lost Cousin?
During one of William Gibbons expeditions to the Cameroon in search of the Mokele Mbembe, he and his team came across local reports of an elephant-sized, six-horned, herbivorous animal (similar in aspects to Emela-Ntouka) that fought elephants for land and that lived in the savannah region of that country. Gibbons likened the beast to a surviving form of Styracosaurus (a Late Cretaceous Ceratopsian Dinosaur from North America). When the local pygmies were questioned all asserted that Ngoubou was not a regular rhinoceros to which they were all familiar.

A senior hunter further exclaimed that a hunting party had killed one of these beasts with a spear a number of years ago. Moreover, the elder added that Ngoubou populations have declined over recent years owing to over hunting and that they have since become very hard to find.

(10)Nguma-monene: An African Naga?
Also known as Ngakoula-ngou or Badigui, in all aspects this serpentine cryptid sounds very similar to the Nagas reported for centuries in Asia. The Nguma-monene is described as being 10 metres long (atleast the tail part which is often reported), it is described as greyish-brown in colouration with the underneath of the neck a lighter shade. The neck is also described as being as thick as a man's thigh. Two credible eyewitness accounts exist which both occurred near the Dongu-Mataba (a tributary of the Ubangi River located in the Congo region). The first was occurred in 1961.

Nevertheless, in 1971 Joseph Ellis a pastor had an incredible encounter with a beast he could not identify. He estimated the length of the (visible) tailpart as 10 meters long (equal to his dugout, no neck or head could be seen), this was at a diameter of 0.5 to 1 metre. The colouration of the creature appeared to be a greyish-brown. When Pastor Ellis returned to the village he started asking natives about the strange creature, to his amazement it appeared that the subject was taboo. Dr. Roy, P. Mackal collected many reports of this and other cryptids whilst on his first and second expedition in search of Mokele Mbembe. Dr. Mackal concluded that the animal has a low-slung body, and therefore is more like a lizard than a snake, perhaps an intermediatery between snakes and lizards, a possible “living fossil.” Dr. Mackal also noted that the animal's triangular or diamond-shaped ridges were similar (but smaller) to those from the Mbeilu-Mbeilu-Mbeilu but not the animals themselves. This issue has caused much confusion on the Internet and Dr. Mackal’s seminal work A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe.

Africa is a fascinating continent indeed and I am absolutely positive that a number of startingly new zoological discoveries will emerge from its dark heart – the Congo in years to come.

2 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

1)Dodu is the name of a demon in some other sources and it is described with features traditionally ascribed to demons in Folklore (including three clawed fingers and toes)The horrific condition of the chimps and gorillas as described is how they are left after the poachers have got to them. It isn't that the poachers are after the maggots they are after the trophy heads and hands. Raising maggots is just all they are good for after that.

2)When i did some checking into this I found that not only do some one-horned rhinos have large tusks, in some of them the tusks are counted as their primary weapons. And I found that some descriptions make out the Emela-Ntouka out only as an ordinary rhino, without the supposed tail, only with the one horn. Theere is every reason to believe that is what it is-a one-horned Rhino of the ASIATIC type, somehow in Africa. And the horn itself would never be made of ivory.

3) My own interpretation is that the stories of Giant spiders are based on sightings of large spidery-legged land crabs. And that they are tied into stories of the Trickster-spider Anasi somehow.

4)Mahamba is probably one of those oversized ALLIGATOR-faced crocodiles Heuvelmans spoke of in his first edition of On The Track of Unknown Animals. He had dropped the category later, but here is new evidence for it again.

5)Mbeilu-Mbeilu-Mbeilu turns out to be possibly a sort of a crocodile with anm exaggeratedly jagged back-crest. Other analogous cases occur both within Africa and in other places. Another one is called Muhuru (ie, "The Muhuru Bay monster" In Lake Victoria)

6) Mulilo is at base probably nothing more (and nothing less) than a melanistic form of Gaboon viper: the size and shape matches otherwise. Gaboon vipers are highly venomous and have enormous fangs, but they are stout and sluggish snakes otherwise.

7)Ndenki probably is, as alleged, only a sort of soft-shelled turtle of very large size. That does not necessarily mean it is an unknown species. The greatest size for the Ndenki and how it was measured are both questionable.

8)Ngoima sounds very interesting and I have my own ideas as to what kind of an eagle it is. But it is definitely "Just" a very large eagle of dark colour.

9) Ngoubou is also possibly a relic Sivathere or Libytherium, a stout one of large size, but a giraffid with mooselike horns. Rock art supports the idea this animal survived the die-off of the other African megafauna and it even turns up in some old etchings illustrating "Darkest Africa" in Victorian times!

10)Nguma-monene was originally counted the same as Mokele-Mbembe and later as a giant monitor lizard. Perhaps both things are true.

Dale Drinnon said...

BTW, I just left a point-by-point commentary on numbers 1-10. If your system has eaten the thing up again I can repost it.