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Home >Unexplained Mysteries of Mokele-Mbembe


Unexplained Mysteries of Mokele-Mbembe

Mokele-mbembe Image
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Mokele-mbembe, meaning "one who stops the flow of rivers" in the Lingala language, is the name given to a large water-dwelling cryptid found in legends and folklore of the Congo River basin. It is sometimes described as a living creature and sometimes as a spirit. It could be considered loosely analogous to the Loch Ness Monster in Western culture.

Several expeditions have been mounted in the hope of finding evidence of the Mokele-mbembe, though without success. Efforts have been covered in a number of books and by a number of television documentaries. The Mokele-mbembe and its associated folklore also appear in several works of fiction and popular culture.

According to the traditions of the Congo River basin the Mokele-mbembe is a large territorial herbivore. It is said to dwell in Lake Télé and the surrounding area, with a preference for deep water, and with local folklore holding that its haunts of choice are river bends.

Descriptions of the Mokele-mbembe vary. Some legends describe it as having an elephant-like body with a long neck and tail and a small head, a description which has been suggested to be similar in appearance to that of the extinct Sauropoda, while others describe it as more closely resembling elephants, rhinoceros, and other known animals. It is usually described as being gray-brown in color. Some traditions, such as those of Boha Village, describe it as a spirit rather than a flesh and blood creature.

According to the writings of biologist Roy Mackal, who mounted two unsuccessful expeditions to find it, it is likely that the Mokele-mbembe is a reptile. Of all the living reptiles, Mackal argues that the iguana and the monitor lizards bear the closest resemblance to the Mokele-mbembe, though, at 15 to 30 feet (5 to 9 m) long, the Mokele-mbembe would exceed the size of any known living examples of such reptiles, writing, "I believe the description of the Mokele-mbembe is accounted for in all respects by an identification with a small sauropod dinosaur".

The BBC/Discovery Channel documentary Congo (2001) interviewed a number of tribe members who identified a photograph of a rhinoceros as being a Mokele-mbembe. Neither species of African rhinoceros is common in the Congo Basin, and the Mokele-mbembe may be a mixture of mythology and folk memory from a time when rhinoceros were found in the area.

Over the past 100 years, there have been many reports of sightings, in a remote area of central Africa, of a swamp-dwelling animal known to local villagers as ‘mokele-mbembe’—the ‘blocker-of-rivers’.1–7 It is described as living mainly in the water, its size somewhere between that of a hippopotamus and an elephant, but with a squat body and a long neck that enables it to pluck leaves and fruit from plants near the water’s edge. The creature is said to climb the shore at daytime in search of food.8 Witnesses’ drawings show that mokele-mbembe resembles nothing recognisable as still living on Earth, but it does bear a startling likeness to a sauropod dinosaur known to us by its fossil skeletons—similar in shape to a small Apatosaurus.

The imprints of clawed feet and other tell-tale animal trail marks in the jungle around the swamps clearly show evidence of a large, heavy creature that is not a crocodile, hippopotamus or elephant.10 Most reported sightings of mokele-mbembe itself are by local fishermen who, while fishing or travelling by dugout canoe, have unexpectedly encountered the creature. However, there have been scientific expeditions mounted specifically to find the animal in the swamps that dominate much of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. University-trained biologist Marcellin Agnagna described what he saw on one such expedition to remote Lake Tele in 1983:

‘At approximately 2:30pm, … [we] were then able to observe a strange animal, with a wide back, a long neck, and a small head. … The animal was located at about 300 metres from the edge of the lake, and we were able to adv[a]nce about 60 metres in the shallow water, placing us at a distance of about 240 metres from the animal, which had become aware of our presence and was looking around as if to determine the source of the noise. Dinkoumbou [a local villager] continued to shout with fear. The f[r]ontal part of the animal was brown, while the back part of the neck appeared black and shone in the sunlight. The animal partly submerged, and remained visible for 20 minutes with only the neck and head above the water. It then submerged completely, … no further sighting of the animal took place. It can be said with certainty that the animal we saw was Mokele-mbembe, that it was quite alive, and, furthermore, that it is known to many inhabitants of the Likouala region [an area of swampland about the same size as Florida]. Its total length from head to back visible above the waterline was estimated at 5 metres.’11

Now scientists have become excited by recent reports from members of the Kabonga tribe that a mokele-mbembe was caught by hunters who killed it and tried to eat it.12 The flesh proved inedible and the carcass was left to rot; its skeleton is said to have been produced by the tribesmen. Dr Bill Gibbons, a British zoologist who specialises in trying to track down new species, is preparing to lead a team of cryptozoologists (i.e. those who study ‘hidden animals’) to the Likouala swampland in October this year.13 He believes his team can overcome the many difficulties of working in the area, such as political instability and civil war,14 inhospitable terrain, venomous snakes and disease. Because mokele-mbembe apparently spends much of the time hidden from view underwater or possibly in lakeside caves accessible only from the water,15 the scientists are taking sonar equipment and infrared detectors to try to track the creature.

It is possible that there may be other types of dinosaurs in this very remote and inaccessible area as well. Though not as numerous as reports of mokele-mbembe, there are intriguing accounts of an ‘animal with planks growing out of its back’ having been seen in the same region.16 This means that one or more animals like Stegosaurus might still be alive in the world today.17 Local villagers were adamant that these ‘planks’ are not the same as the serrated ridges of a crocodile or some lizards.

If the forthcoming planned expedition to the Congo is successful in obtaining indisputable evidence for the current existence of dinosaurs, it would not be the first time that creatures which evolutionists believe to have died out millions of years ago have actually been found alive.

Coelacanths are a classic example of this. This is an unusual fish which was once known only as fossils, and believed by evolutionists to have been extinct for over 60 million years. But in 1938, the coelacanth was found to be alive and well, living in waters off the coast of Madagascar, and recently it was found in northern Indonesian fish markets. 18

Evolutionists have still not been able to provide a satisfactory explanation of how coelacanths can be living today and yet be completely absent as fossils in rocks dated by evolutionists as being younger than 60 million years. The discovery of living dinosaurs would be just as difficult for evolutionists to explain, yet for Christians it would fit perfectly with the biblical account of Creation, with dinosaurs reproducing after their kind, not ‘evolving’ from (or into) other life-forms, as evolutionists might think. Although it is true that many species of animals have become extinct in the thousands of years since the Flood, it is far less surprising for creationists than evolutionists whenever some of them, known only from the fossil record, are discovered to be still living today.

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