The MNGWA, a striped big cat of East Africa. (William M. Rebsamen)

The Mngwa is an unknown big Cat of East Africa.

Significant sightings:

In 1922, William Hichens was magistrate of Lindi, Tanzania, when several constables were killed or mangled by a huge cat with gray fur. Another outbreak of maulings took place at Mchinga in the 1930s.

Possible explanations:

(1) A surviving species of one of several large African fossil cats from the Pleistocene.
(2) An unknown, giant subspecies of the African golden cat (Felis aurata), which has a wide variety of coloration, from golden to dark gray, and is reputed to be highly aggressive when cornered. It occasionally raids villages for poultry. It is not known from Tanzania, though its range extends into Kenya and Uganda.

Etymology: From the Swahili (Bantu) mungwa (“strange one”).

Variant name:

Nunda (“fierce animal,” “cruel man,” or “something heavy”).

Physical description:

Size of a donkey. Gray stripes like a tabby cat. Small ears. Thick tail.


Nocturnal. Has been heard to purr. Known to have raided villages in order to kill adults and carry off children.


Leopardlike prints as big as a large lion’s.

Distribution: The Tanzania coast near Lindi and Mchinga.


  • Edward Steere, Swahili Tales, as Told by Natives of Zanzibar (London: Bell and Daldy, 1870);
  • Fulahn [William Hichens], “On the Trail of the Brontosaurus: Encounters with Africa’s Mystery Animals,” Chambers’s Journal, ser. 7, 17 (1927): 692–695;
  • Charles R. S. Pitman, A Game Warden among His Charges (London: Nisbet, 1931), p. 309;
  • William Hichens, “African Mystery Beasts,” Discovery 18 (1937): 369–373;
  • Frank W. Lane, Nature Parade (London: Jarrolds, 1955), pp. 253–256, 266–268;
  • Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 415–420;
  • Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 137–141.



Mysterious Creatures – A Guide to Cryptozoology written by George M. Eberhart – Copyright © 2002 by George M. Eberhart

The Mngwa (“the strange one”) is the “great gray ghost” of East Africa. Natives of the former Tanganyika (now Tanzania) insist that the mngwa is not simba (the lion). They have known of the Mngwa for hundreds of years, describing the animal as an extremely aggressive, gigantic, unknown felid the size of a donkey.

English contact with the animal began, in earnest, in the 1900s. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Mngwa was commonly known by the name Nunda, but because of the books of Gardner Soule (The Mystery Monsters and The Maybe Monsters) and Bernard Heuvelmans, Mngwa is the appellation now more frequently employed. An influential, open-minded discussion of this cryptid appeared in the then-world-famous British scientific journal Discovery in 1938.

In his Nature Parade (1954) romantic naturalist Frank W. Lane writes of his interview with Patrick Bowen, a hunter, who tracked a Mngwa. Bowen remarked that the spoor were like a leopard’s but much larger. The fur was brindled but visibly different from a leopard’s. Lane, a cryptozoologist before the label even existed, speculated that nineteenth-century reports of attacks by the South African chimiset, usually associated with the Nandi Bear, might more plausibly be linked to the Mngwa.

Bernard Heuvelmans theorizes that the Mngwa may be an abnormally colored specimen of some known species or that it may be a larger subspecies of the golden cat (Profelis aurata).


The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters,Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature
Written by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark – Copyright 1999 Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark