Mokele-mbembe is said to be a dinosaur, of a species known as the sauropod, still living in the African jungle of the Congo. Sightings of this animal, whose African name means “creature that stops rivers from flowing,” have been reported for well over two hundred years. Natives generally say that the animal spends most of its time in the water (as scientists believe the sauropod once did) and has an elephant-sized body with a long neck and tail, both flexible. By some accounts, this tail is as long as 10 feet (3m), and the animals’ tracks are supposedly 3 feet (.91m) wide. In one account, natives claimed to have killed a mokele-mbembe with spears, after which some of them cooked and ate it. The story goes that anyone who ate the meat was dead shortly thereafter.
Cryptozoologists have attempted to find proof of the existence of mokelembembe, launching several expeditions into the region during the 1980s. Their efforts have been largely unsuccessful. On one of these expeditions, a biologist thought that he had caught the creature on film—only to realize afterward that he had forgotten to take the lens cap off his camera. In 1992 a Japanese film crew intending only to shoot footage of scenery accidentally caught what some think is a mokele-mbembe on fifteen seconds of tape. Though this image, which is of a longnecked creature moving swiftly across the surface of Lake Tele, is indistinct, it does not look like any known animal.
Skeptics say that while the image might not look ordinary, it is indeed of an ordinary animal. The briefness of the footage, they say, combined with its lack of sharpness, allows viewers to see whatever they want to see in the film. Moreover, skeptics insist that mokele-mbembe cannot possibly exist because, given its large size, cryptozoologists would surely have found a living or dead specimen by now if it were real. Skeptics believe that mokele-mbembe sightings are actually cases where natives have mistaken a hippopotamus, crocodile, or some other known animal for a mysterious beast. However, believers in the mokele-mbembe note that hippopotamuses do not live in areas where the mokelembembe has been reported—a fact that seems to support, believers say, Congo natives’ insistence that, even though the mokele-mbembe is an herbivore, it so hates hippopotamuses that it attacks and kills any it sees.
- Living Dinosaurs
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning