The hunt for mokele-mbembe: the Congo dinosaur

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mokele mbembeMokele-mbembe – Almost Like Nessie

In the Lingala language, Mokele-mbembe literally means, “the one who stops the river”. Just like Nessie, the Mokele-mbembe is said to be a living dinosaur of the sauropod kind which dwells in the Republic of Congo in the depths of the Likouala swamp region. Loosely, it is analogously comparable to Nessie, or the Loch Ness Monster of the Scottish Highlands.

According to eyewitnesses, especially the natives, the Mokele-mbembe have the body of an elephant, three clawed feet, with long reptile-like neck. It is hairless, and is said to be gray, brown, or reddish brown in color with very a long tail.

The First Mention

The first recorded mention of witness related to the Mokele-mbembe is dated back to 1776, in a book by Abbe Lievain Bonaventure which reports the exhibition of the French missionary to the Republic of Congo to explore the animals, plants and people of the region. The team stumbled upon a three clawed foot print, which was said to be three feet wide. When they asked the natives, they told the story of the river monster.

Spirit of the Congo River Basin

While most who had witnessed it believes that it is a living sauropod dinosaur, many elderly pygmies believe the folklore that the Mokele-mbembe is only an apparition of the spirits dwelling in the Congo River Basin. They believe in animism, that an immortal godlike being inhabits the Mokele-mbembe and serves as the guardian of the region. Because of these, they believe that Westerners should stop doing expeditions, leave it alone and treat the Mokele-mbembe with respect, or macabre shall befall them.

The Smithsonian Tragedy

During 1919 to 1920, the Smithsonian Institution sent 32 men on an expedition to the Republic of Congo to collect specimens of plants and animals. They often heard mysterious roars, which were described to be as ‘unheard of and didn’t belonged to any known being’. They also stumbled upon huge, unexplained trails. During a train ride, they had to go through a flooded area. It was said that villagers around there were screaming and terrified because they saw the Mokele-mbembe, and it was the cause of the flood (consistent to its name, ‘one who stops the river’).

However, it ended in tragedy as the train suddenly derailed, which killed four members, and seriously injuring 6 others. This was consistent to the folklore of the macabre befalling those who angers the Mokele-mbembe. This expedition was documented in the H.L. Shantz papers.

prehistoric newspaper article, mokele mbembe

According to the Skeptic’s Dictionary…

“Cryptozoologists argue that since a coelacanth was caught off the coast of South Africa, it is reasonable to think that a dinosaur might also have avoided detection for a few million years. However, there is a big difference between finding a fish thought to be extinct and finding a dinosaur. The fish is small and lives in the ocean. Oceans cover two-thirds of the earth and have depths of up to 35,000 feet. That is a lot of space to hide specimens and fragments of specimens. Dinosaurs are massive (at least the mokele-mbembe kind), occupied the third of the earth mostly visible to its other inhabitants, and thus would be much more likely to be detected than the coelacanth.” Well said.

Forever In Pursuit

So, is it a spirit? Is it a cryptic animal yet to be discovered that has eluded humans for ages? Dubbed as the ‘last living dinosaur’, the Mokele-mbembe is still hot in pursuit. Most believe that eye witnesses see what they want to see, or actually see the shape of another animal, thinking it is the Mokele-mbembe.

Even after 30+ expeditions over the years, the Mokele-mbembe still had not been found. There is no genuine, legitimate physical evidence that has been collected. Although ardent researchers and cryptozoologists do believe that there are living dinosaurs hiding in the depths of the wild today, with the Mokele-mbembe being one of them, there’s no evidence ample enough to prove its existence.