Tracking Dinosaurs in the Congo Fact & Fiction Behind Mokele-Mbembe

The Congo – even now in the 21st century, the Congo is known as one of the last unexplored regions in the world. A region that has a dark impenetrable jungle, tribes of pigmy’s who don’t have cell-phones, and a dinosaur – or perhaps a family of dinosaurs – that has survived the ice age and still lives in Lake Tele and other large lakes in the region.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Reports of a suarapod-like creature stomping around the lake region have been fairly regular since the turn of the century. Most describe an animal that is brownish gray with a smooth skin, its size approximately that of an elephant, or at least that of a hippopotamus.�¯�¿�½

The local tribes call the creature “mok’ele-mbembe” – which means “one who stops the flow of rivers”. They believe this animal (which they greatly fear) is sacred. Apparently seeing this beast is fairly common for the tribes in the area. Local legend has it that one of the beasts was actually killed in 1959, and several of the tribes people who ate the meat of mok’ele-mbembe died. None-the-less, depending on who you speak with, these pigmy tribes hold the creature in high regard – almost in a religious way – or they are having a great time making fools of the white man.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

If I’m walking through the jungle and see this thing munching on a hippo or whatever, I’m pretty darn sure I’ll change the nickname of this thing to the equivalent of “one who made me pee in pants”.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

But I digress.�¯�¿�½

In 1980, Dr. Roy Mackal, a biologist at the University of Chicago and James Powell, a herpetologist, decided to explore the Congo region where all these reports of the mok’ele-mbembe came from. They came up empty handed, but they did interview several people who had seen the creature – witnesses accounts said mok’ele-mbembe was about thirty feet long. Of that ten was head and neck, the rest body and tail. Mackal and Powell suspected that the creature was a small relative of the Apatosaurus.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Shortly after the Mackal second expedition, a team of explorers from California, led by Herman and Kia Regusters, reported seeing and photographing a large creature in the Lake Tel area. They apparently took photos of mok’ele-mbembe, but the photos turned out to be inconclusive. I have tried to track down photo’s of the elusive beast and they are as hard to come by as photos of the Loch Ness monster.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Herman and his wife did manage to collect sound recordings and plaster cast footprints. They also observed – from the relative safety of their inflatable raft – the long, graceful neck and serpent-like head of the beast as it emerged from the water a mere 30 feet away from their inflatable raft. But darn it if they didn’t snap any photos.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

I always wonder how is it, that these explorers travel half-way around the world and yet never have a digital camera on hand when they need one? If I am paddling across a body of water known to be the home of a dinosaur for Pete’s sake, you better believe I’m gonna have a digital camera strapped to my head.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

There actually have been several expeditions to the Congo, some more successful than others. One of the most interesting is described by explorer Rory Nugent in his great book about Mokele-Mbembe called “Drums Along the Congo: On the Trail of Mokele-Mbembe, the Last Living Dinosaur” (Houghton Mifflin June 1, 1993, ISBN: 0395670713). The book is supposed to be re-released sometime this year.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Just in case you decide to finance an expedition on your own, I’ve put together this handy-dandy M.O. for you to follow. You know, in case you bump into this thing:Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– Name: Mokele-mbembe is Lingala, and can mean a variety of things. The word is commonly defined as “One that stops the flow of rivers,” but can also mean “one who eats the tops of palm trees,” “one who listens to Bob Dylan” or even “half-God, half-beast.”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– Description:Mokele-mbembe has been described as an animal with a long neck, a long tail, and rounded shape tracks with three claws. The closest known animal that has these characteristics is a sauropod dinosaur.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– Where it hangs out: Mokele-mbembe lives in the pools and swamps adjacent to the rivers of the Likouala swamp region of The People’s Republic of Congo on the continent of Africa. It is said to use the lakes as a crossing path to go from one river to another.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– Size: Somewhere between the size of a hippopotamus and an elephant. Its length is reportedly between 16 to 32 feet (5 to 10 meters). The length of the neck, according to various descriptions, is between 5 to 10 feet (1.6 to 3.3 meters). The length of the tail is somewhere between 5 to 10 feet as well, varying slightly. Pretty big, so I guess it’s true when they say, “size matters”. – Color: predominately reddish-brown with a color range from gray to brown. There are no reports of hair on the animal. If there were, it would obviously contradict the reptilian dinosaur theory.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– Footprints: a significantly rounded shape between 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 centimeters) in diameter with three claws. The distance between tracks is about 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters).Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– What it eats: the pygmies, natives of the Likouala Swamp region, report that the essential diet of mokele-Mbembe consists primarily of the Malombo plant. Since it only eats plants, it is classified as an herbivore. That isa good thing, as there are no reports of the mokele-Mbembe eating anyone.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

– A Chip on it’s shoulder: mokele-Mbembe is said to live underwater most of the time except when it eats or travels to other parts of the swamp. It has been reported that it does not like hippo’s and will kill them on sight, though it does not eat them. Incredibly, there are no hippo’s to be found where mokele-Mbembe supposedly lives There are some cool fake photo’s on the internet of the mokele-Mbembe duking it out with a hippo. Another urban legend – according to the pygmies – is that mokele-Mbembe will kill anyone on site that admits to having seen the Walt Disney motion picture “Baby” which twisted the legend of the swamp beast beyond recognition.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Another recent expedition in search of mok’ele-mbembe took place in January, 2000. The British-led Congo Millennium Expedition – or DINO2000 – explored the Likoula region of the Congo for four weeks with the official mission objective of a “scientific investigation and analysis of reports of a living dinosaur.” Unfortunately, again, they returned empty-handed.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

There’s are several MokeleMbembe forums on the internet that are quite interesting, one thread contains regards some explorers who just returned from the Congo. Another on some secret photos taken of the beast. Check it out.

Who the heck knows if Mokele Mbembe is fact or fiction. Like a lot of things that go bump in the night, the living dinosaur is real to those who believe in it.

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