Behemoth or Bust

An Expedition into Cameroon Investigating Reports of a Sauropod Dinosaur
(Copyright CEN Technical Journal 15:2, August, 2001, pp. 62-68.)

Abstract

For many years, researchers and explorers have discussed the possibility of extant dinosaurs in equatorial Africa.  In November of 2000 a reconnaissance trip was undertaken to follow up on reports of a creature in the southeast of Cameroon that matched the Mokele-mbembe descriptions historically coming from the Congo.  Purported eyewitnesses were interviewed and some interesting details about the mysterious creature were recorded.  Sufficiently credible evidence was gathered in the three-week trip to warrant a full-scale expedition scheduled for the spring of 2001.  The informant’s descriptions of this creature appear to be quite similar to the biblical “Behemoth.”

“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; …He is the chief of the ways of God:” (Job 40:15,19).

Background

In the late eighteenth century French Catholic missionaries began working with the native African tribes occupying the area that today comprises Gabon, Cameroon, and the People’s Republic of the Congo.  The first written record of the mysterious creature which is called Mokele-mbembe (“one who stops the flow of rivers”) appears in a book written in 1776 by the French priest Abbé Lievain Bonaventure Proyart describing the natural history of the Congo Basin of Africa. While passing through the forest, he observed tracks of an animal “which was not seen but which must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and these formed a print about three feet in circumference.”[i]  This report is sandwiched between a factually accurate account of the African lion and elephant.

In 1909, Lt. Paul Gratz described a “degenerate saurian which one might well confuse with the crocodile, were it not that its skin has no scales and its toes are armed with claws,” which he said inhabited swamps near Lake Bangweulu, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). He called it Nsanga, and said that he was shown a piece of its skin on the island of Mbawala.[ii]

The same year, naturalist Carl Hagenbeck recounted in his autobiography how two different explorers, a German named Hans Schomburgh and an English hunter, both described a monster that was half elephant, half dragon which lived in the Congo swamps. Joseph Menges, another naturalist, told Hagenbeck that some kind of dinosaur, akin to the brontosaurs, lived in the swamps. Hagenbeck sent an expedition to the Congo to search for the monster, but the effort was quickly aborted due to disease and hostile natives. Hans Schomburgh also recounted to Hagenbeck that hippopotami were absent from Lake Bangweulu. The natives said this was because of the fearful monster which inhabited the lake. In the Dilolo swamps Schomburgh had heard tales of a similar creature which the natives called Chimpekwe.

Hagenbeck, who was director of the Hamburg Zoo, has been acclaimed as one of the greatest animal collectors of all time.  In his book Beasts and Men, published in 1912, he wrote:

“…on the walls of certain caverns in Central Africa there are to be found actual drawings of this strange creature. From what I have heard of the animal, it seems to me that it can only be some kind of dinosaur, seemingly akin to the brontosaurus. As the stories come from so many different sources, and all tend to substantiate each other, I am almost convinced that some such reptile must still be in existence.” [iii]

A year later Captain Freiherr von Stein zu Lausnitz was sent by the German government to explore the Cameroons and West Africa. Von Stein wrote of an animal called in the local tongue mokele-mbembe, said to inhabit the areas near the Ubangi, Sanga, and Ikelemba Rivers. Von Stein description (translated by Willy Ley) is as follows:

“The animal is said to be of a brownish-gray color with a smooth skin, its size approximately that of an elephant; at least that of a hippopotamus. It is said to have a long and very flexible neck and only one tooth but a very long one; some say it is a horn. A few spoke about a long muscular tail like that of an alligator. …The creature is said to live in the caves that have been washed out by the river in the clay of its shores at sharp bends.  It is said to climb the shore even at daytime in search of food; its diet is said to be entirely vegetable.  This feature disagrees with a possible explanation as a myth.  The preferred plant was shown to me, it is a kind of liana with large white blossoms, with a milky sap and apple-like fruits. At the Ssombo River I was shown a path said to have been made by this animal in order to get at its food. The path was fresh and there were plants of the described type near by.”[iv]

In 1919 the Smithsonian Institute sent a team to Africa to investigate. Unfortunately a tragic train wreck took the lives of several people and ended the expedition.  Through the 1920’s several dinosaur hunting expeditions were mounted, sparked by multiple newspaper stories that turned out to be hoaxes. But in 1927, the book Trader Horn, a memoir of the author’s time in Gabon, was written by Englishman Alfred Aloysius Smith. While plying the Ogooue River in Gabon, Smith heard stories about an enormous dragon-like river beast called Jago-nini. Later, while travelling in Cameroon, he visited lakes from which populations of manatees had been wiped out by the N’yamala, a huge animal that had left three-clawed frying pan-sized footprints in the mud at the lakeside. In his 1927 book Trader Horn, he writes:

“Aye, and behind the Cameroons there’s things living we know nothing about. I could ‘a’ made books about many things. The Jago-Nini they say is still in the swamps and rivers. Giant diver it means. Comes out of the water and devours people. Old men’ll tell you what their grandfathers saw, but they still believe it’s there. Same as the Amali [N’yamala] I’ve always taken it to be. I’ve seen the Amali’s footprint. About the size of a good frying pan in circumference and three claws instead o’ five.”[v]

The Scottish explorer Ivan Sanderson and American naturalist Gerald Russel were traveling through northern Cameroon in 1932 when they came to Mamfe Pool on the Mainyu River.  The cliff-like river banks at this location had many caves, some partially filled with river water.  The travelers reported a loud disturbance, as of fighting beasts, followed by the back of something larger than a hippopotamus breaking the surface, and immediately submerging afterwards.  Upstream near the confluence of the Cross River they came upon “vast hippo-like tracks: although there were no hippopotami in the area.”  Sanderson was informed that this creature, called “Embulu-em’bembe,” drove the hippos away.[vi]

In 1937, Discovery ran an article by Captain William Hichens, entitled “African Mystery Beasts.”  In a section on “Colossal Lizards” it reported:

“Other accounts speak of a gigantic lizard, with a neck like a giraffe, legs like an elephant’s, a small snake-like head and a tail thirty feet long.  Several white hunters have asserted that they have tracked what must be such beasts, and the Smithsonian Institution, some years ago sent an expedition to locate this animal, but the project, unfortunately, met with disaster and never arrieved in the field of search.”[vii]

A year later, in 1938, Dr. Leo Von Boxberger (1879-1950), who was colonial magistrate with considerable African experience, conducted an expedition into the interior of Cameroon.  He also picked up reports of a large, unidentified animal living in the waters. Most of his notes on this subject were lost when his expedition was attacked by members of the Pangwe tribe in Spanish Guinea. However, on the subject of the aquatic monsters he wrote:

“My own contribution to the subject is unfortunately very small. At the mouth of the Mbam in Sanaga in Central Cameroons and on the Ntem in Southern Cameroons, I collected a variety of data from the natives about the mysterious water beast. All I can report is the name mbokalemuembe given to the animal in southern Cameroons. The belief in a gigantic water animal described as a reptile with a long thin neck, exists among the natives in the southern Cameroons, wherever they form part of the Congobasin and also to the west of this area, doubtless where the great rivers are broad and deep and are flanked by virgin forest.”[viii]

In 1948, A.S. Arrey was swimming in Lake Barombi Mbo near Kumba (northern Cameroon) while keeping some visiting British soldiers company. Without warning the water at the center of the lake began to stir, as if being disturbed from below. After everyone had hastily exited the water, two strange long-necked creatures broke the surface. The first animal to appear had a long neck (about 12-15ft), ending in a small, slender head that sported a spike of some kind at the top. A second (slightly smaller) long necked animal also made an appearance, but without a spike or horn. The locals later claimed that the hornless animal was a female. As Arrey recalled, some of the soldiers fled the scene, but others stayed and kept the two strange animals under observation. The animals were again typical of Mokele-mbembe in appearance, but on this occasion snakelike scales were observed on the monsters. This matches more recent reports of the larger, mature animals possessing toughened skin like a caiman. The spike on the head is also suggestive of sexual dimorphism.  Extinct sauropodians such as the diplodocus are now known to have had dermal spikes up to 9 inches in length. The locals call these animals Jago-nini, meaning “giant diver.” The locals further stated that the animals rarely left the water and were seen infrequently, which again ties in favorably with Mokele-mbembe.[ix]

In May 1954, Englishman Alan Brignall was working in Kiture, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He and a colleague decided to take a few days to go fishing rip in Lake Bangweulu. Brignall was fishing on the shore of the lake near two small reed-bound islands about 25 yards offshore. Suddenly he was shocked by the appearance of a large animal that had abruptly surfaced near the islands. The Englishman noted that the creature was at least as big as a hippo, with a long vertical neck, a small head with a clearly visible brow, blunt nose, jaw line, and a humped back. The skin was described as smooth and uniformly gray all over.  As the creature swiveled its head from site to side as if looking for something in the reeds, Brignall estimated that it held its head about 4.5 feet out of the water and that its neck was roughly 12 inches in diameter. While he tried to reach for his camera and alert his colleagues nearby, Brignall’s movements startled the creature and it sank vertically into the lake and was not seen again. He was absolutely certain that the animal he observed was not a snake, lizard, hippo or  crocodile. The locals later informed him that he had observed Mbilintu, a longed necked, bulbous bodied aquatic monster that had chased all the hippos away.  While this clearly seems to be a Mokele-mbembe sighting, the animal is called “Mbilintu” by the Njumbo tribe.[x]

Subsequently, little was heard of African dinosaurs until 1976, when crocodile expert, James Powell, who was working along the Ogooue & N’Gounie rivers in Gabon, heard stories about the animal called N’yamala, which matched those of Trader Horn’s Jago-nini. Powell later conveyed the information to Dr. Roy P. Mackal, a biologist at the University of Chicago. Mackal was fascinated by the historical accounts and agreed with Powell that an expedition should be mounted.

The 1980 and 1981 expeditions by Dr. Roy Mackal catapulted the search in the Congo to international attention through many published reports:

“In the swampy jungles of western Africa, reports persist of an elephant-sized creature with smooth, brownish-gray skin, a long, flexible neck, a very long tail as powerful as a crocodile’s, and three-clawed feet the size of frying pans. Over the past three centuries, native Pygmies and Western explorers have told how the animals feed on the nutlike fruit of a riverbank plant and keep to the deep pools and subsurface caves of waters in this largely unexplored region.  After a recent expedition there, two American researchers conclude that these stories refer to a real animal, not a myth. Fantastic as it seems, Roy Mackal and James Powell believe that this creature, called ‘Mokele-Mbembe’ by the natives, may actually be a dinosaur, perhaps one resembling brontosaurus, which is thought to have died out 70 million years ago.”[xi]

The forbidding Likouala swamp region, located in the northern part of the Congo, is about the size of the state of Arkansas.  Dr. Mackal’s rigorous investigation through this area resulted in a near-encounter with the Mokele-mbembe creature and the accumulation of numerous details about it.

“Despite the dozens of hypothesis of dinosaur extinction the fact remains that the crocodilians in the swamp survived. That being the case, why not also the Mokele-mbembe?  It, too, is semi-aquatic, differing behaviourally from the crocodile only in that it is an herbivore.  We gathered more than thirty detailed descriptions of the Mokele-mbembe and these fit the configuration of a small sauropod so well that I find it impossible not to accept the identification, at least tentatively.  Each of the reports was a first-hand, eyewitness account by informants from widely differing ethnic, cultural, religious, and geographical backgrounds.  …The animal is said to range in length from 5 to 10 metres (15 to 30 feet), much of which it owes to the long head neck and tail.  Colour varies somewhat, being grey to brown, with reddish-brown predominating.  …Footprints were described as rounded, about 30 centimetres (1 foot) in diameter—something like those made by an elephant.  When observed in the sand, claw marks were also present.”[xii]

Not only did Mackal bring back further details of the Mokele-mbembe, he brought to light another mysterious animal known to the pygmy peoples: the horned Emela-ntouka (“killer of elephants”).  Mackal contemplated whether the Emela-ntouka could be an extant Ceratopsian dinosaur.  But the absence of a frill in the descriptions he received caused difficulty with that identification. French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans discusses similar reports from Africa under the category of “water elephant and “forest rhinoceros.”[xiii]

In May 1983, Marcellin Agnagna, a Congolese zoologist from the Parc Zoologie in Brazzaville, and member of the 1981 Mackal expedition, led his own small safari to Lake Tele. On May 1, during his five-day stay at the lake, Agnagna and his guides from the village of Boha, claimed to have observed in the lake a strange animal in the lake with a wide back, a long neck (about 2 meters), 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 [Boha 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 sightings 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.”[xiv]

Various interesting, if inconclusive, reports have emerged over the last couple decades.  In the fall of 1981 Herman Regusters led a team into Lake Tele and returned with droppings, footprint casts and sound recording unlike any animal known to the Congo Basin area. They also claimed to have seen some large creature moving through the brush and swimming in the lake.  Later, Regusters estimated it was 30-35 feet long.  The Sunday Times of London reported in May of 1999 that some years ago members of the Kabonga tribe claim to have actually killed a Mokele-mbembe and eaten part of it.[xv]  Since 1980, nearly twenty such expeditions have searched the region of the Likouala swamp in the Congo.  Although Smith, Sanderson, and others happened upon information similar to the descriptions of the Mokele-mbembe from the Congo, it is important to note that no expeditions have gone to Cameroon specifically to search for this dinosaur-like creature since the focus in recent times has been on the Congo.  Indeed, no exploratory reports at all have come from Cameroon in many years.

Expeditions searching for the alleged dinosaur of equatorial Africa have been halted in recent years due to political unrest in the Congo.  Then cryptozoologist Bill Gibbons of Canada became aware of reports coming out of Cameroon through missionaries working with the Baka pygmies in the southeastern portion of the country.  The civil situation in Cameroon being far more stable, Gibbons and Dave Woetzel of New Hampshire determined to commence an exploratory trip to the region.  A great deal of effort went into securing a reliable translator and guide.  Books to be used for interviewing informants were carefully prepared. After securing and packing an inflatable boat, portable sonar, sundry survival items, medical supplies, photographic equipment, and more, the reconnaissance trip was begun.

Traveling to the Target Area

On November 3, 2000 Gibbons and Woetzel flew to the Republic of Cameroon. After a six-hour delay in the seacoast town of Douala, the explorers eventually landed safely in the capital city of Yaounde at about 1:00am. The first night was spent at a modest hotel in Yaounde, and the following morning the team embarked on an eight-hour drive east towards Bertoua on a rutted dirt road.  At 10:00pm, the team arrived in Dimako, just south of Bertoua, the capitol of the southeastern region of Cameroon.  Two small mission guesthouses provided comfortable lodging after the long drive.  The following morning found the team in Bertoua purchasing additional food supplies and obtaining critical government permissions prior to starting the long drive south into the target area. An afternoon of bumpy travel brought the group to sparse accommodations within the frontier logging town of Yokadouma. Their hired vehicle reached the Baka settlement of Welele the following day about noon.   During that afternoon the team interviewed three eye-witnesses and later hired Baka pygmy guides for the trek into the interior. It was learned here that the animal commonly known as Mokele-mbembe from the Congo was called Li’kela-bembe in the Baka language.  The similarity in the words certainly suggests a common origin.

Slogging, Floating, & Interviewing

After spending the first of many night under canvas, the team of eight began trekking through the rainforest towards the Boumba river.  By noon Timbo, the leader of the pygmy guides, pointed to an area on the west bank of the Boumba where he had personally observed a Li’kela-bembe a few years prior. The river there was fast flowing but tranquil, with no encampments along the banks or river traffic whatsoever. The water level was still high from the rainy season and the river was flanked on both sides by dense forest growth forming a wall of vegetation. It was decided that the pygmies would travel on foot alongside the river, while Woetzel and Gibbons floated downstream, quietly observing the surrounding flora and fauna. Shanga, a Baka youth from a nearby village, paddled downstream in a large dugout canoe containing the expedition’s supplies. A number of observations were made of small reptiles, birds, and fleeing monkeys but no Li’kela-bembe! Camp was made a short distance off the river next to a large jungle tree (approximately 12 feet in diameter) just as darkness was falling.

The following morning the team continued floating down the Boumba until reaching a Baka cocoa plantation where further interviews were conducted.  The plantation owner was very helpful in obtaining information regarding the mystery animals. While he did not recognize the majority of the extinct animals and dinosaurs in the illustrations, the individual did pick out the sauropod dinosaur as being representative of the Li’kela-bembe.  Interestingly both the illustration of a Tricerotops and the artist’s impression of the Emela-ntouka from Mackal’s book were identified as the same animal: the Ngoubou. Other informants described the Ngoubou as having a frill around its neck and sporting from one to four horns on its nose and head!

The group pressed on into the forest after a day at the plantation, eager to explore more of the target area and interview other informants. Due to the high water level, a good deal of time was spent slogging through swamps, often waist deep. Areas too deep to wade through were crossed by using old leaking pirogs (African dugout canoes) or the inflatable dinghy.  Foot rot, skin irritations, insect bites and prickly vegetations made progress slow and extremely difficult. After twelve hours of grueling hacking through dense jungle the team eventually made camp alongside some rapids on the Boumba river.

The objective was to reach the remote Lopondji river, yet another place where a pygmy fisherman had observed Li’kela-bembe. By carefully plotting the course on a map, extensively video taping details, and carefully noting all the places where the Li’kela-bembe and other mystery animals had been encountered, Woetzel and Gibbons were becoming optimistic of making some sort of breakthrough.  The following morning, however, progress toward the Lopondji river was frustrated by a river that was impassable with the inflatable.  Although the trip through untouched African forest was beautiful and mysterious, the constant wading through deep mud and stinking swamps was becoming laborious and draining.  In the end, time constraints forced the expedition to abandon their search and begin the final trek out to the village of Mambele.  En route a pygmy bridge across a small, fast flowing river collapsed, sending Gibbons down into the water along with his camcorder. But the explorers eventually reached Mambele at 5:00pm, filthy and tired.

The following day after a refreshing bath in a small river, they pressed on to the town of Moloundou, at the border of Cameroon and the Congo. Moloundou sits on the confluence of the Boumba and Ngoko rivers.  A Li’kela-bembe had been observed just nine months previous by a local sentinel while guarding the river ferry. The sighting occurred just outside town as the creature swam downstream toward Moloundou. However, it suddenly stopped mid-stream, and started swimming back up the Ngoko. The sentinel was quite sure that the animal had noticed him watching it, prompting it to flee.  It is worth noting that the description, made by this Cameroonian villager (Bantu heritage), was identical to those of the Baka forest people.  Reaching the end of the road, the expedition retraced its steps, conducting an additional interview on the way back to Bertoua.  After spending nearly three weeks in Cameroon Gibbons and Woetzel flew home on November 19, 2000.

Li’kela-bembe

Woetzel and Gibbons were informed that they were the first whites to actually penetrate the forest and swamps along the Boumba and Loponji rivers. The Baka interviewed proved completely familiar with all wildlife of the rainforest and swamps. Informants consistently picked out a sauropod dinosaur as being representative of the Li’kela-bembe.  Although these people do not regard it as unusual, they do fear the Li’kela-bembe because of its ferocity in attacking hippos, elephants, and even crocodiles. The animal is said to be intolerant of other large creature that might share the river and demands total controls over large stretches of river.  One villager described how a Li’kela-bembe coming out of the river in search of food had inadvertently destroyed his canoe.  Although he admitted that he did not actually observe the creature, the huge clawed tracks left behind convinced him of its identity. The elusive animals are described as being nearly as big as elephants, with the head and neck stretching to a height of about fifteen feet. The head is small, resembling the large African snakes, while the tail is described as being long and very flexible.

Just like many cultures revere the snake, the Baka fear and respect the Li’kela-bembe, claiming that it has an “evil spirit” because of its ferocity.  It is said to inhabit several rivers in southern Cameroon which border Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic. These include the Boumba, Ngoko, Loponji, Dja, Padama, and Sanga rivers. According to indigenous fishermen and hunters, the Ngoko river (a tributary of the Sanga river) is the best place to find the Li’kela-bembe.

The Ngoubou

The Ngoubou creature is described as a powerful, horned quadruped that grazes in the savannahs, makes large beds for itself, and kills elephants. The Emela-ntouka (killer of elephants) described by Dr. Roy Mackal after his journey into the Congo appears to be the same animal.  However, in Cameroon the Ngoubou was readily identified with the picture of the Triceratops. Several eye-witnesses from different villages described the animal’s bony neck frill, beaked mouth, and the heavy tail. It is said to inhabit savannah areas to the west of the Boumba river and is also known in the Sanga region near the Central African Republic.  Supposedly the female of the species differs slightly with respect to the neck frill. All of the informant’s accounts concur that the animal is dangerous and that elephants give it a wide berth. An elderly Baka couple living in Dimako claimed to have observed an Ngoubou near the Ngoko river some years ago.  These creatures had only been seen rarely, perhaps even now being extinct.

Assessing the Credibility of Eyewitnesses

It appears quite reasonable that the heavily forested region of southern Cameroon, with its remote swamps and sparsely inhabited river systems, could be home to some animals unknown to science.  Given the Baka pygmies’ intimate knowledge of the region, one is left with a positive impression that these extraordinary people are a valuable and accurate source of information.  While they respect and fear creatures like the Li’kela-bembe and Ngoubou, they do not regard them as being any more strange than the elephant or the gorilla.  Since this was the first time that they have been interviewed by outsiders regarding these mysterious animals, they were not biased towards picking out illustrations of extinct animals because of some past experience titillating explorers.

The Baka interviewed were not told the purpose of the questioning in advance, nor were they guided in any way.  They were merely asked to provide identification of animals that they knew.  Black and white pictures were presented, starting with animals that they would certainly know, like the crocodile. Then  a series of creatures that they were not expected to know was presented.  Bipedal carnivores such as the T-rex, quadrupeds like the Dimetrodon, and flying creatures such as the pterodactyl were not recognized by our informants. Other animals such as the American brown bear and the African Hyena also were unknown to them. However, the sauropod dinosaurs and the Triceratops drew excitable responses from witnesses at multiple Baka encampments. It is believed that such positive results, all discreetly videotaped, merit further investigation.

Some might conclude that the identification of other mysterious creatures in addition to the sauropod dinosaur strengthens the conclusion that all of them are merely legendary.  But the similarity of Cameroon descriptions to those given by natives in the Congo and elsewhere would seem to be evidence to the contrary.  Moreover, certain mysterious creatures described elsewhere in equatorial Africa (such as the pterodactyl-like Kongo-mato) were not known to the pygmies of Cameroon, making it unlikely that the same legends were merely circulated in both regions.

The Dragon’s Tail

The description of the behemoth found in Job has been alternately ascribed to a hippo or an elephant by various bible commentators.  But the dinosaur seems to be the best fit.

“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron. He is the chief of the ways of God:” (Job 40:15-19).

Not only is the dinosaur, as the largest creature known to have roamed the earth, a good candidate for the “chief,” but the distinguishing language “tail like a cedar” would appear to rule out the hippo or elephant.  Indeed, the long tail is also one of the distinguishing features of the Li’kela-bembe.  The most common description of the animal was “a snake with legs.”  Considering the size of some snakes in Cameroon, it is an apt description for a partially submerged dinosaurian.

When asked how the Li’kela-bembe, by all accounts a small-mouthed herbivore, succeeds in fighting a hippo, elephant or crocodile; the Baka explain that it simultaneously lashes with its tail while darting at its opponent with its snake-like head. It becomes fascinating, as one considers the tail as an offensive weapon, to review the description of Satan as a dragon:

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:” (Rev. 12:3-4)

Those not predisposed to believe dinosaurs became extinct millions of years before man evolved find it likely that the dragons of old were dinosaurs.  Indeed, it would be strange for the creature in John’s Revelation to be positively identified as a “dragon” if it was not recognizable as a known animal when other unidentified creatures are merely called a “beast” (see Revelation 13:1). Described as a serpent (Revelation 12:9) and a lion (I Peter 5:8), it would be appropriate to liken Satan to a ferocious dinosaur.  The Dragon’s offensive weapon, the tail, succeeded in drawing one third of the angelic host in his rebellion.  This matches yet one more interesting historical detail.  The Aberdeen Bestiary, a medieval volume written in the early 1500’s and preserved in the library of Henry VIII states of the dragon: “Its strength lies not in its teeth but in its tail, and it kills with a blow rather than a bite.”[xvi]  Indeed modern paleontologists have theorized for some time that the mighty sauropod tails would have been useful as a defensive weapon. Recently it has even been suggested that Diplodocids could even have used their tails like a bullwhip, achieving supersonic cracks to intimidate enemies.[xvii]

The Mesozoic Era

The time period that mainstream scientists identify as the Mesozoic Era is distinguished geologically as the Age of Reptiles.  In various places around the world there is a marked separation of reptile fossils from mammal remains that evolutionists have used to their advantage.  The supposed K/T boundary represents the supposed time of massive extinctions that end the Age of Reptiles and permitted the evolution of mammals to exploit the abdicated biological niches.  Creationists have countered that the segregation can be explained via natural habitats, differential mobility, and hydrodynamic sorting during the time of the flood.  However, these mechanisms are not entirely satisfactory in explaining widespread separation of fossils.  For example, it is difficult to explain why a forest monkey or a hippo that today live in the swamps of Cameroon would not be buried alongside a crocodile or Mokele-mbembe.

Some creationists believe that major geologic periods represent distinct ecological zones spreading out from the initial creation around Eden.[xviii]  A couple of interesting details gleaned from this expedition lend credence to the idea of distinct ecosystems existing on the primeval earth.  First, it is uncanny to see the similarity in habitat described by Job and that observed in Cameroon to be the home of the Li’kela-bembe.

“He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about. Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not:” (Job 40:21-23).

It has been suspected for some time that the large sauropods might have spent much of their lives in the water.  But the descriptions by natives specifically highlight the river systems as the home of the Li’kela-bembe.  Indeed the trees, reeds, and other extensive vegetation often hide the elusive creature so that it is only briefly glimpsed, after which it retreats into the deep pools and quickly disappears.

Secondly, the ferocity of the Li’kela-bembe is noteworthy.  Pygmies told how the creature is extremely shy about human contact, quickly retreating into the deep water when confronted.  However, it fiercely protects its territory from competitors, particularly the hippos and elephants.  Explorers have been told that the best way to locate a Mokele-mbembe was to identify a stretch of river rich in molombo fruit but containing no hippos.  It is important to note that the hippo is the most ferocious of the known animals in equatorial Africa.  For example, they readily kill crocodiles when engaged in a fight.  The Baka explained that where a Li’kela-bembe lives there will be no hippos, elephants, or crocodiles.

If dinosaurs, due to their enormous reproductive capacity, were able to quickly proliferate and diversify to occupy most of the niches in the extensive swamp systems of the primeval earth; and they guarded “their turf” with a ferocity like that ascribed to the Li’kela-bembe, it would be very difficult for hippos, elephants, or other competitors to invade the swamps.  Indeed, the breadth of the dinosaurs (from the rooster-sized Compsognathus to the giant Apatosaur) would practically preclude mammal coexistence.  Thus the latter would be forced to occupy the higher ground.  During a flood, they would consistently be buried in an upper layer that had eroded only after the swamplands were inundated.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it seems that valuable insights, and possibly even an enormous scientific breakthrough, could be gained from exploring this region further.  The remarkable harmony between narratives of past explorations, information gathered on this expedition, and the paleontological and biblical knowledge of dinosaur’s habitat gives credence to the idea of a dinosaur living still today.

Many things were learnt on this exploratory trip that should be useful for future expeditions.  While the weather in November (after the rainy season) made for relatively comfortable days, the high water level made travel extremely difficult.  Dry season travel would bring a new set of obstacles, but it would also narrow the target area to the deepest rivers and swamp pools.  The government ministers of the interior, rivers, tourism and national security must all be contacted to obtain all the necessary permissions and documents.  It would also be helpful to hire an aircraft to carry expedition personnel and equipment from the capital city of Yaounde directly to Moloundou in the southeast, avoiding the lengthy and tedious journey by road.  The best odds of finding the creature will be on the river.  Accordingly, the plan should be to methodically ply the large rivers with a high-riding boat, utilizing sonar and underwater video equipment for a period of six to eight weeks.

A full-scale expedition sponsored in part by the BBC is currently being planned for 2001 and I anticipate conducting another trip thereafter.  As new information is forthcoming, it will be posted to the Genesis Park web site.  I truly hope that God’s purpose in pointing Job to the ancient behemoth and leviathan is realized afresh today: ‘None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?’ (Job 41:10).  It would indeed be exciting to see dinosaurs restored to their proper place, declaring God’s almighty creative power!


[i] Proyart, Abbe’Lie’vain Bonaventure, Historie de Loango, Kakongo, et autres Royaumes d’Afrique, re’dige’e d’apres les me’moires des Pre’fets apostoliques de la Mission fracoise, 1776, pp. 38-39. in Mackal, 1987, p. 2.

[ii] Heuvelmans, Bernard, On the Track of Unknown Animals, 1959, p. 461.

[iii] Hagenbeck, Carl, Beasts and Men, 1912, pp. 96-96.

[iv] Ley, Willy, The Lungis, the Dodo, and the Unicorn, 1948, pp. 257-259.

[v] Smith, Alfred Aloysius, Trader Horn, 1927, p. 257.

[vi] Mackal, Roy P., A Living Dinosaur: In Search of Mokele-mbembe, 1987, p. 211.

[vii] Hichens, William, “African Mystery Beasts, Discovery, December 1937, p.369.

[viii] Boxberger, Leo Von, Umschau, “Ein Unentdecktes Grosstier in Innerafrika?” (“A large unknown Animal in the African Interior?”), Frankfurt & Leipzig, vol. 42, 1938, p. 49.

[ix] Shuker, Karl P. N., In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors, p. 20.

[x] Shuker, Karl P. N., In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors, p. 19.

[xi] Anonymous, “Living Dinosaurs,” Science–80, vol. 1, November 1980, pp. 6-7.

[xii] Mackal, Roy P., A Living Dinosaur: In Search of Mokele-mbembe, 1987, p. 224.

[xiii] Heuvelmans, Bernard, On the Track of Unknown Animals, 1959, p. 482.

[xiv] Agnagna, Marcellin, “Results of the First Congolese Mokele-Mbembe Expedition, 1983,” Cryptozoology, 1983, 2:103-112.

[xv] The Sunday Times, London, May 30, 1999, News, p. 1.11.

[xvi]  Archived at Aberdeen University by Michael Arnott, original work circa 1200, http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/translat/65v.hti Last Accessed 4/27/12.

[xvii] Myhrvold, Nathan P., and Currie, Philip J., “Supersonic Sauropods? Tail Dynamics in the Diplodocids,” Paleobiology, December 1997, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 393-409.

[xviii] Gentet, Robert E., “The CCC Model and its Geologic Implications,” CRSQ, June 2000, pp. 10-21.