Numerous eyewitnesses have reported seeing a living dinosaur in the jungles of Cameroon. The locals refer to the creature as Mokele-Mbembe and it may be the last living sauropod dinosaur. The dinosaur sightings report a creature with a heavily armored body, a fringe of scales down its back, three foot circumference footprints, long neck, snake like head, a body as big as an elephant, claw-like feet and a long tail. In the MonsterQuest Episode “The Last Dinosaur”, the team goes to Africa in search of this last living dinosaur.
For hundreds of years, people native to the Cameroon and Congo areas of western Africa have reported sightings of Mokele-Mbembe. Its name means “one that stops the flow of rivers”. The descriptions of this creature closely resemble the family of dinosaurs known as the sauropods. This family of large plant eating dinosaurs contained the famous brontosaurus and brachiosaurus dinosaurs. Fossils of these dinosaurs have been found on every continent other than Antarctica. Sauropods had long necks, small head, big bodies and claw like feet. These dinosaurs are believed to have gone extinct over 65 million years ago.
The first western account of this creature came from French missionary Abbe Lievain Bonaventurein in 1776. While in the Congo River area, he noted finding large footprints. He did not see the creature that made the prints but said it “must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and formed a print about three feet in circumference.”
In 1870, Englishman Alfred Smith speaks of Cameroon in saying, “… there’s things living we know nothing about. The Jago-Nini they say is still in the swamps and rivers. Giant diver it means.” He goes on to say the creature comes out of the water to devour people and that it has footprints the size of large frying pans with three claws instead of five.
The native people of southeast Cameroon willingly share numerous stories of Mokele-Mbembe sightings. Mokele-Mbembe theory supporters point to the strong similarities in most of the stories. They report seeing a creature that is 25 to 30 feet in length, reddish in color, a long neck with a frill running across it, able to submerge in water and walk on land.
In May of 2001, Edimo Ferdinand saw the Mokele-Mbembe on the Dja River. He says that he saw the creature come out of the water from about 150 meters away. He described it as being elephant like with a long neck. The creature fed on some leaves and returned to the water.
In 2006, another Mokele-Mbembe sighting occurred on the Dja River in southeast Cameroon. While preparing his nets for fishing, Nawouya Bernard sighted this dinosaur like creature walking in the river. He was struck with fear by this creature that he described as having a long neck, long sharp teeth, and a spine running down its back.
Some experts believe that it is possible for a living dinosaur to be hiding in the jungles of Cameroon and the Congo. Dr. Roy Mackal is a retired professor of biology from the University of Chicago. In the 1980s, he made a couple of trips to Africa and was convinced of the existence of the Mokele-Mbembe by the sincerity and consistency of the local population’s sightings. He believes that with over 55,000 square miles of unexplored jungle to hide in that it is not strange that we have not found the Mokele-Mbembe.
In 2004, science teacher Peter Beach traveled to Africa in search of a living sauropod dinosaur. He was able to find prints on the bank of a remote river in Cameroon that he believes were made by Mokele-Mbembe. The prints were a few feet apart with an apparent diameter of one foot. He was able to make plaster casts of the prints along with photographs. He also photographed another interesting aspect of the site. The foliage above the bank appeared to have been eaten away up to a height of 18 feet. No known animal in this area could have reached foliage at that height.
Dr. Donald Prothero does not believe that a creature like Mokele-Mbembe could exist. Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College. He states that there is an excellent fossil record showing that the sauropods died out even before the other dinosaurs. In order for this dinosaur to survive there would have to be a large breeding population. Even in the remotest areas of Africa, there would be more evidence if a large population of dinosaurs existed. He states that remote African cultures have a different view on what is real and what is legendary then western cultures do.
The MonsterQuest team conducted two investigations in its search for Mokele-Mbembe. The first involved sending an expedition to Cameroon in search of Mokele-Mbembe. The second involved expert analysis of the casts and photos made by Peter Beach.
The Cameroon Expedition
The Cameroon expedition is headed up by Cryptozoologist Bill Gibbons. Gibbons has made six trips to Africa in search of the Mokele-Mbembe. Joining Gibbons will be researcher Bob Mullin who is on his third Mokele-Mbembe expedition. Pierre Sima joined the team as the local guide and translator.
This expedition searched for Mokele-Mbembe in the nation of Cameroon. This country is located on the western coast of Africa and is about the size of California. The team concentrated its search in area where the Dja, Boumba and Nkogo Rivers meet. This area of southeastern Cameroon can be a very dangerous area with crocodile, poisonous snakes and armed militias from the Congo. To make the 450 mile trip from the capital city of Yaounde to the base town of Moloundou took three days.
The team met up with many local villagers that shared stories of the Mokele-Mbembe. To determine if the villagers were able to distinguish between a dinosaur like creature and known animals the team utilized a process known as comparative observation. They would flip through a series of local and unfamiliar animals to see if the villagers would recognize them. They did not recognize non local creatures like a bear but they did identify all of the local ones including a rendition of a sauropod dinosaur.
The expedition returns to the site where Peter Beach took the casts of the Mokele-Mbembe tracks in 2004. They do not find any fresh tracks or any other recent signs of the creature. Before leaving they place a motion sensing camera trap that should capture pictures of Mokele-Mbembe if it returns. They scout out additional areas on the Dja River to place more camera traps that they will retrieve at the end of the expedition.
The team theorizes that Mokele-Mbembe may hide in cave formations along the river during the dry season. This behavior is not uncommon in semi aquatic creatures and may help explain the limited sightings of Mokele-Mbembe. At some of the bends in the river they find cave formations that appear to be dug out by some creature. Some of these formations have air vents at the top that go deep into the ground. The soil is hardened almost like cement so the team can not dig into them without heavy equipment.
The team searched the river way with sonar and underwater camera equipment. The sonar finds several unexplained large shapes but the water is so murky and stirred up by recent storms that they can not obtain any good camera shots of the object. The team also attempts a night search of the area but do not see any signs of Mokele-Mbembe.
The team eventually shifts its search to the Boumba River so that they can concentrate on deeper waters. This river runs along the border with the Congo so it is an extremely dangerous area. Once again the team finds some sonar contacts but is unable to get any good camera shots of what is creating them.
The team retrieves the camera traps and reviews the pictures. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of Mokele-Mbembe on any of the pictures. The team could not find any good evidence of this dinosaur like creature. The findings of the cave structures with air vents may be of importance for any subsequent expeditions in search of Mokele-Mbembe.
The Peter Beach Evidence Analysis
The photographs and track casts made by Peter Beach in 2004 are analyzed by Dr. Donald Prothero. He believes that the tracks are approximately one foot across where as sauropod tracks usually measure between 1 ½ and 3 feet across. The claw marks indicated in the tracks appear to be quite different than the claw marks found in sauropod tracks. Sauropod dinosaurs were very heavy creatures that weighed between 40 and 50 tons so their tracks were rather deep. Preserved ancient sauropod tracks were from two to three feet deep in soft soil whereas these tracks from the river bank appear to be much shallower.
Dr. Prothero is totally unconvinced that these tracks came from a sauropod dinosaur remnant. While it is unknown what created them, he is very certain that it was not a living dinosaur.
The search for Mokele-Mbembe did not turn up any hard evidence but it is still intriguing. The volume of sightings by the local people indicates that there may be something out there even if it is not a living dinosaur. Westerners dismissed the tails of mountain gorillas and Komodo dragons as native fantasies until they were discovered in the 20th century.
MonsterQuest Episode: The Last Dinosaur
Original Air Date: 24 June, 2009