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Representative image of Mokele-mbembe

Mokele-mbembe: The Monster of the Congo River

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Mokèlé-mbèmbé is the name given to a creature believed to inhabit the upper reaches of the Congo River basin, i.e. Congo, Zambia, and Cameroon, as well as in Lake Tele (in the Republic of Congo) and its surrounding regions.

This name originates from the Lingala language, and is commonly translated to mean ‘one who stops the flow of rivers’, said to be a reference to the creature’s supposed preference for nestling in the bends of rivers. Mokèlé-mbèmbé is also said to be the word for ‘rainbow’, as well as ‘mystery’, according to Paul Ohlin, a missionary who has spent more than a decade living with the Bayaka pygmies of Congo and the Central African Republic.

An artist’s illustration of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé. (

Description of the Creature

Over the years, numerous physical descriptions of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé have been provided. The various accounts generally agree that the creature is enormous in size and has a long neck with a small head, as well as a long tail. In some accounts, the Mokèlé-mbèmbé is also said to be an herbivorous creature that lived in caves by the river, where it could find its favorite food - a certain type of liana.

Despite its vegetarian diet, it is thought that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé would act aggressively if approached by people. In one account, it is said that the beast has a single horn, perhaps like a rhinoceros, with which it would kill elephants. There are also claims that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé is a spiritual, rather than a physical being.

Illustration of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé

Illustration of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé (Public Domain)

Mokèlé-mbèmbé Sightings

The first report of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé by Westerners dates back to 1776, and is attributed to a French missionary in the Congo River region by the name of Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart. The missionary reported that he had seen enormous footprints (a meter (3.28 ft) in diameter with claw prints) of some animal in that region. The creature that left these footprints, however, was not sighted. No further reports about the Mokèlé-mbèmbé were made until the early part of the 20th century.

In 1909, an explorer by the name of Lt. Paul Gratz wrote about a creature similar to the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, known as the ‘Nsanga’. This creature is found in the legends of the natives living in present day Zambia, and is rumored to inhabit the Lake Bangweulu region. Gratz’s report is important, as it is the first account that describes the animal as dinosaur-like. Since then, it has been commonly accepted that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé is some kind of dinosaur.

Around the same time, Carl Hagenbeck, a renowned German big game hunter, claimed that he had heard about the beast as well. In his autobiography, Beasts and Men , Hagenbeck wrote that he was told about “a huge monster, half elephant, half dragon” that was living “in the depth of the great swamps” in the interior of Rhodesia (an unrecognized state that once occupied the territory which is today Zimbabwe). Hagenbeck also wrote that:

“I am almost convinced that some such reptile must be still in existence. At great expense, therefore, I sent out an expedition to find the monster, but unfortunately they were compelled to return home without having proved anything, either one way or the other.”

An artist's concept of the Mokele-mbembe. (CC BY SA 4.0)

Disputed Existence of Mokèlé-mbèmbé

Hagenbeck may have been the first Westerner to have led an expedition to find the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, but he would certainly not be the last. As of 2011, over 50 expeditions have been carried out to find the creature.

Apart from alleged footprints, fuzzy photographic images, and a deluge of eyewitness reports (including one in which a missionary claims to have been acquainted with some pygmies who killed a Mokèlé-mbèmbé during the 1960s), there is a lack of indisputable evidence to prove the existence of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé.

In addition to the absence of hard evidence, the existence of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé is doubted based on several factors. For example, it has been argued that, if the Mokèlé-mbèmbé is a prehistoric dinosaur, as many claim, then it is highly unlikely for it to be just one animal, or a few individuals.

If the Mokèlé-mbèmbé had survived unchanged in the Congo River basin for the last 65 million years, then there must be a sizeable population of them. Enough physical evidence (such as skeletal remains or feces) would have been left behind by the creatures, and should have been found by now.

Illustration of Brontosaurus in the water, and Diplodocus on land.

Illustration of Brontosaurus in the water, and Diplodocus on land. (Public Domain)

Another argument against the existence of Mokèlé-mbèmbé draws from the experience of zoologists who search for species believed to have gone extinct in recent history. If one intends to re-discover a presumably extinct animal, one would need to conduct multiple searches. It has been found that if such a creature still exists, it would usually turn up after three to six searches were conducted, after which the probability of its existence decreases. Given that over 50 expeditions have been conducted, the likelihood that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé exists seems to be pretty slim.

Nevertheless, there are those who have not given up, and who fervently believe that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé will one day be found. The most prominent of these are the Creationists, who hold the view that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, if found, would provide hard evidence for their literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation.

Depiction of humans attacking a Mokèlé-mbèmbé. (cryptomundo)

They also believe that the existence of such a creature would serve to discredit the claims of evolutionists, as the Mokèlé-mbèmbé would be ‘proof’ that dinosaurs reproduced “after their kind, not ‘evolving’ from (or into) other life-forms”. Considering what is at stake, it is likely that the hunt for the elusive Mokèlé-mbèmbé will continue for some time to come.

Top Image: Representative image of Mokele-mbembe. Source: Catmando /Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren


Borgaard, P., 2005. Hunting for Mokele Mbembe. [Online]
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Catchpoole, D., 2016. Mokele-mbembe: a living dinosaur?. [Online]
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Gibbons, W., 2002. In Search Of the Congo Dinosaur. [Online]
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Gibbons, W., 2016. Was a Mokele-mbembe killed at Lake Tele?. [Online]
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Hagenbeck, C., 1912. Beasts and men, being Carl Hagenbeck's experiences for half a century among wild animals;. London: Longmans, Green, and Co..

Hebblethwaite, C., 2011. The hunt for Mokele-mbembe: Congo's Loch Ness Monster. [Online]
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Prothero, D., 2011. A Living Dinosaur in the Congo? (Part 2). [Online]
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Radford, B., 2013. Mokele-Mbembe: The Search for a Living Dinosaur. [Online]
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Strauss, B., 2015. Is Mokele-Mbembe Really a Dinosaur?. [Online]
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Switek, B., 2012. A Dinosaur Expedition Doomed From the Start. [Online]
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Hi All,

What a triumph this is so exciting too read about I've heard of Mokele-embembe since I was 4 years of age. I don't think I associated it with the dinosaurs until I was 8 years old.

If memory serves correct science is said to be on the basis of Facts so probably science has a check box too check off the evidence not recovered by searchers for this animal. The best expedition in search of Mokele-mbembe was sponsored by The Smithsonian in 1924.

The expedition ended badly because the Team got word a herd of them was crossing through an Village but, when they started out it began too rain an the Smithsonian Team went by Rail they caught a Train to get too that Village.

There was a Train derailment because of Mud knocking the Train itself off the tracks many people were injured and killed so The Team never got to that Village. I myself am a Christian with all these failed attempts too see this specific animal Mokele-embembe may be someone Higher than Us All doesn't want these animal's found.

After all, in Job chapter 40:15, God does say He is the only one who can approach an Behemoth without a Sword; God also said He Created the Behemoth The Same Day He Created People. From an much older Bible Book Enoch 1...

The Book of The Watchers which coincidentally is in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible unchanged for thousands of year's Enoch said God sent The Behemoth to rule The Desert and The Leviathan to rule the Abyss meaning The Water's of The Deep.

Whether this creature is seen by modern science or not the point is The Native People of Africa are the ones graced with seeing one the most compelling information about the Africans that has had encounters with Mokele-mbembe is that The Pygmies of The Congo killed and ate one but, the problem was it made the people sick.

The other interesting point made about Mokelembe is that it's capable of Killing Hippopotamus an we know How bad Hippopotamus are in Africa deadlier than Crocodiles.

Which begs the question just where exactly did the dreaded Ebola Virus come from originally?

I have heard of two other animals dinosaur like dwells in the Congo too but The Pygmies are not seeing them as much so perhaps they have died out that is Nou Goubo possible Triceratops an Stryacsaurus I always did have trouble spelling that horn dinosaurs name.

The Pygmies said it's religiously territorial and capable of Killing Elephants they're a bit smaller nowadays but, as I've stated there hasn't been as many sightings of Them only Mokelembe seems to be the most reliable at the present moment in Central Africa.

One more thing back in 1905, down in Brazil it was believed by the longest Time that a animal similar to Mokelembe in Africa lived there accept this one is a Dipolodicus.

A Surveyor with The British Army truly respected in His Field yet question when He saw unnatural within The Natural World Percy Fawcett in 1920, claimed not only too have seen an 60 foot long Anaconda (of which I'm convinced could have been Titanoboa), but a living Dipolodicus in the Brazilian Jungle Fawcett took extensive notes on his first expedition and left him with a very good buddy we all know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle it is from Fawcetts Notes that inspired Arthur Doyle to write his famous adventure story The Lost World.

Fawcett not being believed decided to go back too Brazil to prove everyone wrong and Him right but, stated if no Word was heard from Him send No Search Party the only other person that traveled with Him on the second expedition was His grown Son.

Isn't the World interesting? Alright so until next time, Everyone,

beerkat88's picture

Not finding bodies nor bones is the same old excuse some use to deny bigfoot. Between the jungle climate, scavengers, rapid plant overgrowth, and the sheer size and remoteness of the region, it sounds more logical to NOT find a body. I have also read more than once of expeditions being cut short because of their visas not getting renewed, and worse yet, rebel factions hunting down the visitors. I am not a christian and had not heard of their angle on this before, but do think it is just logical that numerous species we do not know about could be alive and well in the deep jungles- even large ones.

Paul Davies's picture

The old: “Surely it would have been found by now” – Classic, party-line reasoning, which illustrates the hubris of Western science. The places where these animals are reported to live are SO remote it takes weeks of river travel to get to the region. The author also fails to acknowledge that any population would survive only by becoming VERY good at avoiding humans. Absence of evidence proves nothing….

dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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