Africa has a mythical creature and its name is Mokele-mbembe. The first references known to Western science date back to the beginning of the 20th century. European explorers coming back from tropical parts of Africa told stories about an elephant-sized water beast with a long and flexible neck that inhabits the Congo River Basin. The alleged monster sounded very much like a sauropod dinosaur.
In 1981, the story drew the attention of Herman Regusters, an aerospace engineer from NASA. He decided to find the beast and together with his wife undertook a journey to the African region that is now part of the Republic of the Congo. After the expedition, he insisted that they had seen a dinosaur-like creature on several occasions in late October and November in Lake Tele and even presented a photograph. However, due to poor weather conditions, the photo was very out of focus, so their only evidence didn’t convince anyone.
It is important to add that African legends and myths about giant monsters existed long before Western explorers arrived.
In a small pygmy village in the Congo Basin, you can hear stories about how they once killed a Mokele-mbembe that prevented them from fishing. They encircled the beast, speared it to death, and cooked it. But after the victory feast, all those who ate the meat of the Mokele-mbembe died.
According to palaeontologists, it is very unlikely for such an animal to be able to hide and remain unnoticed in the African jungle."Large animals require large populations to survive and moreover large geographic areas to fulfil their feeding needs", said Paul Barret, a palaeontologist from the Natural History Museum in London.
Various researches believe that such legends could have been prompted by other local animals that inhabit the area. Hippos, crocodiles, giant turtles, swimming elephants, and even a floating trunk – all of them could be mistaken for a water beast.
According to Jonathan Downes, a cryptozoologist who founded the Centre for Fortean Zoology, all the sightings "can be explained by extremely large monitor lizards".
"However, one thing you learn early on in science is never say never. We are still discovering new species all the time", concluded Bill Laurence, a conservation biologist as well as an expert on tropical rainforests and professor at James Cook University in Australia.