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The Mokélé-mbembe: Myth, legend and reality of Africa

This is not a discovery, because the subject has been covered for many years, reserved for insiders. Researchers, adventurers and archaeologists have spent their lives shoveling sand in Egypt for more than a century, in other countries the slightest trace is poured with plaster where a crane is needed to extract it and no less a life will pass to know the origin and put a name on this trace of another time.

But for those who have lived in Africa, where going to meet the populations was an expedition less than 100 km from a capital.

The particularities of African peoples, whether Fang, Bantu, Baka, Mbuti and Mongo, where the use of ibogaine was a discovery, as well as African rituals and mythology.

From reading tales of elders lying at the tip of a wooden pencil on yellowish notebooks, in the sweat and in the dampness of an equatorial forest, while finishing a bush wine.

It is at the bend of a reunion of nearly 25 years, of a conversation of memories of Africa, with a lover of the Somalian desert, and the equatorial bush, passionate about peoples, and a fine connoisseur of Gabon, that I was reminded of this story, the Mokélé-mbembé.


Knowing that we find traces of dinosaurs throughout the world, the story could very well begin as follows: "The Mokélé-mbembe is a dinosaur that lived in the remote regions of the Congo Basin in Central Africa, the first stories and the sightings appeared in the 15th century…”

Beyond the scientific fact, and proof, what counts above all is the history of the peoples who saw and lived it, at a time when only the light of the moon could light up, and doing a Paris Brazzaville took 15 days by boat….

The first stories of Mokélé-mbembé were reported by local populations, in particular the pygmy peoples, the Bongo and the Kola, living between Gabon and the Congo. According to their stories, the Mokélé-mbembé is a large aquatic creature, resembling a dinosaur or a snake, sheltering in rivers and swamps, herbivorous and peaceful, but also very suspicious of humans.

Only oral tales and legends passed down from generation to generation provide information on the existence of the Mokélé-mbembe, the first Western expeditions in search of this creature began during the last decades of the 19th century and in the 20th century.

The clues

The French missionary Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart (1743-1808), although not directly linked to the contemporary study of the Mokélé-Mbembe, is often mentioned in connection with the legend of this creature.

Proyart wrote a book called "History of Loango, Kakongo and other kingdoms of Africa" in 1776, he described different customs and legends of the peoples of West Africa, including the Congo region. Proyart mentions a creature in local legends, and it is unclear if he was referring to an actual creature.

The other European to mention Mokélé-mbembe was the Hungarian-born ethnographer and explorer, Emil Torday (1875-1931). Torday made several trips to Africa between 1907 and 1915, mainly as a member of scientific and ethnographic expeditions for the British Museum. He collaborated with other renowned explorers and anthropologists of the time, such as Richard Buchta and Sidney Langford Hinde.

One of Emil Torday's most notable contributions was his research and collection of cultural objects from the indigenous peoples of Central Africa. He has assembled a significant collection of artifacts, handicrafts and information about the cultures and lifestyles of local people.

Torday mentions the creature in his 1909 writings in Central Africa. He reported local stories referring to a dinosaur-like creature, Emil Torday's work contributed to the enrichment of knowledge about African cultures.
Over the past 100 years, many expeditions have been organized by researchers, cryptozoologists and adventurers to try to find evidence of the existence of Mokélé-mbembe. Thus American, British, South African, Canadian and French nationals were involved in this research

Among the most famous explorers is the American cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal, who spent many years researching Mokélé-mbembé.

Roy P. Mackal (1925-2013) known for his research on cryptid animals, and his expeditions to the remote regions of the Congo Basin in Central Africa in the 1980s, not to mention his expeditions to Cameroon and Congo, where he led its research and field surveys, observations, collection of testimony from populations, while using more innovative techniques such as video and detectors.

Research on Mokélé-mbembé continues today, so new researchers and adventurers regularly embark on expeditions to try to solve the mystery.

The African peoples and the Mokélé-mbembe

Mokélé-mbembe is associated with the remote regions of the Congo Basin in Central Africa, the region covers an area comprising several countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Rivers and rivers are very present, so the Congo River which crosses several African countries would have seen the beast, as well as the Ubangi River in the Central African Republic and the Sangha.

Like research in Egypt, searching for Mokélé-mbembe is worth it, the terrain is complex, difficult to access, sheltering the equatorial forest and a still little-known biodiversity, and with 7 or 8 months of rain per year, the forest covers and modifies the traces and other passages, thus leaving the only traces of the elephant track visible.

Initially, the Pygmies, an ethnic group composed of several sub-groups, living mainly in the forest regions of Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, considered the first inhabitants of the region, they are the first to report the presence of Mokélé-mbembe. Some peoples (Bantu, Fang, Baka, Mbuti, Mongo), often share similarities in their beliefs, despite distinct languages and traditions, but all report identical stories.

Cryptozoologist expeditions

Several expeditions have been carried out by researchers, adventurers and cryptozoologists in search of answers on Mokélé-mbembe. Here are some of the expeditions:

American cryptozoologists are very present with the geologist James H. Powell Jr. (1980, 1981), present in the Lac Télé region, in the Republic of Congo, the biochemist Roy P. Mackal (1980, 1981), with several expeditions in the 1980s, in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, of the aerospace engineer Herman Regusters (1981), funded by the National Geographic Society and of Peter Beach (2002, 2006), an adventurer who also led expeditions in the region from Cameroon and the explorer Marcellin Agnagna (1983), a Congolese researcher, in the region of Cameroon to investigate the testimonies and legends linked to Mokélé-mbembe.

And there is our French national researcher Michel Ballot, who organized several expeditions to the Congo Basin region to search for evidence of Mokélé-mbembe, accompanied by Bill Gibbons and John Kirk (2012).

Researcher, explorer, Michel Ballot has been traveling through equatorial Africa for more than 20 years, he has written several books on the subject, in particular, "In search of mokélé-mbembé-(2014"), and "Nki, the ultimate frontier (2021)”.

A 2012 film "The Mokele Mbembe hypothesis" helps to better understand the character.

The subject is vast and there are many explorers, researchers and other cryptozoologists, the Mokélé-Mbembe continues to arouse the interest of enthusiasts of cryptid legends.

The quest to uncover the truth about this legendary creature continues.

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