What is Mokele-Mbembe?

By | Last Updated: September 8, 2019

Mokele-Mbembe is an alleged sauropod-like creature roughly the size of an elephant, said to inhabit the waters of Lake Tele in the Republic of Congo.

It has four legs, a long sauropod-style neck, as well as a tail said to measure upwards of 10 feet. Since the 1600s, reports of the creature have surfaced from within Central Africa, its name arising from the language of local African pygmy tribes.

In 1776, Abbé Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart described an animal trail or track encountered by fellow missionaries in Central Africa, recounting the discovery in his book Histoire de Loango, Kakongo, et autres royaumes d’Afrique. The footprints, he claimed, measured some three feet in circumference. This passage is often cited as evidence that Mokele-Mbembe truly exists.

Some speculate that Mokele-Mbembe may be a dinosaur that survived into modern times, though most experts believe the tall tales of Mokele-Mbembe gained popularity due to the “dino mania” zeitgeist of the early 1900s.

In 2018, discussions of Mokele-Mbembe returned, both in Scientific American and on the website of skeptic Jason Colavito (in which he provides a deeper analysis of the passage by Abbé Proyart as discussed above).

Searches for Mokele-Mbembe

Multiple attempts have been made to explore Lake Tele and to identify a potential creature there. In 1985-1986, Young Earth Creationist William Gibbons led a team of four individuals on an expedition to the lake, in what they called Operation Congo. They did not find evidence of Mokele-Mbembe, but were able to gather more stories from the locals regarding possible creatures in the area.

In 2012, the so-called Newmac Expedition to the Congo was Kickstarted, raising nearly $30,000 to explore the Republic of Congo in search of new species. However, the project ultimately fell through.

Other similar creatures:

  • The Loch Ness Monster
  • Lake Champlain Monster