Ever since the first missionaries and early explorers returned from the dark heart of Africa, there have been stories told of strange, water-dwelling monsters living in the forests of the Congo basin. Natives of the area, the Pygmy tribes, speak of an animal roughly the size of an elephant with a long thin neck — they call it Mokele-mbembe. Beast Hunter Pat Spain travels deep into the inhospitable Cameroon jungle to investigate if there is a logical, scientific explanation to these stories. Below are some interesting facts related to his hunt.
The translation of Mokele-mbembe is ‘one that stops the flow of rivers.’
In 2008, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society discovered a previously unknown population of 125,000 western lowland gorillas living in the Republic of Congo. Previously, scientists had estimated the number remaining in the wild to have been only about 50,000.
The Dzanga Forest Elephant Study now in its 21st year is the longest ongoing study of forest elephants, Loxodonta cyclotis. Researchers have identified over 3,000 elephants in a “bai” or forest clearing.
The Dzanga Clearing in the Central African Republic attracts more forest elephants than any other clearing in the Central Africa region. On any given day, 40 to 100 elephants can be seen, whereas forest elephants are otherwise hard to find in the dense tropical forest.
Elephants are present in the Dzanga clearing 24 hours a day and are attracted to the area by the availability of mineral salts, which are found below the surface of the clearing. During the dry season, when the surface of the clearing is drier, the elephants dig holes making minerals available to other animals, including forest buffalo, bongo, giant forest hog, and red river hogs.
The Baka tribe is traditionally nomadic but has recently become less so due to the rate of deforestation, which is increasingly depriving the pygmies of the natural resources essential to their survival. The forest is the basis of their entire culture.
The Baka religion is animist; they believe that every living thing has a spirit or a soul. Generally they live in peace and harmony but can also fear retribution from the spirit world, for any wrongs committed.
Baka people have no written history so all stories and beliefs are passed down through the generations through songs and stories.
The herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the largest animals to have ever inhabited the land, reaching upwards of 50 tons. Their huge sizes may have been in part due to their long necks which allowed them to reach food that would otherwise be inaccessible to other, smaller creatures.
Fossilised sauropod teeth have been found in the Koum Basin in Cameroon, so large dinosaurs did therefore once roam through this region.
The Congo Basin covers 700,000 square miles across six countries and constitutes one fifth of the world’s remaining closed-canopy tropical rain forest. It contains a vast range of biodiversity including over 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds, and 400 species of mammals, including three of the four species of great apes.
Many rare and unusual creatures have been identified in the Congo Basin such as the Okapi and the Bonobo, and new discoveries are being made each year. In 2008, Harvard scientists uncovered a new species of frog that, when threatened, punctures its own skin with its bones, which then act as claws.