Mokele-mbembe, also known as “one who stops the flow of rivers,” is a mysterious creature that is said to inhabit the Congo River Basin. It has been described as a large quadrupedal herbivore with a long neck, smooth skin, and a single tooth or horn. The legend of Mokele-mbembe has gained significant attention from believers in cryptozoology, the study of creatures that may or may not exist, and young Earth creationism, the belief that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.
The first written account of Mokele-mbembe dates back to 1909, when big-game hunter Carl Hagenbeck wrote in his autobiography, Beasts and Men, about hearing stories from African natives about a creature resembling a “half elephant, half dragon” in modern-day Zimbabwe. Hagenbeck speculated that it could be a type of dinosaur, specifically a Brontosaurus.
In the early 20th century, reports of dinosaur-like creatures in Africa garnered media attention, with some articles taking the reports seriously and others being more skeptical. These reports were likely influenced by the popular cultural interest in dinosaurs at the time, particularly the Brontosaurus.
In the 21st century, Mokele-mbembe has continued to be a focus of interest among those who believe in cryptozoology and young Earth creationism. Several expeditions have been organized in an attempt to find evidence of the creature, with some being funded by young Earth creationist groups. However, mainstream scientists and historians have largely dismissed the existence of Mokele-mbembe, with paleontologist Donald Prothero stating that the only people looking for the creature are creationist ministers and not wildlife biologists.
There are several possible explanations for the legend of Mokele-mbembe. It could be based on misidentifications of known animals, such as the Nile crocodile or the Giant Forest Hog. It could also be a blend of various African folklore and myths, or it could be influenced by outdated depictions of dinosaurs like the Brontosaurus.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence for its existence, Mokele-mbembe has made appearances in popular culture, including in video games and documentaries about cryptozoology. However, the legend of Mokele-mbembe remains largely shrouded in mystery and is considered by most to be a myth.