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Creation 21(4):24–25, September 1999

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Mokele-mbembe: a living dinosaur?

by David Catchpoole

Composition by Steve Cardno, photo of dinosaur model by Allen Browne Mokele-mbembe

Over the past 100 years, there have been many reports of sightings, in a remote area of central Africa, of a swamp-dwelling animal known to local villagers as ‘mokele-mbembe’—the ‘blocker-of-rivers’.1,2,3,4,5,6,7 It is described as living mainly in the water, its size somewhere between that of a hippopotamus and an elephant, but with a squat body and a long neck that enables it to pluck leaves and fruit from plants near the water’s edge. The creature is said to climb the shore at daytime in search of food.8 Witnesses’ drawings show that mokele-mbembe resembles nothing recognisable as still living on Earth, but it does bear a startling likeness to a sauropod dinosaur known to us by its fossil skeletons—similar in shape to a small Apatosaurus.9 

The imprints of clawed feet and other tell-tale animal trail marks in the jungle around the swamps clearly show evidence of a large, heavy creature that is not a crocodile, hippopotamus or elephant.10 Most reported sightings of mokele-mbembe itself are by local fishermen who, while fishing or travelling by dugout canoe, have unexpectedly encountered the creature. However, there have been scientific expeditions mounted specifically to find the animal in the swamps that dominate much of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. University-trained biologist Marcellin Agnagna described what he saw on one such expedition to remote Lake Tele in 1983:

The animal partly submerged, and remained visible for 20 minutes with only the neck and head above the water.
‘At approximately 2:30pm, … [we] were then able to observe a strange animal, with a wide back, a long neck, and a small head. … The animal was located at about 300 metres from the edge of the lake, and we were able to adv[a]nce about 60 metres in the shallow water, placing us at a distance of about 240 metres from the animal, which had become aware of our presence and was looking around as if to determine the source of the noise. Dinkoumbou [a local villager] continued to shout with fear. The f[r]ontal part of the animal was brown, while the back part of the neck appeared black and shone in the sunlight. The animal partly submerged, and remained visible for 20 minutes with only the neck and head above the water. It then submerged completely, … no further sighting of the animal took place. It can be said with certainty that the animal we saw was Mokele-mbembe, that it was quite alive, and, furthermore, that it is known to many inhabitants of the Likouala region [an area of swampland about the same size as Florida]. Its total length from head to back visible above the waterline was estimated at 5 metres.’11

Now scientists have become excited by recent reports from members of the Kabonga tribe that a mokele-mbembe was caught by hunters who killed it and tried to eat it.12 The flesh proved inedible and the carcass was left to rot; its skeleton is said to have been produced by the tribesmen. Dr Bill Gibbons, a British zoologist who specialises in trying to track down new species, is preparing to lead a team of cryptozoologists (i.e. those who study ‘hidden animals’) to the Likouala swampland in October this year.13 He believes his team can overcome the many difficulties of working in the area, such as political instability and civil war,14 inhospitable terrain, venomous snakes and disease. Because mokele-mbembe apparently spends much of the time hidden from view underwater or possibly in lakeside caves accessible only from the water,15 the scientists are taking sonar equipment and infrared detectors to try to track the creature.

It is possible that there may be other types of dinosaurs in this very remote and inaccessible area as well. Though not as numerous as reports of mokele-mbembe, there are intriguing accounts of an ‘animal with planks growing out of its back’ having been seen in the same region.16 This means that one or more animals like Stegosaurus might still be alive in the world today.17 Local villagers were adamant that these ‘planks’ are not the same as the serrated ridges of a crocodile or some lizards.

There are intriguing accounts of an ‘animal with planks growing out of its back’ having been seen in the same region.

If the forthcoming planned expedition to the Congo is successful in obtaining indisputable evidence for the current existence of dinosaurs, it would not be the first time that creatures which evolutionists believe to have died out millions of years ago have actually been found alive.

Coelacanths are a classic example of this. This is an unusual fish which was once known only as fossils, and believed by evolutionists to have been extinct for over 60 million years. But in 1938, the coelacanth was found to be alive and well, living in waters off the coast of Madagascar, and recently it was found in northern Indonesian fish markets.18

Evolutionists have still not been able to provide a satisfactory explanation of how coelacanths can be living today and yet be completely absent as fossils in rocks dated by evolutionists as being younger than 60 million years. The discovery of living dinosaurs would be just as difficult for evolutionists to explain, yet for Christians it would fit perfectly with the biblical account of Creation, with dinosaurs reproducing after their kind, not ‘evolving’ from (or into) other life-forms, as evolutionists might think. Although it is true that many species of animals have become extinct in the thousands of years since the Flood, it is far less surprising for creationists than evolutionists whenever some of them, known only from the fossil record, are discovered to be still living today.19 

Update—4th October 2012

A number of correspondents have enquired as to the results of the expedition mooted in the above article. Unfortunately Bill Gibbons’ plans to go to the Congo had to be repeatedly postponed due to war and civil unrest in the Congo—a situation that persists to this day, we understand. But in November 2000 a reconnaissance trip to Cameroon, by a small party including Bill Gibbons, was undertaken to evaluate reports of a creature in the southeast of that country that matched the mokele-mbembe descriptions that have come from the Congo. For a write-up of that trip see Behemoth or bust: An expedition into Cameroon investigating reports of a Sauropod dinosaur. As was reported in that article, sufficiently credible evidence was gathered in the three-week trip to warrant a full-scale expedition, and one was scheduled for 2001. However, we did not hear reports of the outcome of that planned expedition.


  1. Mackal R.P., A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe, E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, pp. 10–16, 75–78, 81–82, 1987. Return to text.
  2. Dinosaurs living in Africa? Early reports, Creation 17(2):19, 1995. Return to text.
  3. ‘Dinosaur hunt in the Congo—on the spot report’, Creation 5(2):42, 1982. Return to text.
  4. Rebsamen, W.M., Mokele-mbembe, members.aol.com/mokele, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  5. Mokele M’Bembe: The Hunt for the Living Dinosaur, freespace.virgin.net, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  6. The Mokele-mbembe, geocities.com, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  7. Krystek L., Dinosaurs in the Congo: Is mok’ele-mbembe an Apatosaurus?, unmuseum.mus.pa.us, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  8. ‘Mokele-Mbembe’, geocities.com, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  9. Mokele M’Bembe: The Hunt for the Living Dinosaur, freespace.virgin.net, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  10. Ref. 1, pp. 2–3, 82, 179–182. Return to text.
  11. Ref. 1, pp. 312–313. Return to text.
  12. The Sunday Times, London, May 30, 1999, News, p. 1.11. Return to text.
  13. Dinosaur site no Jurassic lark, The Australian, 31 May 1999, p. 11. Return to text.
  14. The Mokele-Mbembe, congo.exploration.mcmail.com, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  15. Ref. 1, pp. 79, 82. Return to text.
  16. Ref. 1, pp. 84, 254. Return to text.
  17. Norman, S.T., ‘Mbielu-mbielu-mbielu: Overview’, members.aol.com/mokele, accessed June 1999. Return to text.
  18. See: Living fossil fish turns up again, Creation 21(2):8, 1999; and Driver R., Sea monsters More than a legend?Creation 19(4):38–42, 1997. Return to text.
  19. Doolan R.,  Are dinosaurs alive today?Creation 15(4):12–15, 1993. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

colin M.
A new kickstarter.com funded expedition and documentary has reached its goal to look for the mokele-mbembe.

Carl Wieland
It would be wonderful if it succeeded. [Ed. note: we have had more than one person write in wanting us to publicize links to sites planning various expeditions etc. but in addition to the feedback rules, there is the issue of how many of these will or will not amount to much apart from a trip to Africa for the lucky few, as it were. It seemed best and fairest to not publicize any more such expeditions within this article comment thread.]
Miki T.
- cf Sagan and Co. reflect the structuralist mindset, that they don't want to explain events or images, all they seek is an explanation anchored in the mind, on the basis of an idee fixe like Oedipus Complex, and now memory coming from reptilian ancestors, when an expedition saw the animal for about 20 minutes, and it is common enough to have been given a name, and others have been seen in Madagascar, Indonesia, etc. But why not the aspect that God raises animals (or people, if the situation warrants), from bones, as in Ezra? Is this not part of last days signs, not of the end of human or earthly existence but the proper comprehension of Scripture, after 200 years of empiricist science?
Bro C.
I expect the evolutionists will claim that after they all went extinct 60,000,000 years ago, that in the depths of the Congo, they EVOLVED all over again.

If it is good enough for the first time, a second time is just as good.
Carl Wieland
Interesting suggestion, though frankly, I would doubt that, as it would be an extremely hard 'sell'. Much easier to just claim that it happened to escape the fate of the others. After all, evolutionists have shrugged off equally sensational finds, such as the allegedly extinct group the Coelacanths, found as fossils in 'dino-age' rock and not inbetween--and the 'dinosaur tree' the Wollemi Pine, both well documented on this site.
Pat B.
Many years ago I read the book "Drums Along the Congo" by Rory Nugent. In it he recounted the travails of his trip up the Amazon, looking for Mokele-mbembe and his very intriguing findings.... Don't want to spoil the ending. :-) Never forgot it though. I highly recommend it if you can still find it.
M. M.
Wish my aunt who was a missionary in the Congo was alive today... she'd be so excited
Linda E.
If any expedition were to find a living mokele-mbembe and/or a Stegosaurus-like creature,I'm sure that the evolutionists would still be evolutionists as their theory is so pliable that they can accommodate most anything (or try to, but at least they could no longer mock the belief that dinosaurs and man lived at the same time.
David C.
I recall seeing an interview with a scientist who had investigated these reports. His conclusion was that there were no real dinosaurs living today. Incredibly, his explanation for the present day sightings as well as the many cave paintings depicting man and dino's interacting together, came from inherited memories. What he explained this to be was that we have been influenced by the memories that were inherited from our reptilian ancestors. What? Is this even possible? It seems that some people will propose anything to believe except for the truth.
David Catchpoole
Indeed, Dr Carl Wieland wrote about it in this 2012 Year of the Dragon:

Facing up to the issue
The late evolutionist, Dr Carl Sagan, famous host of the Cosmos TV series, squarely faced this conundrum that dragon stories pose for evolutionists and other long-agers. Namely, that such stories are found in cultures right across the globe, and that they are amazingly like several types of dinosaurs—which no-one is supposed to have seen! Recognizing it quite properly as a puzzle to be solved for long-agers, he wrote a book about it, The Dragons of Eden. In this he proposed that somehow one part of our brain (the one that was inherited from whichever of our alleged reptile ancestors, in the evolutionist scenario, were living at the same time as dinosaurs) had retained its memories of what those ancestors had seen.

Imagine if someone were to seriously suggest that deep down, our brain remembers (without being told) what our ancestors living 500 years ago saw around them. With what is known about the principles of heredity, which is quite a bit these days, that would be incredibly farfetched. So much so that one could not imagine a serious scientist giving it other than a bemused smile.

Now imagine that this idea is extended back so that our alleged ancestor tens of millions of years ago is supposed to have somehow transmitted the visual information his brain processed ‘back then’—through all of the intervening generations, to people alive today. It is not hard to understand why most of Sagan’s scientific colleagues maintained a somewhat embarrassed silence, and probably wished he had stuck to astrophysics.

The fact that he went to such extraordinary public lengths to explain it away, though, is a testimony to the reality of the phenomenon; the dragons of ‘legend’ really do sound amazingly like many of the dinosaurs of history.

You can see the relevant Sagan book extract in the 1994 Journal of Creation article "Dinosaurs and Dragons". (Note however that some of the content in that article has been superseded by new information that has come to light, e.g. the "Japanese plesiosaur" is viewed today as being much more likely to have been the remains of a basking shark.)

John B.
Whilst I have not closed my mind to the possibility of a "living dinosaur" being found in some remote part of the planet, I find the account of Marcellin Agnagna a very suspicious. Considering he and his team members were out there looking for Mokele Mbembe, I find it incredulous that not a single photograph was taken or movie footage. Agnagna stated he observed the creature for 20 minutes! It is highly unlikely they didn't have a camera with them! I think this subject matter on Mokele Mbembe, should be placed on the "Arguments we think creationists should NOT use" section.
Interesting though.
Tom C.
I really like this site and these articles you are sending me daily. Thanks a bunch and God Bless.
Jeanine J.
I so badly want to tag along on that expedition! The first time I heard about Mokele-mbembe in the Congo was on one of Kent Hovind's DVDs. Have been fascinated ever since, and it just proves once again that nature itself stands up against evolution by just simply being nature in the perfect way God created it. Thanks for the article :-)

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