The Mokèlé-mbèmbé (meaning "one who stops the flow of rivers") is a legendary water-dwelling creature of Congo River basin folklore, loosely analogous to the Loch Ness Monster in Western culture.

It is often described as looking like a small sauropod, with a body roughly the size of a hippo. Obviously a living sauropod, in even the most remote jungles, is rather unlikely. Other than being simply a dinosaur, what other animal could describe the Mokèlé-mbèmbé?

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  • $\begingroup$ Two animals seen at once, or by two different people. For example, a hippo seen by one person, and a boa constrictor by another. Their stories together come out to a large-bodied creature with a long neck. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Nov 23, 2016 at 12:29

4 Answers 4


Don't forget the lovable Manatee. They exist in the Congo river, though only as far up as Livingston Falls, but they live in the Niger river all the way up to the Inner Delta, one of the biggest freshwater swamps in the world. Manatees just need a lift upriver to establish themselves in the Congo.

Picture of a Florida manatee underwater in King Credit National Geographic

It's not quadrupedal, but it is herbivorous, gentle and exceptionally cute when taking a nap. Like the sightings of other aqueous creatures, reports are often conflicting, fear clouds judgement and rumors spread quickly. Manatees are also known for their mistaken identity in relation to mermaids


From the wikipedia entry:

Sirenia is the order of placental mammals which comprises modern "sea cows" (manatees and the Dugong) and their extinct relatives. They are the only extant herbivorous marine mammals and the only group of herbivorous mammals to have become completely aquatic. Sirenians are thought to have a 50-million-year-old fossil record (early Eocene-recent). They attained modest diversity during the Oligocene and Miocene, but have since declined as a result of climatic cooling, oceanographic changes, and human interference. Two genera and four species are extant: Trichechus, which includes the three species of manatee that live along the Atlantic coasts and in rivers and coastlines of the Americas and western Africa, and Dugong, which is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Manatee share a common ancestor with elephants.

Related Extant Species

Amazonian Manatee Amazonian Manatee

Dugong Dugong

West Indian Manatee West Indian Manatee

Interesting note on Dugong.

Dugongs' or sea cows' hides have been thought to have been used as coverings in the building of the Old Testament portable worship tent known as the Tabernacle.

A cave painting of a dugong – Tambun Cave, Perak, Malaysia
A cave painting of a dugong – Tambun Cave, Perak, Malaysia


The creature is described as rather large, with size estimate ranging from as small as a hippo to the size of an elephant. The largest reptiles, the saltwater Crocodile has the required length, but its height, even at the maximum is lower than waist height.

The Komodo Mbèmbé

My next guess was at the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard. I had thought maybe this could be a freakishly large specimen. Fortunatly the largest ever found was 3.13 meters long (around 9 feet) making for a good base point. But unfortunelty the skeletal structure of lizards make even the komodo dragons size difficult to support, I doubt that even an artificially created Komodo Mbèmbé could support the weight, never mind a naturally evolved one. The next problem is more subtle, Island Gigantism, the thing that made the Moa, Haast's Eagle and Tenerife giant rat so, well, giant. The Komodo dragon is only found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, and Padar, most of these it is the dominant predator. around 4 million years ago a similar species was found in Austrailia though even going back, we have yet another problem. Its diet, meat; big animals need a lot of food to be big, shocker I know, with other large predators in the congo, even if our Komodo Mbèmbé wasn't outcompeted, it would have extreme difficulty hunting in the jungle.

It was around here I realized I was in over my head. Carnivorous giants are super rare (with the largest land predator being the polar bear, which is much too small) so carnivores were out of the picture. The bone structure of lizard limbs didn't really even allow for the size or shape we need;

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The Mokèlé-Pangolin

I then went down into the line of mammals, specifically native african giants. This is when I discovered the perfect candidate; the giant Pangolin.

enter image description here

At an average of three feet, may seem too small, but keep in mind that mammals scale up in size rather well, escpecially when compared to lizards. ALso as an insectivore that feed on massive colonies we have a base for a large stable diet, though for the desired size (minimum of a hippo) we need to edit its diet to include leaves and fruit, this altered diet may have even caused the gigantism. The Mokèlé-mbèmbé is almost always described with a long neck, which is why I almost quit this Mokèlé-Pangolin endeavor until I realized that by including fruit as a staple within its diet, I have an double excuse for a long neck; it allows for the creatures to easily grab at higher up fruit and leaves, much like the giraffe.

In case this didn't tickle your ''Of course'' Fancy, its habitat also lines up with sightings of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé;

enter image description here

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ so uhm ... you answered your own question? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Nov 22, 2016 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM I got bored of always asking questions, so I decided to answer one, there no rule against it and it has happened before: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/44070/… $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Nov 22, 2016 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM His question and answer contribute to the site. For that reason, asking and answering like this is encouraged on almost every SE site. It is actually a built in feature on SE to post and answer at the same time you post the question. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Nov 22, 2016 at 17:40
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Aw, he means well. We still love you @TrEs-2b :) $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Nov 22, 2016 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM How can it be wrong to use the site as it expressly allows? There's a checkbox on the "Ask a Question" page that says "Answer your own question – share your knowledge, Q&A-style". Also, it's a good answer, so I don't see a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Nov 22, 2016 at 18:51

ground sloths might be a good choice, they went extinct only very recently in some parts of the world. The hard part is getting them to africa. so you might want to have a pangolin following a parallel evolutionary path.



The mokèlé-mbèmbé could be a microbat that adapted to climb through trees rather than fly. It may increase in size, and become flightless. They may still be able to glide, and use this ability to swoop into rivers and eat fish. They may evolve to live soley in the water, using their wings as fins. This could lead to their hair fusing into scales like a pangolin, to make them more streamlined. They could also evolve to go onto land to suppliment their diet with plants. They may also become extremely large, and become predators of larger prey. They might use a sharpened snout to stab at prey, which might later turn into a long horn. In order to use this horn more effectively, their neck would elongate. They may also gain a more muscular and dexterous nose, to make it easier to eat. This may eventually evolve into a trunk. They may change their diet to feed on hippotamodes, and may increase in size further. They may evolve to dig out underground nests in rivers to keep their young. Due to lack of space, they may evolve to dam rivers in order to increase the amount of space for their nests. This will result in a mokèlé-mbèmbé


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