In southwestern Central African republic near the border with Congo and Cameroon lies a forgotten jungle and a forgotten beast. Often confused with the more famous Mokele-mbembe, the Emela-ntouka is a very different animal. Described as the size of a hippo with a long powerful tail, quadrupedal, with a rhino like head, elephant type ears and a single horn on its snout.
I heard stories of this animal myself from sources within the DRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo. These animals are often referred to as killers of elephants due to the fact they they allegedly attack elephants and hippos using their horns as a weapon. Several hunters, explorers have talked about these animals in various areas of Africa.
From a biological standpoint Africa in a way is a last refuge for Megafauna. The term Megafauna is a loaded one, conjuring up a long lost Ice Age world dominated by species that no longer breath. But this is Africa where the past has hardly stopped breathing.
in truth, several modern species are bona fide Ice Age survivors, and even dinosaur age survivors, Megafauna can refer to just very large animals, and Africa is filled with them. The Emela-ntouka would just be added to the list. Which asks the most nebulous of question, what type of animal is Emela-ntouka?
The hypothesizes rage from a member of the dinosaur Ceratopsian family, think Triceratops, to a water rhino. We also know that dinosaurs co-existed with huge quadrupedal mammals that we know very little about. All we have to go on are descriptions and behavior and we don’t have enough of either.
We’re also dealing with centers of endemism where unique species unique to those areas evolve. Evolve been the key word here, especially if we assume an origin from a specie millions of years old. It’s difficult to speculate on the path of speciation without knowing all ecological factors and urgency of mutations, and we never really know all the factors.
Ceratopsian fossils have never been found in Africa, which doesn’t mean that a yet to be rediscovered ceratopsian specie didn’t exist there; or a related specie, or through convergent evolution a similar looking mammal that began to occupy that physiological niche.
Also, thrown in into the mix is the idea that certain dinosaur species didn’t die out at the end of the cretaceous . Birds are a prime example of that idea, and the idea that non avian dinosaur species, or even prehistoric reptilian or mammalian species survived undetected in remote places is intriguing . We know it’s biologically possible, but until we can demonstrate it beyond a shadow of a doubt, we have to go with what we know. And then there’s some intriguing data out there of non fossilized dinosaur bones, including a triceratops horn from Dawson County Montana that was dated at 35,000 years ago. But, again those claims have come from singular tests and unless they can re replicated by other labs and universities, well….we have to go with what we know, for now.
We know these animals have long tails, which is a somewhat ubiquitous trait, as it could belong to a mammal, a dinosaur relative, a reptile….; but it’s a problem with the water rhino hypothesis. Rhinos have very insignificant tails which doesn’t match the tail described for these animals. Otherwise, an unknown specie of water rhinoceros makes for an excellent candidate.
Nonetheless, I personally think that more than likely these animals are mammals. The ears are also perplexing as they have an elephant ear complexion to them, albeit much smaller. Perhaps, another indication of a mammalian origin?
The identity of these animals are tied to their horns. Rhinos horns are very tightly weaved hair, elephants horns are obviously ivory and ceratops horns are bones. We don’t now what Emela-ntouka horns are made off. However, since eyewitnesses claim that their horns are often used as a weapon and strong enough to dismember elephants and hippos, we could infer that ivory or bone is more likely to be able to handle that kind of violence.
Back in our forgotten jungle, the Dzanga Sangha National Park , some of these animals hopefully remain. Once part of a much larger population through central, eastern and southern Africa, this specie appears to be shrinking and now resides in small isolated pockets in remote areas of remote areas. Dzanga Sangha is one of them. There might be others in the DRC, Gabon and Cameroon but I’m not sure. Zambia’s Kafue National Park is the other promising area often talked about.
With the extinction rate being what it is, ignoring these animals may no longer be an option if we want to save them. We have no way of determining their numbers and their reproductive cycle. We can make assumptions based on the health of their ecosystem, but our number priority as cryptozoologists is to discover in order to protect.