Some years ago I received reports from two quite distinct sources of the existence of an immense and wholly unknown animal, said to inhabit the interior of Rhodesia. Almost identical stories reached me, firstly, through one of my own travellers, and, secondly, through an English gentleman, who had been shooting big-game in Central Africa. The reports were thus quite independent of each other, and, as a matter of fact, the Englishman and my traveller had made their way into Rhodesia from opposite directions, the one from the north-east and the other from the south-west. The natives, it seemed, had told both my informants that in the depth of the great swamps there dwelt a huge monster, half elephant, half dragon. This, however, is not the only evidence for the existence of the animal. It is now several decades ago since Menges, who is of course perfectly reliable, heard a precisely similar story… and, still more remarkable, on the walls of certain caverns in Central Africa there are to be found actual drawings of this strange creature. From what I have heard of the animal, it seems to me that it can only be some kind of dinosaur, seemingly akin to the brontosaurus. As the stories come from so many different sources, and all tend to substantiate each other, I am almost convinced that some such reptile must be still in existence. At great expense, therefore, I sent out an expedition to find the monster, but unfortunately they were compelled to return home without having proved anything, either one way or the other. In the part of Africa where the animal is said to exist, there are enormous swamps, hundreds of square miles in extent, and my travellers were laid low with very severe attacks of fever. Moreover, that region is infested by bloodthirsty savages who repeatedly attacked the expedition and hindered its advance. Notwithstanding this failure, I have not relinquished the hope of being able to present science with indisputable evidence of the existence of the monster. And perhaps if I succeed in this enterprise naturalists all the world over will be roused to hunt vigorously for other unknown animals; for if this prodigious dinosaur, which is supposed to have been extinct for hundreds of thousands of years, be still in existence, what other wonders may not be brought to light?
This creature is known as Mokèlé-mbèmbé (“one who stops the flow of rivers”), and first came to the attention of the Western world when Abbé Lievain Bonaventure Proyart wrote about enormous footprints in his 1776 book History of Loango, Kakonga, and Other Kingdoms in Africa. The Smithsonian Institution sent an expedition to investigate in 1919, but found nothing but unexplained tracks, and the expedition ended in disaster when a locomotive derailed in a flooded area, killing four team members and injuring several more.