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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The African Unicorn, Killer of Elephants

Asiatic Rhinoceros and African Elephant to scale. In "Unicorn" legends referring to the Indian Rinoceros, it is supposed to kill elephants by driving its single horn into the elephant's belly, the same story told in Africa as of the Emela-Ntouka.

Odell Shepard in The Lore of the Unicorn speaks of reports of African Unicorns in his chapter on the most recent reports, "Rumours." the most of this information is between pages 204 and 210. In both North and South Africa, and including Ethiopia proper, there seems little doubt from the descriptions that the traditions are speaking of a one-horned oryx. But then the rumours are different and more concrete in the swamps and jungles in the center of the continent, the area long termed "Darkest Africa." On page 205, Shepard notes "Among the numerous believers in an African Unicorn the names of David Livingstone and Dr. Andrew Smith should not be forgotten. The Athanaeum for December 22, 1860, reviewing The Romance of Natural History by [Phillip Gosse]the father of Edmund Gosse, says "The Unicorn cannot be proved a fable although our national portrayal of it may be fanciful", expressing belief in an African species "Which appears to occupy an intermediate rank between the massive rhinoceros and the lighter form of the horse [ie, a Pygmy Rhino in this version]" Dr. David Balfour Baikie, the scientist and African traveller, writes in the same journal for Agugust 16, 1862:"The constant belief of the natives in all of the countries which I have hitherto visited have partly shaken my skepticism, and at present I simply hold that the non-existence of the Unicorn is not proven. A skull of this animal is said to be preserved in the country of Bonu [Bornu?],through which I hope to pass in a few weeks, when I shall make every possible enquiry. Two among my informants have repeatedly declared that they have seen the bones of this animal, and each made a particular mention of the long, straight or nearly straight, horn."

One such example of a horn from such a creature was said to have been sent to the British Museum of Natural History, although the identification may have been false, or else the story that it went to the British Museum may have been mistaken. What is certain is that these rumours go back into the 1780s and more recently they attach specifically to a type of animal that is commonly referred to as "The Congo Dragon" under many names. The single horn or tusk even features in descriptions of the Chmpekwe or the Mokele-Mbembe, although it more rightly belongs to another creature called Mblintsu or Emela-Ntouka. Some of the descriptions of the African Unicorn are very detailed. A letter written to the Journal Asiatique by F. Fresnel in April 1843 but published a year later. The letter refers to a depression in the Sudan, probably a swampy area that later dried out and so did the reports of the animal. Several local Arabs reported hunting the animal there in earlier years. Fresnel says it is a pachyderm allied to the [black] rhinoceros but much smaller and only possessing one horn on its head. He said it was similar in appearance to a large bull with a round body, nearly hairless, with feet like an elephant and a "Fly-whisk" tail. In this case the horn was supposed to be flexible when not in use and swayed from side to side as the animal walked: but when it needed to charge, it became fixed and solid straight ahead. I would suggest that the description is talking about the movements of the head rather than the horn being flaccid and then going erect, an obvious sexual metaphor. The end of the horn is supposed to be tipped in red, which is also probably a Folkloric addition. In hunting the beast, one mounted hunter runs ahead of the animal in order to draw it into a chase and then the other hunters attack it from behind with spears and worry it to death (Shepard p.206) Other descriptions also describe it in terms identical to the Indian rhinoceros, including the information that it will slash with its tusks as it runs by and its tongue is supposed to be like a file. The Africans always insist it is simlar to but distinct from the rhinoceroses they know, which are two-horned. Obviously a one-horned rhino strikes them as something quite different.

Asiatic rhinoceros skull showing tusked incisors.

Referring back to Raheel Mughal's article on Lesser-known African Cryptids, we have the following important entry:

Wooden Carving of Emela-Ntouka. Monoclonius Ceratopsian Dinosaur Following For Comparison. Note that the wooden carving shows elephant ears and not the bony frill of the dinosaur. The crocodile's tail is not a consistent feature of such reports, others speak of a tail much like that of an elephant also..

(2) Emela Ntouka: A New Species of Forest Rhino? Also known as "the killer of the elephants" in the Lingala language, is believed by some researchers and cryptozoologists to represent a relic population of Ceratopsian dinosaur – most notably Centrosaurus. This particular cryptid is described as being as large as an African Bush Elephant. Having a body of similar shape and appearance to a rhinoceros, including one long horn on its snout and a heavy tail. It is described as being brown or grey in colouration and it is said to possess four short, stump-like legs supposedly to keep its bulky body at ground level. It is described as having no frill or ridges along the neck. The animal is also described as being semi-aquatic and herbivorous (with its favourite food being the leafy plants of the Malombo). The Emela-ntouka has been claimed to vocalize regularly, this noisy beast has been described as making calls that resemble a snort, rumble or growl, respectively. They are claimed to be solitary, herbivorous animals. The beast is said to inhabit the vast shallow waters of the Congo River Basin. The inhabitants of the area are said to treat the creature with great fear. In the 1930s an alleged Emela Ntouka was killed near Dongou. The New Zealand Documentary World Mysteries included an interview with a man who claimed to have encountered a dead Emela Ntouka. He claimed to still possess the animal's horn, which he removed from the body. Unfortunately, the episode was filmed but never aired. Nevertheless, there is considerable controversy to what an Emela Ntouka horn (if the creature does exist), could be made of, if scientists ever retrieve a horn it would also help in revealing the creature’s true identity. If a horn is found and DNA tests reveal the horn to be made of ivory, then it would undoubtedly prove to be a tooth. In fact a species of rhinoceros, namely the Asiatic One Horned Rhinoceros does possess small tusks. If on the other hand, the horn turns out to be made of keratin then it is most certainly belongs to an as yet unknown semi-aquatic rhinoceros. However, if the horn turns out to be made of bone then it most certainly belongs to an as yet hitherto unknown species of semi aquatic reptile or possibly a relic from the Mesozoic though I doubt this hypothesis along with other alleged dinosaurian survivals. Moreover, in terms of evidence pertaining to the beast’s alleged survival a number of curious stone currency in the form of both Mokele Mbembe and Emela Ntouka has been found by archaeologists in this remote region, some native tribes still use it today.

To which I had added the comment:
2)When I did some checking into this I found that not only do some one-horned rhinos have large tusks, in some of them the tusks are counted as their primary weapons. And I found that some descriptions make out the Emela-Ntouka out only as an ordinary rhino, without the supposed tail, only with the one horn. There is every reason to believe that is what it is-a one-horned Rhino of the ASIATIC type, somehow in Africa. And the horn itself would never be made of ivory.

Indian "Water Rhinoceros" posted on the internet as a candidate identity for "Mokele-Mbembe"

Heuvelmans writes in On The Track of Unknown Animals, Chapter 14 "Three large Pygmies" that there is a small kind of rhinoceros reported in Liberia and environs when no known rhinoceroces inhabit that area, and that "Liberia is not the only part of Africa where rhinoceroces have been unexpectedly reported in the thick forests. Lucien Blancou collected several reports of rhinoceroses in thick forests in the Cameroons and on the middle Congo river, In such a peculiar habitat, the rhinoceros could hardly belong to either known [African] genus."
The areas as noted are precisely the same range attributed to the Mokele-Mbembe. Heuvelmans goes on, quoting Blancou:
The Africans in the North of the Kele district, especially the Pygmies, know a forest animal larger than a buffalo, almost as large as an elephant, but which is not a hippopotamus. Its tracks are only seen at long intervals but they fear it more than any other dangerous animal. The sketch of its footprint which they drew for M. Millet is that o a rhinoceros. On the other hand they do not seem to have said it had a horn, though they certainly have not said that it has not [This would have been an oversight in transmitting the information: other traditions of this creature coming out of the same region later definitely say the creature has a single horn-DD]
Around Ouesso the natives talk of a big animal which does have a horn on its nose, though I don't know whether it has one or several. They are just as afriad of it as the Kele people.
Around Epena, Impfondo and Dongou, the presence of a beast which sometimes disembowels elephants is also known, but it does not seem so prevalent there as in the preceeding districts. A specimen was supposed to have been killed twenty years ago at Dongou, but on the left bank of the Ubangi and in the Belgian Congo [The Government of that area at that time]

The first track is the three-toed footprint of a White rhino and the second one is a similar three-toed track ascribed to the Mokele-Mbembe in the Congo. The hooves in the latter are rather more sharply developed and widely spread, but that could easily be an adaptation in response th moving over marshier ground more often. This comparisn was suggested to me by a private communication from Richard Freeman by email in 2005. Since then, I have never considered the possibility that this track reprsents the Mokele-Mbembe seriously, and hence I doubt any statement that the creature has a pachyderm's feet. The stories of the Moleke-Mbembe leaving such tracks is derived from a confusion with the Water-Rhino, even as the horn is also.

Later on in the chapter about the Congo Dragon reports, Chapter17, Heuvelmans also mentions that a certain Mr. Denis Lyell was convinced that stories of a Water-Monster in Lakes Bangeuelo, Mweru and Tanganyika (as well as the Diolo marshes, parts of Zambia and the Katanga district of the Congo) were actually describing a sort of water-rhinoceros. Heuvelmans notes that the range corresponds to the creature named the Chimpekwe and that must be the one Lyell is referring to (p. 294 in 1965 edition) But he does not say that it is probably the same as Blancou's water-rhino. It probably is.

The fact that it IS a one-horned rhinoceros makes it possible that this rhinoceros is more closely related to the Indian rhinoceros than either of the "Known" African kinds. And indeed the information from the start has always implied something along those lines. I should probably emphasize here that this theory for the identity of this Cryptid is very old, possibly older than the beginning of the 20th century, and that the theory is clearly stated in the oldest editions of On The Track of Unknown Animals.

Chimpekwe , Confused description with both 'Rhino and Dino' features

Best Wishes, Dale D.

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