Dinosaur-like animal of Central Africa, similar to the Em ela-Ntouka
Etymology: Bemba (Bantu), "monster." Around Lake Tanganyika, Chipekwe is a common name for the Giant tigerfish (Hydrocynus goliath), a 4-foot fish that can grow to 150 pounds. The word may actually refer to any dangerous animal, from venomous snakes to man-eating crocodiles, in several Bantu languages.
Variant names: Chepekwe, Chimpekwe, Mbilintu ("frightful unknown monster"), Mfuku.
Physical description: Smooth, dark body. Size ranges from smaller than a hippo to as large as an elephant. Has a single smooth, white, ivory horn or tusk.
Behavior: Nocturnal. Amphibious. Aggressive. Kills and eats hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses.
Tracks: Like hippopotamus or crocodile tracks but 2 feet 6 inches-3 feet long.
Habitat: Swamps, lakes.
Distribution: Lake Bangweulu, Kafue Flats, Luapula River, Lukulu River, Lake Mweru, and Lake Shiwa Ngandu in Zambia; Dililo Swamps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania; Lago Dilolo and the Kasai River in Angola.
Significant sightings: Joseph Menges and Hans Schomburgk independently reported the existence of an unknown animal—half elephant, half dragon—in Zambian swamps at the end of the nineteenth century. Schomburgk noted the absence of hippos in parts of Lake Bangweulu as the direct result of an unknown amphibious predator.
The Aushi people have a tradition of the death of a Chipekwe, which they killed with their harpoons in the deep waters of the Luapula River, Zambia. It had a smooth, dark body, and a single ivory horn on its snout.
Native Commissioner Robert Young shot at a large animal in Lake Shiwa Ngandu, Zambia, that dived and left a wake like a steamboat.
Retired magistrate H. Croad was camped by a small lake in Zambia when he heard a splashing noise in the middle of the night. The next morning, he found large footprints of an animal that he could not recognize.
Around 1906, settler R. M. Green was told by natives that a hippo had its throat torn out by a Chipekwe on the Lukulu River, Zambia.
In October 1919, a Belgian railway manager named Lepage was charged by a dinosaur-like monster with "tusks like horns," a pointed snout, and a scaly hump. It is said to have later stampeded through the village of Fungurume, Katanga Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The story was followed by another report by a Belgian big-game hunter named Gapelle who is said to have tracked a similar beast for 12 miles in the Congo and finally sighted it. It had a kangaroo-like tail and a horn on its snout. An expedition by the Smithsonian Institution was allegedly in search of the beast when three members of the party were killed in a railway accident. However, Wentworth Gray exposed these stories as hoaxes in 1920, pointing out that Gapelle was
102 chipekwe an anagram for Lepage and that the Smithsonian (though the accident had occurred on November 28) was not hunting dinosaurs.
In 1932, Franz W. Grobler reported he had seen a photo of a Chipekwe standing on the back of a hippo that it had killed in Lago Dilolo, Angola. However, the photo was a crude hoax by someone who superimposed a Komodo dragon onto the photo of a dead hippo. It was based on a dubious report by a Swede, J. C. Jo-hanson, who on February 16, 1932, took a photo of a 38-foot-long, lizardlike monster in the Kasai Valley on the border of Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In May 1954, Alan Brignall saw a small head and long neck rise up out of the water about 25 yards from the shore of Lake Bangweulu, Zambia. The head had a distinct brow, blunt nose, and visible jawline, and it moved from side to side. After a few seconds, it sank down vertically and disappeared.
(1) A ceratopsian dinosaur, suggested by Karl Shuker, although this suborder is not known from Africa. Better-known species include Monoclonius, Psittacosaurus, Protoceratops, and Triceratops. Usually, these dinosaurs had a large frill or flange around the head along with facial horns.
(2) A surviving saber-toothed cat, suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans.
(3) An unknown species of aquatic rhinoceros, suggested by Denis David Lyell.
(4) Old, solitary, exceptionally aggressive male Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius) that attack boats and other hippos, according to Alain Chevillat.
(5) William Hichens suggested a surviving chalicothere, a family of fossil ungulates that lived 25 million years ago in the Miocene and survived in East Africa until 12,000 years ago. However, they were ground-based terrestrial browsers and not amphibious. Sources: Carl Hagenbeck, Beasts and Men
(London: Longmans, Green, 1909), pp. 96-97; Hans Schomburgk, Wild und Wilde im Herzen Afrikas (Berlin: E. Fleischel, 1910), pp. 219-220; "A Tale from Africa: Semper Aliquid Novi," Times (London), November 17, 1919;
"Dragon of the Prime: Congo Monster Sighted," Times (London), December 12, 1919; C. G. James, "Congo Swamp Mystery," Daily Mail (London), December 26, 1919, p. 2; Wentworth D. Gray, "The Brontosaurus," Times (London), February 23, 1920; Victor Forbin, "Les patientes recherches des savants, leurs travaux laborieux ont permis de reconstituer les squelettes des animaux de l'époque Tertiare," Sciences et Voyages, May 27, 1920, pp. 206-208; John G. Millais, Far Away Up the Nile (London: Longmans, Green, 1924), pp. 61-67; "Mystery Animal of African Swamps?" Cape Argus (Cape Town), July 5, 1932, p. 16; "Meet the Mystery Monster," Cape Argus (Cape Town), July 7, 1932, p. 13; "Chepekwe Does Exist: Native Stories of Mystery Monster," Cape Argus (Cape Town), July 9, 1932, p. 16; Joseph E. Hughes, Eighteen Years on Lake Bangweulu (London: The Field, 1933), pp. 146-148; Hans Schomburgk, Meine Freunde im Busch (Berlin: Freiheitsverlag, 1936), pp. 35, 313, 374-375; William Hichens, "African Mystery Beasts," Discovery 18 (1937): 369-373; F. B. Macrae, "More African Mysteries," National Review 111 (1938): 791-796; Frank W. Lane, Nature Parade (London: Jarrolds, 1955), p. 265; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 434-441, 450-455, 475-478; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 115-134, 191-202, 207-213, 218-221, 231-233, 303-305, 383-386; Dwight Smith and Gary S. Mangiacopra, "Carl Hagenbeck and the Rhodesian Dinosaurs," Strange Magazine, no. 6 (1990): 50-52; Ulrich Magin, "Living Dinosaurs in Africa: Early German Reports," Strange Magazine, no. 6 (1990): 11; Karl Shuker, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (London: Blandford, 1995), pp. 18-20, 28-30.
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