Dingonek

Wter Lion of East Africa.

Etymology: Masai and Okiek (Nilo-Saharan) word.

Variant names: Ndamathia (Kikuyu/Bantu), Ol-maima, Ol-umaina (Masai/Nilo-Saharan).

Physical description: Length, 14-18 feet. Spotted like a leopard. Covered with scales. Head like an otter's or a lioness's. Small ears. Two straight, white tusks in the upper jaw. Short neck. Back is as broad as a hippo's. Short legs. Claws. Long, broad tail.

Behavior: Basks on logs or on riverbanks. Slips in the water when disturbed. Swims with only its head above the water.

Tracks: As big as a hippo's. Clawed.

Distribution: Rivers in Kenya and Tanzania that feed into the east side of Lake Victoria; the Kikira River, a source of the Tana River, Kenya.

Significant sightings: In 1907, big-game hunter John Alfred Jordan took a shot at an animal with leopard's spots and two large fangs along the Migori River, where it flows into Lake Victoria, Kenya. He also found clawed tracks the size of a hippo's.

Around the same time, a man known to C. W. Hobley saw a large animal floating on a log in the Mara River on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It was spotted like a leopard, covered with scales, had a head like an otter's, and was about 16 feet long.

Possible explanation: A surviving saber-toothed cat, suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans. The scales might be explained by clumps of wet, shiny, matted fur.

Sources: Edgar Beecher Bronson, In Closed Territory (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1910), pp. 112-116, 130-136; C. W. Hobley, "Further Researches into Kikuyu and Kamba Religious Beliefs and Customs," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 41 (1911): 406-422; C. W. Hobley, "On Some Unidentified Beasts," Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, no. 6 (1912): 48-52; John Alfred Jordan, "The Brontosaurus: Hunter's Story of Tusked and Scaly Beast," Daily Mail (London), December 16, 1919, p. 7; John Alfred Jordan, The Elephant Stone (London: Nicholas Kaye, 1959), pp. 78-81; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 172-181, 374-377.

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