Lipata

Unknown Crocodilian of Central Africa. Variant name: Libata.

Physical description: Bulkier than a Nile crocodile. Length, 13-20 feet. Eyes are close together on the top of the head. Mouth is larger and throat is wider than a Nile crocodile's. Serrated scales along the tail.

Behavior: Most active at the beginning of the rainy season or the end of September. Seen on the water's surface in the morning and at dusk.

Comes on land only occasionally. Attacks and eats goats, pigs, cattle, crocodiles, and, from time to time, humans. Very shy of people. Women who fish in the river shout to scare the animal away.

Distribution: Chiumbe and Kasai Rivers, northeastern Angola.

Significant sightings: Around 1890, the inhabitants of the village of Tyipukungu, Angola, set a trap for a Lipata after it had taken three of their cattle. The animal took the bait and was killed.

On September 1, 1932, a man from Tyipu-kungu saw a Lipata sleeping on dry land around 9:00 AM.

Possible explanations:

(1) Large or old and aggressive specimens of the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). The official size record for this crocodile was set in 1953 at 19 feet 6 inches, though there are reports of larger specimens. Most rarely grow larger than 16 feet.

(2) An African slender-snouted crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus) somewhat south of its normal range. This reptile grows to 13 feet long, although the average length is 8 feet. It has solitary habits and is most often found in open water in lakes and rivers.

(3) An unknown species of large Dwarf crocodile of the genus Osteolaemus, with a head that is shorter and rounder than that of the Nile crocodile, suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Sources: Albert Monard, "Sur l'existence en Angola d'un grand reptile encore inconnu," Bulletin de la Société Neuchâteloise de Sciences Naturelles 57 (1932): 67-71; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 456-460, 470; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp.233-239, 372.

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