Mngwa

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Unknown big C ATof East Africa.

Etymology: From the Swahili (Bantu) mu-ngwa ("strange one").

Variant name: Nunda ("fierce animal," "cruel man," or "something heavy").

Physical description: Size of a donkey. Gray stripes like a tabby cat. Small ears. Thick tail.

Behavior: Nocturnal. Has been heard to purr. Known to have raided villages in order to kill adults and carry off children.

Tracks: Leopardlike prints as big as a large lion's.

Distribution: The Tanzania coast near Lindi and Mchinga.

Significant sightings: In 1922, William Hichens was magistrate of Lindi, Tanzania, when several constables were killed or mangled by a huge cat with gray fur. Another outbreak of maulings took place at Mchinga in the 1930s. Possible explanations:

(1) A surviving species of one of several large African fossil cats from the Pleistocene.

(2) An unknown, giant subspecies of the African golden cat (Felis aurata), which has a wide variety of coloration, from golden to dark gray, and is reputed to be highly aggressive when cornered. It occasionally raids villages for poultry. It is not known from Tanzania, though its range extends into Kenya and Uganda. Sources: Edward Steere, Swahili Tales, as Told by Natives of Zanzibar (London: Bell and Daldy, 1870); Fulahn [William Hichens], "On the Trail of the Brontosaurus: Encounters with Africa's Mystery Animals," Chambers's Journal, ser. 7, 17 (1927): 692-695; Charles R. S. Pitman, A Game Warden among His Charges (London: Nisbet, 1931), p. 309; William Hichens, "African Mystery Beasts," Discovery 18 (1937): 369-373; Frank W. Lane, Nature Parade (London: Jarrolds, 1955), pp. 253-256, 266-268; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 415-420; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 137-141.

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