Mourou Ngou

water Lion of Central Africa.

Etymology: Banda (Ubangi), "water leopard." The name is also used for the Giant otter shrew (Potomogale velox), an aquatic insectivore nearly 2 feet long.

Variant names: Muru-ngu, Nze-ti-gou (Sango/Creole, "water leopard"), Ze-ti-ngu.

Physical description: Shaped like a leopard. Length, about 8-12 feet. Brownish, striped, or dappled with blue and white spots. Small head. Glowing eyes. Large fangs. Tail like a leopard's, though hairier.

Behavior: Amphibious. Nocturnal. Roaring cry like a strong wind. Hunts in pairs. Kills hippopotamuses and elephants. Inflicts long, deep wounds on its prey, even hippos. Said to capsize canoes and seize humans.

Tracks: Larger than a lion's. Claw marks. Described as "containing a circle in the middle."

356 MOUROU-NGOU

Habitat: Caves in riverbanks. Distribution: Bamingui, Bangoran, Gribin-gui, Iomba, Kotto, Koukourou, Mbari, and Ouaka Rivers in the Central African Republic; Chari River, Chad.

Significant sightings: In August 1910 or 1911, a boat containing French-African riflemen was overturned in the Bamingui River by a Mourou-ngou, which seized one of the men in its mouth and dragged him underwater. The animal looked like a leopard but with stripes. The records at the outpost at Ndele confirm that a rifleman had been lost.

In 1920 and 1970, hippos were found slashed by an unknown animal along the Chari River, Chad.

On May 26, 1930, French civil servant Lucien Blancou shot a hippo on the River Mbari. During the night, a roaring animal that was not a Nile crocodile bit into the carcass.

In 1936, Lucien Blancou was told at Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic, that a Mourou-ngou had carried off men from the village of Dogolomandji, about 20 miles to the southeast on the Gribingui River. Unlike a crocodile, it left no trace of its victims.

In the 1950s, a Water lion was caught in a fishnet on the Bangoran River. The villagers killed it and retained the cranium, which may still be kept by the village headman.

A fisherman was nearly knocked into the Bamingui River when a large animal swam past him in February 1985. Possible explanations:

(1) An unknown species of large crocodile of the genus Osteolaemus, with a head that is shorter and rounder than the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans in 1955.

(2) A surviving saber-toothed cat, adapted for an aquatic lifestyle, suggested by Heuvelmans in 1978.

Sources: Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track ofUnknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 463-467, 468-470; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 262-265, 356, 377-378, 382, 395; Karl Shuker, "Operation Mourou N'gou," Strange Magazine, no. 15

(Spring 1995): 33; Christian Le Noël, "Le Tigre des montagnes: Des felins à dents en sabre au coeur de l'Afrique?" Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie, http://perso.wanadoo.fr/ cryptozoo/dossiers/tigrmont.htm.

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