Water Lion

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Aquatic saber-toothed CAT of Central and East Africa.

Variant names: COJE Ya Menia, Dilali, Din-gonek, Mourou-Ngou, Ngoroli, Nsanga, Ntambo Wa Luy, Nyokodoing (in Sudan), Nzefu-Loi.


Physical description: Leopardlike shape. As large as a horse. Tusks or large canine teeth. Spotted or striped. Background color varies from yellow or brown to reddish. Maned. Claws like a lion's.

Behavior: Aquatic. Nocturnal. Habitat: Caves in riverbanks. Distribution: Angola; Gabon; Central African Republic; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Chad; the Upper Nile River in Sudan; Kenya.

Significant sighting: A cave painting at Brak-fontein Ridge, Free State Province, South Africa, shows a walruslike animal attacking what looks to be a porcupine. It has a small head with two downward-curving tusks and paddlelike limbs. Possible explanations:

(1) A surviving saber-toothed cat of the genus Machairodus, first suggested by Ingo Krumbiegel and elaborated by Bernard Heuvelmans. Though fossil saber-toothed cats are not known to have lived in the water, this adaptation cannot be ruled out. Large teeth might prove beneficial in an aquatic environment, as with the walrus, but they could be a handicap in competing for food on land with modern big cats. A saber-toothed cat could easily drag its large prey under water, where the competition for the carcass is less intense. Machairodus cats ranged in size up to that of a lion, and they had elongated upper canines and cheek teeth adapted for slicing meat. They first turned up in Eurasia in the Miocene about 15 million years ago and lingered until about 2 million years ago in Tunisia.

(2) An unknown species of giant Monitor lizard (Family Varanidae).

(3) A surviving sauropod dinosaur similar to an Apatosaurus, although these were primarily herbivores. Some confusion with such dinosaur-like cryptids as the MOKELE-Mbembe may occur.

(4) A ceratopsian dinosaur, suggested by Martin Wilfarth, 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. Some confusion with such dinosaur-like cryptids as the EMELA-NTOUKA may occur. (5) An aquatic variety of the PYGMY ELEPHANT might also contribute to various reports or descriptions, as suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans. Sources: George William Stow, Rock-Paintings in South Africa (London: Methuen, 1930), pl. 39; Leo Frobenius and Douglas C. Fox, "The Water Lions," in African Genesis (New York: Stackpole, 1937); Martin Wilfarth, "Leben heute noch Saurier?" Prisma, October 1949, pp. 279-282; John A. Hunter, Hunter (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1952), p. 147; Adrian Conan Doyle, Heaven Has Claws (London: John Murray, 1952), pp. 29-31; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 374-386; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 143-147.

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