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A Blast From The Past

Some of us have heard of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1925 novel The Lost World. The book turned into a stop-motion film, and the story is centered on an expedition to a land inhabited by prehistoric animals in South America. The explorers eventually take a brontosaurus back to London. Thanks to reports of a strange creature in Africa, this story may eventually become a reality.

Since 1776, natives and explorers deep in the remote forests of Cameroon have sighted a large creature they call Mokele-Mbembe (one who stops the flow of rivers.) The creature has been seen prowling through the jungle and lurking beneath the waters of the Congo Basin, suggesting that it’s semiaquatic. It has also been known to be extremely aggressive and territorial, with a reputation for attacking the canoes of natives and even killing hippos and tribesmen. But what makes this creature truly extraordinary is its appearance. Covered in reddish leathery or scaly skin, the beast is described as having a long neck, a small snake-like head, a body twice as big as an elephant (25-30ft in length), four large limbs ending with three-clawed feet, and a long tail. Some reports say it even has spines going down its back and a crest on its head. According to these reports, this creature seems to resemble a living sauropod dinosaur.

One would think the natives might have simply misidentified a modern animal or are just telling the legend as fact for the sake of publicity. However, explorers have noted that these people have had no contact with the outside world, and despite not receiving payment for their stories, they were eager to share their observations with anyone who would listen. Through the method of comparative observation, it was also determined that these people can clearly tell the difference between local modern animals and anything depicted as a sauropod dinosaur. The only physical evidence of this creature are three-clawed footprints that are 3ft in circumference and the lack of foliage high up in trees (which some would say are from giraffes, but no giraffes live in this part of Africa).

Despite these facts, other experts doubt the likelihood that this animal exists—and for good reasons, too. Paleontology alone rules out the likelihood of any dinosaur’s survival in modern times, especially when sauropods alone were said to have died off before all other dinosaur species in the great KT extinction event. At the same time, science claims that in order for an animal like this to survive, there needs to be a real breeding population instead of just few elusive individuals.

Remember that living fossils like the tuatara and coelacanth (which lived before the dinosaurs) already exist in nature. With 55 thousand squares miles of Cameroon’s wilderness unexplored, there could be a time when we finally find a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World creature. Let’s just hope we don’t bring it back to London so that it can rampage through the city the way it did in the movie!

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The campus newspaper of King's Academy, in Madaba, Jordan. Established 2007.