In my novel, the characters have a magazine they put out called Cryptozoology Today. It works for them because they’re cryptozoologists, and in the story world cryptozoology is a common term. That, however, is not necessarily the case in the real world. If you have no idea what cryptozoology is, you’re not alone. Most people have never heard of it. But it is the basis for most of the research in my book.
So, if you haven’t heard of cryptozoology, here’s a quick definition: Cryptozoology (from Greek κρυπτός, kryptos, “hidden” + zoology; literally, “study of hidden animals”) refers to the search for animals whose existence has not been proven. This includes looking for living examples of animals that are considered extinct, such as dinosaurs; animals whose existence lacks physical evidence but which appear in myths, legends, or are reported, such as Bigfoot and Chupacabra; and wild animals dramatically outside their normal geographic ranges. The animals cryptozoologists study are often referred to as cryptids.
One of my favorite cryptids, the one that fueled the research for my book, is known as Mokele-mbembe. Now, Mokele-mbembe doesn’t actually show up in my story, but he still has a special place in my heart and his existence is pivotal to how my story plays out.
Who—or what—is Mokele-mbembe?
I’m glad you asked!
Mokele-mbembe in the native dialect means “one who stops the flow of rivers.” He has been described as an animal with a long neck and tail. Its body size is somewhere between the size of a hippopotamus and an elephant. Its length has been reported to be between 16 to 32 feet. The length of the neck is between 5 to 10 feet. The length of the tail is 5 to 10 feet. The reports out of Cameroon have reported Mokele-mbembe to be up to 75 feet in length. Mokele-mbembe lives in the pools and swamps adjacent to the rivers of the Likouala swamp region of The People’s Republic of the Congo on the continent of Africa. The imprints of clawed feet and other tell-tale animal trail marks in the jungle around the swamps clearly show evidence of a large, heavy creature that is not a crocodile, hippopotamus or elephant.
Okay, you say, but what is it?
That, my friends, is the question. There are those who believe that Mokele-mbembe is, in fact, a living dinosaur. Witnesses’ drawings show that mokele-mbembe resembles nothing recognisable as still living on Earth, but it does bear a startling likeness to a sauropod dinosaur known to us by its fossil skeletons—similar in shape to a small Apatosaurus. When some of the local people of the Likouala region would draw in the dirt or sand a representation of Mokele-mbembe they drew the shape of a sauropod dinosaur. Then when they were shown a picture of a sauropod dinosaur they said that picture is Mokele-mbembe.
Is Mokele-mbembe a real creature? Is it possible there are dinosaurs still living in the jungles of Africa? No one can prove definitively either way. The region is so dense and so remote, untold numbers of unknown creatures may be lurking there. And that is why it is the perfect place for my story to unfold.