Reader Information

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kongamato: African Dragon

The name, Kongamato, means overwhelmer of boats. The cryptids have been sighted in Zambia, Kenya and Namibia by both natives, Europeans and Americans, including a well known cryptozoologist. Africans when shown a picture of a pterodactyl, agree that the cryptids look like it. Could these flying reptiles have survived from the Age of the Dinosaurs?

During the Jurassic and Cretaceous Ages, about 65 million years ago, there were flying reptiles, pterosaurs. Nearly all of their fossils found have been in marine deposits, so it’s most likely that they were fish eaters who lived near coastal waters.

Most pterosaurs ranged from size of a sparrow to that of an eagle, but the pteranodon had a wingspan of 27 feet and the quetzalcoatlus had one of up to 60 feet. Africans reported seeing flying animals that match the description of pterosaurs for ages and reported that some people have been killed by them. Those who were shown pictures of the pterodactyl agreed that it was Kongamato.

Africans don’t see it as a supernatural being, like a mulombe, demon. They regard it as a horrible beast, worse than a rogue lion. The Zambian Kaonde tribe used to carry charms, muchi wa Kongamato, for protection from the beast. Some believe that seeing Kongamato is a death omen. Kenyan Steve Romandi-Menya, said Kongamato, which they call Batamzinga, is said to eat decomposing human flesh and dig up corpses if they’re not buried deep enough. The Kitui Wakamba natives believe it flies to the ground from Mount Kenya nightly.

In 1925, a native explored a Zambian swamp that was known as demons’ territory and was wounded by a strange huge bird. When he was shown a pterosaur’s picture, he screamed and fled in horror.

In 1956, engineer J.P.F. Brown saw two prehistoric-looking creatures flying over Fort Rosebery, Zambia around 6 PM. They had long tails, narrow heads, pointed teeth and a wingspan of approximately 3 to 3 1/2 feet. Local Awembas aver they live in caves near the Zambezi River.

In 1957, a man went to a Fort Rosebery hospital ER with a severe chest wound and told the doctor that a huge bird attacked him in the Bangweulu swamps. When asked to draw a picture of the creature the sketch resembled a pterosaur.

In 1988, biologist Roy Mackal PhD led an expedition to Namibia where reports of a creature with a wingspan of up to 30 feet were gathered. He’s a vice-president of the International Society of Cryptozoology and was the Scientific Director of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau between 1965 and 1975.

There was no hard evidence to prove the existence of Kongamato; however team member James Kosi, reportedly saw the cryptid from about 1000 feet away. He described it as a giant glider shaped creature that was black with white markings.

During a 1932 expedition, Ivan Sanderson had an encounter with a Kongamato-like creature called Olitau by the natives in the Cameroon. He shot a fruit eating bat that fell into the water. As he was trying to retrieve it he fell and when he regained his footing, party member George, yelled at him to look out. Sanderson saw a black eagle-sized creature with bat-like wings and pointed teeth flying at him, so he submerged. When he emerged it was gone. It reappeared and flew at George before it soared away. When they returned to camp, they told the natives about the encounter. The Africans asked the explorers where they encountered Olitau. Sanderson pointed toward the river. The terrified natives ran off in the opposite direction with their guns, leaving valuables behind.

Two species of birds live in Zambia’s swampy regions that might be mistaken for the cryptid. The shoebill stork is a dark feathered bird, has an 8 feet wingspan and a prehistoric appearance. There’s no evidence of the bird acting aggressively toward humans, which they try to avoid. The saddle-billed stork has a wingspan up to 8 feet long, a bright red bill with a stripe and black and yellow feathers that run from the eyes down into the stripe and orange stripes on the sides of their head. Kongamato is featherless and has teeth; these birds don’t. It’s possible that the birds could account for some sightings. Many natives believe that monsters lurk in swamps waiting to attack interlopers. A person might see these birds and believe it’s Kongamato.

Some have proposed that the creature that attacked Sanderson and George was the mate of the bat Sanderson shot. Fruit bats don’t attack humans and they’re not black. Sanderson was an extremely knowledgeable and internationally respected zoologist and didn’t recognize the creature.

Skeptics suggest sightings of Kongamato came from the natives’ imaginations who worked at archeological digs where fossilized pterosaurs were discovered in Tendagaru, Tanzania, before World War I. The digs were over 900 miles from Zambia. There have been no reports from Tanzania.

The Popobawa is another flying African cryptid. The alien creatures have also been sighted in America, such as the Thunderbird and Texas’ Big Bird. Is it possible that these avians survived since prehistoric times? The coelacanth, a fish believed to be extinct, was caught in the 1930s. Since then, schools of these fish have been discovered. The tuatara, an iguana-like reptile, is a survivor from prehistoric times. They’re called living fossils. Maybe, some day, there will be scientific proof that the Kongamato exists and it will join their ranks. - Cryptozoology A to Z, Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark,(Fireside, 1999)


Deep in the bush of east central Africa, lives a beaked, flying creature called the Kongamato. This fascinating animal first received widespread attention when explorer Frank Welland described it in his 1932 book In Witchbound Africa. The Kongamato ("overwhelmer of boats"), is described as a large, reddish creature with leathery wings, devoid of feathers. Eyewitnesses who are shown an illustration of the pterodactyl unanimously agreed to this identification of the Kongamato. "The evidence for the pterodactyl is that the natives can describe it so accurately, unprompted, and that they all agree about it. There is negative support also in the fact that they said they could not identify any other of the prehistoric monsters which I showed them...The natives do not consider it to be an unnatural thing like a mulombe [demon] only a very awful thing, like a man-eating lion or a rogue elephant, but infinitely worse... I have mentioned the Jiundu swamp [northwestern Zambia] as one of the reputed haunts of the kongamato, and I must say that the place itself is the very kind of place in which such a reptile might exist, if it is possible anywhere." (Welland, 1932, pp. 238, 240.)

"The Kaonde people of the North-Western Province [of Zambia] used to carry charms called "muchi wa Kongamato" to protect them at certain river crossings from the Kongamato"...The creature was described by the Kaonde of old as a huge red lizard with membranous wings like a bat spreading five or more feet, and with teeth in its huge beak. In the 1920’s, Headman Kanyinga from the Jiwundu Swamp area near the Zairean border instantly identified as Kongamato a picture of a pterodactyl...Nevertheless, as recently as 1958, the science journalist Maurice Burton wrote in the Illustrated London News in 1958 that there had been several reports form Africa of a pterodactyl-like creature, with speculation that the Bangweulu Swamps might be one of its habitats. He pointed out that off the coast of Africa, the coelacanth, a deep sea contemporary of the pterodactyl, had been caught by fisherman..." (Hobson, Dick, Tales of Zambia, 1996, p. 149.)

“Though dragons have completely dropped out of all modern works on natural history, they were still retained and regarded as quite orthodox until a little before the time of Cuvier;...For instance, Pigafetta, in a report of the kingdom of Congo (The Harleian Collections of Travels, vol. ii, 1745, p. 457.) ‘gathered out of the discourses of Mr. E. Lopes, a Portuguese,’ speaking of the province of Bemba, which he defines as ‘on the sea coast from the river Ambrize, until the river Coanza towards the south,’ says of serpents, ‘There are also certain other creatures which, being as big as rams, have wings like dragons, with long tails, and long chaps, and divers rows of teeth, and feed upon raw flesh. Their colour is blue and green, their skin painted like scales, and they have two feet but no more. The Pagan negroes used to worship them as gods, and to this day you may see divers of them that are kept for a marvel. And because they are very rare, the chief lords there curiously preserve them, and suffer the people to worship them, which tendeth greatly to their profits by reason of the gifts and oblations which the people offer unto them.’ And John Barbot, Agent-General of the Royal Company of Africa, in his description of the coasts of South Guinea, (Churchill, Collections of Voyages, 1746, p. 213.) says: ‘Some blacks assuring me that...there are winged serpents or dragons having a forked tail and a prodigious wide mouth, full of sharp teeth, extremely mischievous to mankind, and more particularly to small children.’" (Gould, Charles, Mythical Monsters, W.H. Allen & Co., London, 1886, pages 201-202)

Dr. J.L.B. Smith (famous for his investigation into the living fossil, the coelacanth) wrote in his 1956 book Old Fourlegs about flying dragons that lived near Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. " man had actually seen such a creature in flight close by at night. I did not and do not dispute at least the possibility that some such creature may still exist." (Smith, J.L.B., Old Fourlegs, 1956, pp. 108-109.) Indeed a game warden named A. Blaney Percival stationed in Kenya noted that a huge creature whose tracks only revealed two feet and a heavy tail was believed by the Kitui Wakamba natives to fly down to the ground from Mount Kenya every night (Shuker, Karl, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors, 1995, p. 49.). In Kenya the creature is called "Batamzinga."

A very credible account was described in 1956 by engineer J.P.F. Brown near Lake Bangweulu, Zambia and reported in the April 2, 1957 Rhodesia Herald. Brown was driving back to Salisbury from a visit to Kasenga in Zaire. He stopped at a location called Fort Rosebery, just to the west of Lake Bangweulu to get his canteen from the trunk. It was about 6:00 p.m. when he saw two creatures flying slowly and silently directly overhead. He observed that they looked prehistoric, with a long tail and narrow head. He estimated a wingspan of about 3-3 1/2 feet. One of them opened its mouth in which he saw a large number of pointed teeth. Further reports of such odd flying creatures come from the Awemba tribe that claims they live in caves in cliffs near the source of the great Zambezi River. In 1957, at a hospital at Fort Rosebery (the same location J. P. F. Brown had reported seeing strange flying creatures the year before) a patient came in with a severe wound in his chest. The doctor asked him what had happened and the native claimed that a great bird had attacked him in the Bangweulu swamps. When asked to sketch the bird, the native drew a picture of a creature that resembled a pterosaur. In 2010, Genesis Park staff mounted an exploratory trip deep into the Bangweulu Swamp. Zambian fisherman were interviewed and all-night vigils were conducted. But no definitive evidence for the existence of the Kongamato was obtained.

To the west in Cameroon, the natives describe a nocturnal, bat-like creature called Olitau. Likely the same as the Kongamato, this creature was observed by an exploration team under Ivan Sanderson in 1932. Modern reports of the Kongomato continue to surface. In 1998 Steve Romandi-Menya, a Kenyan exchange student living in Louisiana, declared that the Kongomato is still known to the bush-dwelling people in his country. The creatures are said to feed on decomposing human flesh, digging up bodies if they are not buried to sufficient depth.

In 1942 Captain Charles R.S. Pitman wrote a nearly 300 page volume describe the fauna of Uganda and the surrounding regions in great detail. He records the natives superstitious fear of looking upon the wailing tree hyrax at night lest they die (even though they were not afraid to capture the animal in daylight). He then discusses another animal that the natives described. "When in Northern Rhodesia I heard of a mythical beast, alleged to have a similar death-dealing attribute, which intrigued me considerably. It was said to haunt formerly, and perhaps still to haunt, a dense, swampy forest region in the neighbourhood of the Angola and Congo borders. To look upon it too is death. But the most amazing feature of this mystery beast is its suggested identity with a creature bat- and bird-like in form on a gigantic scale strangely reminiscent of the prehistoric pterodactyl. From where does the primitive African derive such a fanciful idea?" (Pitman, C.R.S, A Game Warden Takes Stock, 1942, pp. 202-203.) -