The dodu is a cryptohominid reported from the rainforests of southeastern Cameroon, described as a large primate with only three digits, like the more mythologised kalanoro of Madagascar. It is also noted for its unusual diet, reportedly killing animals, allowing them to rot, and later feeding on the maggots which are attracted to the carcasses.
Cryptozoologist Bill Gibbons first heard of the dodu in 2000, when he travelled to Cameroon with creationist Dave Woetzel to investigate mokele-mbembe knowledge in that country. Of the many zoological, palaeontological, and cryptozoological images which Gibbons showed to local Baka people, an illustration of the kalanoro from The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (1999) by Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe was identified as the dodu, which was consequently described to Gibbons. According to Juan Antonio Gutierrez, its reported range is large, stretching from the Lobeke and Sangha Rivers in the east to the Dja River in the west.
Michel Ballot has also collected accounts of the dodu, using the spelling dode, from the Bakouélé people and the Mbimo people, who call it dangoma. According to Antonio, the dodu is called sapara in the region of Ndongo. However, Michel Ballot considers the sapara to be a distinct cryptid, referring to it as a "giant chimpanzee". It was described to him by the Bakouelé people as a bipedal ape, less aggressive than the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), which wields a club.
The dodu is allegedly a large primate often standing taller than a man, up to 6' or 9'. Though it is usually bipedal, it is said to sometimes move on all fours, knuckle-walking when it does so. It has reddish skin and is covered in long hair which is dark grey in colour. Its eyes are large. Most unusually, and diagnostically, the dodu is said to have just three digits on both its hands and feet, with the toes also being clawed, whereas primates usually have flat nails. Its irises are said to be vertical, and it supposedly produces a foul smell, like "dead things".
It is supposedly aggressive, but, although is said to stalk people, it rarely hassles anyone, although Ballot has collected accounts from along the Sangha of dodus chasing women. However, it will allegedly fight and kill gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and antelope. After killing another animal, the dodu supposedly abandons the carcass, allowing it to rot and attract maggots, which the dodu later returns to feed on. It is also fond of cocoa beans. It is well-known to the Baka for building piles of sticks on the forest floor.
Gibbons and Ballot have both collected several dodu sightings. Ballot received an account of a mystery primate during his 2016 expedition to the Nki Falls region. His tracker told him that, some twenty years previously, when he was with an exploratory mission sent out by the Cameroonian government, he had seen some unknown apes, which were not chimpanzees or gorillas, in and near some caves on the Dja River. Ballot also interviewed a tracker who claimed to have followed the trail of a dodu, identified by its "three enormous toes," for seven days in 2000. Gibbons has also interviewed this man.
During Gibbons' second expedition to Cameroon in 2001, in the region of the Lower Boumba River, he was told that some months previously, some white men accompanied by local trackers had captured a live dodu, which was exhibited at the town of Moloundou, near the border with the Republic of the Congo. If the report is true, what happened to the dodu afterwards is unknown, but Gibbons speculates that the unidentified white men were loggers. Another dodu was allegedly killed by some Baka hunters near the village of Keka, on the Ngoko River, and was subsequently sold to a French timber merchant. A party of French loggers were also said to have acquired the horns of an ngoubou at around the same time. Ballot was also told that a Baka hunter had killed a sapara in around 2006. Its body was described as light, with little hair.
Bernard Heuvelmans divided the cryptohominids of Africa into two main groups: large and small. The larger cryptohominids, as big as a man or taller, include the kikomba, mulahu, and ngoloko. Heuvelmans theorised that these "large hominoids" were novel species of non-human apes, surviving Homo erectus, or "robust australopithecines," descendants of Paranthropus robustus.
According to Dale A. Drinnon, some sources describe the dodu, complete with its three digits, as a mythical demon. Drinnon suggests that the gorillas allegedly sometimes killed by dodus are actually the victims of poachers, left to rot and gather maggots after having their heads and hands cut off. Both of these considerations lead him to argue that the dodu may be a mythical being used as a front by gorilla poachers.
Philippe Coudray associates the dodu with the kalanoro of Madagascar, which is also alleged to have only three digits. Believing these two cryptohominids to be synonymous or closely related, Coudray agues that, because of its presence in Madagascar, it could be a kind of giant bipedal lemur. Many lemurs have a specialised grooming claw, instead of a flat nail, on one of their toes, and Coudray suggests that these claws could also appear on the other digits, which might become less numerous but also thicker. However, he finds this unlikely.
Notes and references
- Shuker, Karl P. N. "A Supplement to Dr Bernard Heuvelmans' Checklist of Cryptozoological Animals," Fortean Studies 5 (1998)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2003) The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals, Paraview Press, ISBN 1-931044-64-3
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2010) Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times, CFZ Press, ISBN 978-1-905723-62-1
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (26 July 2014) The Deadly Dodu of Cameroon – A Belligerent Grub-Eating Bigfoot? karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 18 April 20201] – Wayback Machine
- Ballot, Michel (19 March 2013) Quelques News sur le Mokele - Mbembe, le Dode et le Sapara 2012: Expedition Nki II Novembre - Decembre 2012 mokelembembeexpeditions.blogspot.com [Accessed 18 April 2021]
- Norman, Scott T. "Aye, and Behind the Cameroons There's Things Living," Elementum Bestia: Being an Examination of Unknown Animals of the Air, Earth, Fire and Water (2007), Lulu Press, ASIN B001DSIB2W
- Ballot, Michel (2 February 2021) Anthropoïdes Inconnus du Congo strangereality.blog [Accessed 19 April 2021] – Wayback Machine
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
- Drinnon, Dale A. (16 April 2011) Raheel Mughal Repost From CFZ Blog frontiersofzoology.blogspot.com [Accessed 19 April 2021]
- Drinnon, Dale A. (19 April 2011) Muhalu, Lulu and Ngoogounogounmbar: Central African Apemen That Are Also Water-Monsters frontiersofzoology.blogspot.com [Accessed 19 April 2021]
- Coudray, Philippe (2009) Guide des Animaux Cachés, Editions du Mont, ISBN 978-2915652383