Emela-ntouka Bertelink

Reconstruction of the emela-ntouka by artist Tim Bertelink.

Other names: Aseka-moke, emeula-natuka, emia-ntouka, ngamba-namae, ngoulou
Country reported: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Liberia, Republic of the Congo

The emela-ntouka (Bomitaba: "killer of elephants" or "eater of the tops of the palms"[1]) is a cryptid reported from across West-Central Africa, described as a hairless elephant-sized animal with a crocodile-like tail and a large horn on its nose.[2][1]

Cryptozoologists speculate that it may be a species of unknown semiaquatic rhinoceros, or a living ceratopsian dinosaur:[1][2] Karl Shuker writes that it has "a well-defined albeit extremely perplexing morphology".[3] It is often confused with its fellow Congo dinosaur the mokele-mbembe, even by local people,[1][3][4] and has also been confused in some sources with forest rhinoceroses and water elephants.[2] It has been equated with other African cryptids including the chipekwe and the irizima.[3]


Emela-ntouka, David Miller-Roy Mackal

Reconstruction of the emela-ntouka by David Miller under Roy P. Mackal' supervision.

Jean Claude Thibault's emela-ntouka and mokele-mbembe drawing

Depiction of the emela-ntouka (labelled mokele-mbembe) attacking an elephant, by Jean Claude Thibault.

The emela-ntouka is described as a very large animal, the size of an elephant or larger. It has no conspicuous scales but is definitely hairless, its skin is brown to grey in colour, and it possesses a long, heavy tail like that of a crocodile. Roy P. Mackal wrote that the emela-ntouka's body is similar to that of the mokele-mbembe, whilst it's tail would not seem to be as long as the mokele-mbembe's.[2] It's legs are very heavy, giving the large body support from underneath (unlike crocodiles and lizards, which are supported by their legs from the sides).[2] The head and neck are short. Most notably, it has a single large, curved[2] horn located on its head, which native informants claim is very similar to the ivory tusks of an elephant.[5][1]

Native carvings as well as illustrations by Central African Repulic-based artist Jean Claude Thibault also depict the emela-ntouka with a pair of small, frilly ears like those of an elephant, but much smaller. These also display the animal as having somewhat bent legs, conflicting slightly with the traditional description of the emela-ntouka's legs supporting it from below.[3]

It leaves tracks very similar to those of a rhinoceros, with three toes or claw marks, except they are the size of an elephants tracks.[5][1] Its call has been compared to a growl, rumble, howl, or roar,[2][5] and George Eberhart describes it as "snorting, howling, and roaring".[1]

The emela-ntouka is said to be amphibious, leaving the water at times to feed. It is reported to be an herbivorous animal, feeding on leaves and leafy plants including the malombo liana (Landolphia mannii and Landolphia owariensis), which is also said to be the only food source of the mokele-mbembe.[5][1][2] Despite its diet, it is also said to be very aggressive and foul-tempered,[1] killing elephants, buffaloes, and hippopotamuses[1] which wander into its territory by tearing, stabbing, and puncturing them with its horn.[2]

Physical evidenceEdit


During an expedition to northern Cameroon in 2005, Michel Ballot came across and purchased a large wooden carving of an animal strikingly similar to the emela-ntouka (1, 2, 3, 4). He also found and photographed a second carving of the same animal, made at a different village by a different artisan (4).[6] The elephant-like ears shown on the carvings had not previously been described on the emela-ntouka, but two drawings of the animal (labelled as the mokele-mbembe but clearly depicting the emela-ntouka) independently made by the Central African Republic-based French artist Jean Claude Thibault also depict it with such ears.[3]


circa 1934Edit

Lucien Blancou reported that an animal matching the description of the emela-ntouka had been killed in at Dongou in the Likouala Region of the Republic of the Congo around 1934.[7][5][2]


In August or September 1966, wildlife photographer Atelier Yvan Ridel discovered and photographed some 10-inch wide, 3-toes footprints along a riverbank northeast of Loubomo in the Republic of the Congo. Roy Mackal described these tracks as being relevant to the emela-ntouka.[2]

According to Bernard Heuvelmans, the prints could not have been made by a hippopotamus. He said that the tracks superficially resembled rhinoceros footprints, with a much sharper middle toe imprint.[2]


Unknown semiaquatic rhinocerosEdit

Teleoceras Heinrich Harder

Illustration of Teleoceras by Heinrich Harder.

Lucien Blancou first proposed the theory that the emela-ntouka could be an unknown species of large, semiaquatic forest rhinoceros.[1] Mackal also considered this possibility, and although he favoured the living ceratopsian theory, he did suggest that if the emela-ntouka were a rhinoceros, then possible sexual dimorphism, in which only the male had a horn, could explain the confusion between the emela-ntouka and the mokele-mbembe. He also wrote that it would not be unreasonable to believe a species of semiaquatic rhinoceros could survive in the Congo.[2]

Eberhart notes that there was a a large, semiaquatic rhinoceros named Teleoceras known from Eocene North America, showing there is an evolutionary precedent for an aquatic rhinoceros.[1] The semiaquatic rhinoceros theory is also supported by Loren Coleman.[5]

Eberhart and Shuker both note that the emela-ntouka's long and heavy crocodile-like tail argues against the possibility that it could be a species of rhinoceros, which, like most large mammals, have short and light tails.[1][3] The horn of the emela-ntouka is also described as being like ivory; rhinoceros horns are composed not of ivory, or even bone, but of keratin, which is easily distinguished from ivory.[2] According to Mackal, another problem with a rhinoceros identity is the fact that the emela-ntouka is said to kill large animals with its horn, yet a rhinoceros' horn is a "distinct structural weak point", and is easily torn off.[2]

Living ceratopsianEdit

Roy P. Mackal first brought the theory that the emela-ntouka could be a living ceratopsian dinosaur similar to Monoclonius to attention, and it has since seen support from cryptozoologists including Karl Shuker and Scott Norman.[5]

Monoclonius by Zdenek Burian

Illustration of Monoclonius by Zdenek Burian.

Ceratopsians, some of which had only one horn, are believed to have been leaf-eating animals, as their mouths had cutting beaks, and could not grind, suggesting the lower jaw moved vertically.[2] The horns of ceratopsians were composed of bone, not keratin, and so may have resembled ivory. According to Shuker, the only major discrepancy between the emela-ntouka and a ceratopsian is the neck frill, which can be explained (see below).[3]

Ceratopsian fossils are not currently known from Africa. Mackal notes that this would not ordinarily be much of a problem, given the haphazard distrubution of fossils and the lack of palaeontological work in Africa. However, the Tendaguru fossil beds in East Africa have yielded many fossils of several diverse dinosaur families, including stegosaurs, but no ceratopsians. Still, Mackal writes that it may be that some were present in the jungles of Central Africa, were few excavations take place, and that they survived in the "unchanging climate of equatorial Africa" whilst their cousins in North America perished.[2]

The emela-ntouka is not described as having the distinctive frilled neck of the ceratopsian dinosaurs, but Karl Shuker points out that a living ceratopsian could have lost this feature over 64 million years of evolution, especially with no large predators to worry about.[3]

Mackal said that he had never heard any mention of the emela-ntouka laying eggs, suggesting it is mammalian.[2] According to Karl Shuker, the small, elephant-like ears sometimes depicted on the emela-ntouka effectively rule out any non-mammalian identities.[3]

Living ArsinoitheriumEdit

Arsinoitherium by Zdenek Burian

Illustration of Arsinoitherium by Zdenek Burian.

Karl Shuker wrote that the image of the emela-ntouka conjured by the Cameroon carvings and Thibault's artwork reminded him somewhat of Arsinoitherium, a prehistoric rhinoceros-like animal which used to inhabit North Africa. It is believed to have been a semi-aquatic herbivore which spent much of its time in tropical swamps, as it was incapable of straightening its legs - recalling the bent legs of the emela-ntouka shown on the carving. Arsinoitherium's two large horns were also composed of bone.[3]

However, Shuker also notes that the emela-ntouka's long, hefty tail argues against an Arsinoitherium identity just as much as it does a rhinoceros identity.[3] Mackal also briefly discussed this theory, and also ruled it out due to Arsinoitherium's lack of a heavy tail, as well as beause Arsinoitherium had two horns, one next to the other.[3]

Living ElasmotheriumEdit

George Eberhart mentions the posibility that the emela-ntouka could be a living Elasmotherium, a large rhinoceros with a single horn which lived in Eurasia until the last ice age.[1] However, Elasmotherium is not known from Africa, and also did not have a heavy tail.

Similar cryptidsEdit

Do you think the Emela-ntouka exists? If so, what do you think the Emela-ntouka is?

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  • The chipekwe of East Africa, equated with the emela-ntouka by authors including Roy P. Mackal and Karl Shuker.
  • Forest rhinoceroses reported from Central Africa, which Mackal suggests have been confused with the emela-ntouka at times.
  • The irizima of Central Africa, equated with the emela-ntouka by Shuker.
  • The mokele-mbembe, the more famous of the Congo dinosaurs, which shares several of its habits and physical features with the emela-ntouka. The mokele-mbembe is also often confused with the emela-ntouka.
  • The ngoubou of Cameroon, which has also been suggested to be a living ceratopsian.

Further cryptozoological readingEdit

Notes and referencesEdit