Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
Category Neodinosaur
Proposed scientific names
Other names
Country reported Liberia
First reported 2007[1]
Prominent investigators • John-Mark Shephard
Paul Mungeam

The gbahali (bar-hye) is a neodinosaurian cryptid reported from the rainforest rivers of Liberia's Lofa County, particularly the Kahai River. Described as a large amphibious reptile with the aspects of both crocodiles and monitor lizards, it has popularly been associated with the Triassic rauisuchian Postosuchus.[1][2][3]


American aid worker and missionary John-Mark Shephard collected reports of the gbahali in Liberia, which he sent to Loren Coleman in December 2007. Although local people greatly feared the gbahali for its attacks on people, according to Shephard, they regarded it as an ordinary animal, and did not attach any supernatural aspects to it. Some fishermen claimed that they used to catch and kill gbahali, capturing them in nets before shooting them to death with shotguns, and selling their meat in local markets.[1] Shephard also collected accounts of a second unknown animal in Liberia, the kumbway.

In 2016, cinematographer Paul Mungeam investigated the gbahali in Lofa County, near the border with Guinea, for his programme Expedition Mungo (2017), which also featured Shephard. He found that the gbahali was so feared in Lofa that fishermen rarely ventured to the tributaries of the Kahai River which it was known to inhabit, but was able to confirm that people did not regard the animal as in any way supernatural or spiritual.[3]


When Shephard showed some villagers pictures of various modern and prehistoric crocodilians and crocodilian relatives,[3] they said that the head and body were similar to those of the Postosuchus, but the ghabali's legs were more like those of a crocodile; sprawling, rather than supporting the body from below.[1] Despite this, it is alleged to walk with its belly off the ground.[3] Informants described it as resembling a crocodile or monitor lizard, but up to 25–30 ft (7–9 m) long, with back covered in three rows of serrated armour, a short snout with large teeth, and a powerful tail.[1] According to a number of Mungeam's informants, its head is more like that of a monitor lizard than a crocodile.[3]

The gbahali is regarded as dangerous and aggressive, and is reported to have killed people in the past. It is said to ambush its prey from the river and drag the animal underwater to be drowned, but it eats the prey's carcass on the riverbank. During the rainy season, when they are seen most often, they move upstream in search of food.[1]


Shephard has interviewed several alleged gbahali eyewitnesses, who claimed to have seen specimens "in recent [as of 2007] years", particularly fishermen living deep in the rainforest. In November 2007, a person was supposedly killed by a "large unknown animal" at the riverine village of Gelema, where the town meeting house is said to have been "built according to the length of a gbahali that was killed there in years gone by". Shephard also heard a rumour that a gbahali had been photographed.[1]

During his investigation in Lofa, a man named Momo told Mungeam that he and his brother had seen a gbahali while hunting on the Kahai River. He was certain that it was not a crocodile, and described it as having a lizard-like head, interlocking teeth, and eyes placed far backwards. It walked on all fours, with its body raised off the ground, and disappeared into the water. Momo also claimed that a gbahali had killed and eaten three men who were trying to cross the river by raft at dusk.[3]

At the remote frontier village of Monena, Mungeam found that seven villagers claimed to have seen a gbahali. Eyewitness Isaac claimed to have seen one while fishing nearby. He estimated that the gbahali was around 20 ft (6 m) in length, and maintained that it was very different to a crocodile.[3]

I went fishing by the river with my brother. I saw something on the water coming towards him. He turned around and said "It looks like a crocodile". I said "Hey, that is not a crocodile, that is an animal bigger than a crocodile". We're talking about the Gbahali ... The mouth was in the form of an iguana [monitor].

Isaac also reported a second or third-hand story of a gbahali attack on a man crossing a shallow river. The victim had been trying to get to a party of fishermen friends on the opposite bank, who, having seen a gbahali earlier in the day, warned him not to enter the water. Not heeding their warning, he waded across, but was attacked and dragged out of sight. Another fisherman named Seiku, who divided his time between Monena and a camp on a remote stretch of the river, told Mungeam that he had twice seen a gbahali in September 2016, just a few months before Mungeam's own arrival.[3]


Postosuchus BW

The gbahali has popularly been identified with Postosuchus (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Nguma-monene-David-Miller-Roy Mackal

Illustration of the nguma-monene by David Miller from A Living Dinosaur? (1987).

Mungeam initially believed the gbahali to be a known species of crocodile, but, after the fisherman eyewitnesses consistently rejected this identity, he inclined towards accepting the gbahali as an unknown species. Although its head was compared to that of a monitor lizard, Mungeam dismissed a giant monitor identity for the gbahali.[3] Other giant reptiles with serrated backs, such as the nguma-monene, mbielu-mbielu-mbielu, and muhuru, are reported from the Republic of the Congo and Kenya, and Roy P. Mackal theorised that such animals could plausibly be a species of gigantic, ridge-backed monitor. However, he admitted that the animal would have to be much larger than any known monitor, and that no monitors have anything resembling serrations or armour.[4]

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Coleman, Loren (20 December 2007) On The Track of The Gbahali cryptozoonews.com [Accessed 12 August 2019]
  2. Marshall, Carl "An Overview of the Effects of Liberia's Political Instability Within a Cryptozoological Research Framework," Animals & Men, No. 55 (December 2015)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "Living Dinosaur of Liberia". Expedition Mungo: Series 1, Episode 1 (28 May 2017)
  4. Mackal, Roy P. (1987) A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe, Brill, ISBN 978-9004085435