Ngoubous (Baka: "horned one" or "animal"; in-goo-boo or en-goo-boo), also spelled n'goubou and ngoulou, are cryptids reported from eastern Cameroon, described as rhinoceros-like animals similar to the emela-ntouka of the Republic of the Congo. The term ngoubou is nonspecific, being applied to two supposedly-distinct cryptids, one savannah-dwelling and the other amphibious, and to known animals. It is also sometimes applied to the mokele-mbembe.
Depending on its pronounciation, the name ngoubou usually refers to the rhinoceros or the hippopotamus. The cryptozoological ngoubou was first heard of in Cameroon in 2000, by Bill Gibbons and Dave Woetzel, and later in 2001, by the CryptoSafari and British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club expedition. During the second expedition, members collected descriptions and sightings of two apparently-unknown animals referred to by the Baka people as ngoubous. Gibbons has photographs of drawings of both types of ngoubou made by Baka people. Michel Ballot has also collected accounts, most recently in June 2018.
The better-known version was said to live on the most remote areas of savannah west of the Boumba River, towards the border with the Central African Republic. In 2000, the Baka people considered this ngoubou to be rare, but they believed it still existed. Several people claimed to have seen one, or two know someone who had, but there were no recent sightings. The father of a senior community member had allegedly speared one to death some years previously.
The other version, lesser-known but better-supported by claimed sightings, was said to be an aquatic animal which lived in the Boumba, Sangha, and Dja Rivers, and nearby swamps. In 2000, Gibbons and Woetzel learned that an elderly Baka couple residing in Dimaka claimed to have observed an ngoubou in the Ngoko (Lower Dja) River for several years.
Michel Ballot describes the n'goubou as an animal with a single sharp horn on its head, which is much feared by Baka fishermen. Both types are depicted in Baka illustrations as similar, bulky-bodied, rhinoceros-like quadrupeds with short tails and armoured bodies.
According to Baka people, the savannah ngoubou is the size of an ox, with a beaked mouth, a small elephant-like tail, a single nasal horn, and a series of six horns around a supposed frill. It is said to bear live young, and adults have occasionally been observed with calves. Like the emela-ntouka, the savannah ngoubou is reputed to disembowel elephants. It was cautiously identified by locals with an image of Triceratops, to which it was said to bear only a vague resemblance.
The river ngoubou is said to be almost as large as the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). When shown a picture book of modern and prehistoric animals, Baka people selected an image of Arsinoitherium as most closely resembling the ngoubou. They said that it had two nasal horns positioned laterally, one next to the other, not one-behind-the-other as in rhinoceroses. However, it is also sometimes described as one-horned, a discrepancy which Bill Gibbons attributes to possible sexual dimorphism. According to Pierre Sima, its flesh tastes like pork. It is capable of hiding by submerging itself underwater, like a hippopotamus, and is believed to kill elephants and occasionally attack canoes.
A double-horned river ngoubou is said to have been captured and killed in a Baka elephant trap in 1996, as it was exiting the Boumba River. The Baka had set up their trap, a concealed pit filled with pikes, along a forest trail, and when they returned to it after a week, they found the animal dead inside it.
During November 2000, when Gibbons' expedition was in Cameroon, an ngoubou was allegedly shot and killed by villagers of Ndelele. When Cameroonian missionary Pierre Sima arrived at Ndelele two days later, he ate what the villagers told him was flesh from the ngoubou, which he said tasted like pork; the rest of the flesh had been eaten by villagers, and the bones had been given to village dogs. The villagers may have sawed off the ngoubou's horns and sold them to French loggers: a party of white men identified as loggers were alleged to have captured a dodu at around the same time.
- See also: Emela-ntouka§Theories
The aquatic ngoubou is similar to other "water rhinoceroses," such as the emela-ntouka of the Republic of the Congo, the chipekwe of Zambia, and the ntambue ya mai and irizima of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of these cryptids are described as amphibious, rhinoceros-like animals with one, or more rarely two ore more, horns, and are usually said to kill hippoptamuses and elephants. These water rhinoceroses have been speculated to be ceratopsian dinosaurs (~161–66 MYA), a theory no longer supported by most cryptozoologists in light of clearly mammalian characteristics in their descriptions. Roy P. Mackal's preferred candidate was a species of large, semiaquatic rhinoceros.
With its double horns, the river ngoubou bears a close resemblance to Arsinoitherium (~34–24 MYA), an Afro-Arabian embrithopod, a distant relative of proboscideans and hyraces, which superficially resembled a rhinoceros and is believed to have been semi-aquatic. While its lifestyle is still debated, it certainly inhabited wetland and riverine environments, especially in tropical rainforests. Though best known from North Africa, Arsinoitherium did also inhabit Central Africa, as far southwest as as northern Angola during the Early Oligocene. The youngest known fossils of Arsinoitherium date to the Late Oligocene, and are from Kenya (~27–24 MYA) and Ethiopia (~28–27 MYA). Due to the limits of fossilisation, whether or not Arsinoitherium had thick, armour-like skin is unknown, but Gibbons suggests that it is not impossible. Arsinoitherium is also a candidate for other water rhinoceroses such as the emela-ntouka, chipekwe, and multi-horned irizima. However, twin horns have also evolved in certain true rhinoceroses, such as Menoceras of the Miocene Americas.
The seven horns of the savannah ngoubou initially led to speculation that it was a relative of the similarly-horned North American ceratopsian Styracosaurus (~75 MYA). However, as noted by Gibbons, the thin tail and viviparous reproduction of the ngoubou indicate a mammalian identity. Gibbons believes it could be a species of heavily-armoured rhinoceros, similar to the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), and therefore like some forest rhinoceroses. Alternatively, Dale A. Drinnon identifies the ngoubou as a possible living Sivatherium (~7 MYA–80 KYA), a giant antlered giraffid, on account of its horned "frill," which he argues may be a set of palmate, antler-like ossicones. There is also limited iconographic evidence for historical Sivatherium survival in North Africa and West Asia. In both of these mammalian interpretations, the alleged beak would be explained as a drooping upper lip characteristic of many ungulates.
Notes and references
- "William Gibbons," Monster X Radio (2020) — Online
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Ballot, Michel Le Premier Témoignage: Mokele Mbembe Expeditions mokelembembeexpeditions.blogspot.com (3 January 2009) [Accessed 8 March 2021]
- Killer of Elephants Revisited (2018) — Online
- Ballot, Michel "Que Représente la Sculpture Trouvée par Michel Ballot en 2005?," Cahiers Cryptozoologiques Africains, No. 1 (December 2007 – January 2008)
- 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
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2010) Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times, CFZ Press, ISBN 978-1-905723-62-1
- Cameroon Expedition Update (2019) — Online
- Ballot, Michel Notre Expedition de Janvier 2010 mokelembembeexpeditions.blogspot.com (12 February 2010) [Accessed 8 March 2021] – Wayback Machine
- Coleman, Loren News On Mokele-Mbembe Research cryptozoonews.com (30 December 2009) [Accessed 24 May 2020]
- Mackal, Roy P. (1987) A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe, Brill, ISBN 978-9004085435
- Werdelin, Lars & Sanders, William Joseph (2010) Cenozoic Mammals of Africa
- Drinnon, Dale A. Surviving Sivatheres frontiersofzoology.blogspot.com (17 April 2011) [Accessed 24 May 2020]
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-283-5