Olitiau, William Rebsamen

Sanderson's encounter with the olitiau, as drawn by William Rebsamen.

Country reported: Cameroon

The olitiau is a cryptid bat reported from Cameroon in West-Central Africa.[1][2] It has sometimes been equated with the kongamato.[3]


"Olitiau" is an Ipulo word, and is possibly a transcription of "Ole Ntya" ("cloven" or "forked"), which is the name of a dance mask with horns that is used to represent a demon.[1]


The olitiau is described as a large black bat with a 6 to 12 foot wingspan, with a lower jaw filled with 2-inch long teeth seperated by gaps of the same width. It flies with a slow, flapping motion of its wings, and its teeth c chatter.[1]



Ivan T. Sanderson reported the only known sighting of the olitiau in 1932. It appeared to him and Gerald Russell after they stopped to retrieve a hammer-headed bat they had shot:[4]

"Then I let out a shout also and instantly bobbed down under the water, because, coming straight at me only a few feet above the water was a black thing the size of an eagle. I had only a glimpse of its face, yet that was quite sufficient, for its lower jaw hung open and bore a semicircle of pointed white teeth set about their own width apart from each other. When I emerged, it was gone. ... And just before it became too dark to see, it came again, hurtling back down the river, its teeth chattering, the air "shss-shssing" as it was cleft by the great, black, dracula-like wings."


Sanderson believed the animal he saw was a bat. The hammer-headed bat, which Sanderson and Russell had just shot, is the largest African bat, with a wingspan of up to 3 feet, and George Eberhart writes that the pair could have been surprised by another specimen of a bat they had just shot; however, the hammer-headed bat is usually shy and harmless, and, as Karl Shuker notes, has an elongated head completely different to the flattened, monkey-like face of the olitiau[2] The yellow-winged bat is the largest insectivorous bat in Africa, but it does not achieve a wingspan of more than 16 inches.[1]

Karl Shuker and Sanderson himself[3] suggested the olitiau could have been an undiscovered giant bat of the Microchiroptera suborder.[1]

Eberhart also lists a living pterosaur as a possible explanation, writing that although Sanderson insisted the animal was a bat, its dentition seems reptilian. He also notes that there is some evidence suggesting pterosaurs may have had hair.[1]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shuker, Karl (2014) The Beasts That Hide from Man
  3. 3.0 3.1 Coleman, Loren & Clark, Jerome (1999) Cryptozoology A to Z
  4. Sanderson, Ivan T. (1937) Animal Treasure