It’s not quite as famous as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster—at least, not in Europe or North America–but Mokele-mbembe (“he who stops the flow of rivers”) is definitely a close contender. For the last two centuries, vague reports have circulated of a long-necked, long-tailed, three-clawed, terrifyingly huge animal residing deep in the Congo River basin of central Africa. Cryptozoologists, who have never met a supposedly extinct dinosaur that they didn’t like, have naturally identified Mokele-mbembe as a living sauropod (the family of huge, four-legged dinosaurs characterized by Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus) the last straggling descendants of which went extinct 65 million years ago.
Before we address Mokele-mbembe in particular, it’s worth asking: precisely what level of proof is required to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a creature thought to have been extinct for tens of millions of years is still alive and flourishing? Second-hand evidence from tribal elders or easily impressionable children isn’t enough; what’s needed is a time-stamped digital video, the eyewitness testimony of trained experts, and if not an actual living, breathing specimen, then at least its rotting carcass. Everything else, as they say in court, is hearsay.