Emela-Ntouka: Africa’s Killer of Elephants

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 21st, 2006

Cryptomundo Exclusive

The Emela-ntouka has been an unknown animal of some confusion in Africa. A few chroniclers have felt it was merely another named cryptid representing the sightings of the Mokele-mbembe. But as revealed by an image seen here for the first time, it appears to be a beast unlike the saurapod-like Mokele-mbembe.

Emela N\'Touka

Click on image for larger size

Copyright: Michel Ballot – Mokélé – Mbembé CAMEROUN 2004

On page 219 of one of my recent field guides, written with Patrick Huyghe, we noted, among several different kinds of alleged “dinosaurs” in Africa, “one animal is called by locals the emela ntouka, or ‘killer of elephants.’ The semi-aquatic Emela-ntouka is described as more rhinoceros-like than the Mokele-mbembe, with a single horn that protrudes from its head.”

In 1981, Dr. Roy Mackal while searching the Congo for the Mokele-mbembe, collected accounts of these Emela-ntouka. The natives in the northwest region of the Likoula swamp told him that this animal would gore elephants with its single horn. Mackal initially considered that Emela-ntouka might be a Centrosaurus (“pointed lizard”) of the Ceratopsian family (formerly the Monoclonius). But he also noted the pygmies did not report a neck frill, which he would have expected on a ceratopsian.

I have long speculated in writing, and wondered aloud if there might be an unknown new subspecies of aquatic rhinoceros in the Cameroon-Congo area, captured in the folklore of the Emela-ntouka.

Troubling in the identification has been the long tail seen on the Emela-ntouka. Rhinos have short tails. Disturbing to the ceratopsian school has been the lack of a neck frill, and the dubious survival of dinosaurs into modern times.

Now, in a Cryptomundo exclusive, I have obtained permission to publish French cryptozoologist Michel Ballot’s photograph of a wooden native representation of Emela-ntouka he discovered in Cameroon. This image is from his forthcoming 2006 book on his Mokele-mbembe expeditions.

Founder of the Cryptos Center, now replaced by the AFRC (association française de recherche cryptozoologique), Ballot is its secretary-general of exploration.

Ballot first came upon this Emela-ntouka sculpture in a zone of northern Cameroon, along the border with the Central African Republic. He located it at the time of his second search for indications of current or recent activity of a very large amphibious animal in the area. The French cryptozoologist has explored this region since the beginning of 2004, three times, in the hopes of finding links to the Mokele-mbembe activity in the Congo. His forthcoming book will overview his findings.

The sculpture is the first good three-dimensional native representation, as far as we know, ever seen in the West of the Emela-ntouka. Clearly shown is Emela-ntouka’s long tail and single horn in this unique piece of African art. But here too, you can see that there is no neck frill. What do appear to exist, and are graphically shown, are small, elephant-like ears, different than found on rhinoceros or allegedly on dinosaur.

This Emela-ntouka sculpture is a wonder to behold, with more new questions than answers, perhaps. Please share what you see from examining it.

Thanks to Michael Ballot for sharing this image, which he has strictly copyrighted due to his forthcoming book’s publication.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

17 Responses to “Emela-Ntouka: Africa’s Killer of Elephants”

  1. tpeter responds:

    Dear Loren,
    Although the elephant ears are (presumably) un-dinosaurian, and the lack of a neck frill rather un-ceratopsian, I could not but help thinking of the ceratopsian “gryf” of Pal-ul-don in Edgar Rice Burrough’s _Tarzan the Terrible_. Burroughs placed his Pal-ul-don (“Land of Men”) in central Africa, as I recall from clues in his novel probably in what would now be central Zaire (former Belgian Congo). He pictured it as a sort of “Lost World” reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle’s, populated by the “gryf,” saber-toothed tigers, and no less than three races of “pithecanthropi” with prehensile tails and thumb-like opposable big toes–the hairless, white-skinned “Ho-Don” (“White Men”), the black-furred “Waz-Don” (“Black Men”), and the gigantic, reddish-furred, Bigfoot- or Yeti-like “Tor-o-Don” (“Beast-Like Men”). He portrayed the “gryf” as gigantic (100 feet long!) carnivorous descendants of Triceratops, 3-horned like their Mesozoic ancestors. Burroughs even had his otherwise “sub-human” Tor-o-Don tame and ride the gryf!
    For years, I used to think that Burroughs sort of “missed the mark” by placing surviving dinosaurs in central Africa–but describing them as Triceratops descendants rather than as the Brontosaurus-like mokele-mbembe. But more recently, I’ve thought his “gryf” do sound a bit like the emela-ntouka!
    T. Peter

  2. CryptoInformant responds:


    Doesn’t look like a mammal, reptile, amphibian, or anything else alive. It does look like a Synapsid, formerly known as a mammal-like reptile, and the ancestor of mammals. It shows no evidence of fur, and has other reptilian features, but the ears are reminiscent of a mammal.

  3. EdwardHowland responds:

    Based solely on the picture my guess would be that it’s the product of a fertile artistic imagination rather than a depiction of any real creature; especially since the only other evidence so far seems to be from native stories. We shall see.

  4. Berkastler responds:

    It’s an aquatic elephant! It’s a hippo! It’s a rhino! What the hell is it? It’s got a mouth like a pirahna! AHHHHHHAAAGGGHH!

    I think it’s another product of African native folklore.

  5. 2400bc responds:

    If the artist could be located and questioned as to how accurately he carved this compared to a real one that would help. There aren’t any “ornamental” carvings on it so it may be a pretty close representation.

    As for the elephant-like ears: How do we know the Ceratopsians didn’t have such ears since they would be fleshy and unlikely to be preserved for fossilization?

    As for the “missing” head-frill and two extra horns maybe only the males have these?

    The tail on the carving looks slender to me as if it is used to propel the creature in the water with a side-to-side motion.

  6. CryptoInformant responds:

    If only males had the frill, there would be fossils without them, now wouldn’t there be?

  7. wjgibbons responds:

    I am intriqued by the carving of the alleged elephant killer. here is another picture, of the same animal and possibly of the same carving?

    I discussed this only three weeks ago with Roy Mackal, who still believes that the heavy tail may have been a confusion with the Mokele-mbembe proper. Depending on the tribal group, Mokele-mbembe is sometimes used as a generic term for any strange or odd animal they may occasional encounter.

    In any case, I have always felt that dealing directly with first-hand eye witness accounts is by far the best approach. Thus far I have interviewed about ten eye-witnesses in Cameroon and another dozen in the Congo who are familiar with these animals. Going on the information received, there appears to be two different types of animal involved.

    A) The river dwelling creature is described in the Congo as possessing one large ivory horn and is known by the Lingala name as Emela-Ntouka or “killer of elephants.”

    B) The same river dwelling hippos/elephant killer in Cameroon is known in the Baka language as N’goubou or “horned one” and is often said to possess two horns side-by-side near the top of the head, rather than a single horn on its nose. The Baka chief, Timbo and his hunters trapped and killed a river dwelling horned animal in 1995. They dug an elephant trap near the Boumba River and were astonished to see a few days later that they had caught a river Ngoubou in the trap. They still decided to butcher and eat the animal just the same. Timbo speculates that the animal had exited the river and fell into its trap as it made its way through the forest on an elephant trail.

    C). The savannah Ngoubou is often described as being as large as an elephant and possessing a distinctive neck frill with between three and six horns protruding from the head armor. In December 2000 just one month after Dave Woetzel and I departed from our first Cameroon expedition, Pierre Sima visited a village on the border with the Central African Republic and actually ate the meat of a savannah Ngoubou which, apparently, tasted like pork.

    D) Roy Mackal and I are convinced that we are dealing with two different horned animals here. One is a river-dwelling elephant and hippo killer and the other is strictly a very large savannah animal which still has a dislike for elephants. Whether this is a surviving ceratosian dinosaur or an unusual armored rhino remains to be seen. I personally believe that the mystery animal is most probably the latter.

    Mokele-mbembe proper, of course, remains elusive, However, my three American colleages, Milt Marcy, Peter Beach and Rob Mullin are currently in the target area. Let’s hope they have some exciting news for us when they emerge from the the interior of Cameroon at the end of the month!

    Bill Gibbons

  8. Gurpreet responds:

    Could it be that the sculptor’s depiction of ears could in actuality be the creature’s neck frill? Large, flaplike ears would probably be more of a hindrance to an aquatic or semi-aquatic animal. Hippos, e.g., have small ones.
    As to the aquatic-rhino hypothesis, is there any documented behavioral correlate in known rhino species? I have never seen pictures or videos of rhinos that are bathing or swimming in large bodies of water, rivers, etc.

  9. Loren Coleman responds:

    Most people have a mental image of a rhinoceros as a dryland mammal because of the African savannah variety. But in general, there is much association between rhinos, water, and rivers. In Africa, the range of rhinos is determined, usually, by the waterways. The Indian rhino wallows in lakes, rivers, and temporary pools. The rhinos of Indonesia are too. Indeed, in terms of the most “primitive,” behaviorally and biologically, the Sumatran rhino, you have here a rhino in Asia while nothing like a hippo, it nevertheless is more clearly semi-aquatic in habitat and habits, than purely only dry land restricted.

    As to artists’ depictions of large vs small ears, ears vs frills, and so on, this is going to have to take some sorting out between eyewitness accounts, the sculpture artists, and cryptozoologists on site.

    Good discussion here.

  10. CryptoInformant responds:

    A) The Ngouba may be Arsinotheirium or a close relative, which had 4 horns, the two largest of which were on the snout, and two small ones were on the forehead.
    B) The savannah Emela-Ntouka is clearly a ceratopid.
    C) The Emela-Ntouka is probably a species of elephant, because, as prehistory shows, trunks aren’t a necessary feature, and tusks can come out anywhere.

  11. CryptoInformant responds:

    If those ears were a frill, they would be even larger.

  12. U.T. Raptor responds:

    The sculpture appears to be a mix of multiple creatures (mostly elephant, with some rhino and possibly crocodile)…

  13. goldgrif responds:

    one thing I notice, has anyone thought about evolution being a factor in it’s appearance?
    If certopsian, and evolved over 65 million years, it’s frill may have become vestigial.

  14. CryptoInformant responds:

    goldgrif is probably right, the “ears” do appear to actually be a vestigial frill.

  15. Brindle responds:

    Do I remember correctly that Heuvelmans mentioned a creature in Madagascar that looked like a hippo with big floppy ears?

    I do not believe a horn was mentioned, but still, it seems coincidental.

  16. valst responds:

    An Chinese version of Emela-ntouka? Maybe all ceratopids didn’t have a neck frill or maybe it was gender or age determined? One of three or four crypto mysteries here;

  17. linnaeus1758 responds:

    I think a good match for the Emela-Ntouka is the Elasmotherium except for the tail. Was big as an elephant an had a huge single horn. But the Elasmotherium was shaggy and lived in cold places. But who knows? could be an descendant.

    And if the Emela-Ntouka had supposed ears the most likely is that it is a mammal. But that heavy tail is very intriguing.

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