Emela-Ntouka: Killer of Elephants

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 5th, 2006

Emela Ntouka

Click on above image, by Corey H., to see full-size version

Flashback and Update…

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 a carving (below) seen here for the first time earlier this year, it appears to be a beast unlike the saurapod-like Mokele-mbembe.

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 (per the M’boshi and French, but Likouala in most English text) 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 or species 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.

Emela N\'Touka

Click on image for larger size

Copyright: Michel Ballot – Mokélé – Mbembé CAMEROUN 2004

Earlier this year, I 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 2007 (see below) 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 comment on what you see from examining it, as did one reader who sketched the drawing at the top.

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

Update: French cryptozoologist Jean luc Drevillon has contacted me sharing the information that Michel Ballot’s book is now due out in 2007; the publisher is Les 3 spirales. By strange coincidence, I have been informed, 5 Dec 2006, Michel Ballot’s wife just gave birth to a baby girl today. Congratulations to the Ballot family.

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.

23 Responses to “Emela-Ntouka: Killer of Elephants”

  1. Ceroill responds:

    Thanks for the article, I’m intrigued by this beastie or alleged beastie.

  2. shovethenos responds:

    It would have to be a very atypical rhino to kill elephants. From what I understand the known species of rhinos usually lose when they go up against elephants. If this cryptid were a species of rhino it would probably have to be bigger than known rhinos, more aggressive than them, or both to get the better of elephants. Unless we’re just talking about them killing elephant calves, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  3. Remobec responds:

    It would seem to be carnivorous, or at least an omnivore. Why else would it kill elephants? Unless the “killer of elephants” moniker is more of a “it can kill elephants”, same as a moose can kill a man or a wolf or whatever defending its young.

    I’m no dino expert, but the body shape sure does seem reminiscent of herbivore dinos and mammals to me.

    I find the ears strange. Do we know for certain that dinos didn’t have ear flaps? I would think so, since there’s at least a few fossils with skin shapes. Rhinos and hippos have relatively small ears. Is there any other animal with elephantine ears?

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    This is a flashback story re: a previous entry here, in respond to people wishing to read about something else other than Bigfoot (during an obviously low cryptonews period).

    Additionally, it is an update.

    I have placed, in bold, indicators to that effect, so there will be no confusion.

  5. RockerEm responds:

    very intriguing!

  6. U.T. Raptor responds:

    I still say that carving looks like a composite creature.

    “Troubling in the identification has been the long tail seen on the Emela-ntouka. Rhinos have short tails.”

    Iirc, ceratopsians had short tails (for dinosaurs, anyway) as well, actually. I’m also unsure if any are known from Africa.

  7. eeka responds:

    The carving shows teeth, which ceratopsians did not have, but rather something that looks like a beak. Also, I don’t think it would be a stretch to confuse ear flaps for a frill. Maybe the person who carved this never saw a creature with frills and made them look like ear flaps. It is also possible that there are two sexually dimorphic forms of this creature, one with large frills (male), and one with small, ear flap looking frills (female). Never the less, it’s an interesting carving, and who doesn’t like living dino talk.

  8. shumway10973 responds:

    I think this brings up a very important question that I have always wondered, “Just how many “prehistoric” animals were there? How many do we not know about simply because either they weren’t fossilized (main place of retrieval for most scientists) or they are still alive today?” The possibilities are almost endless. Wonder if this is the behemoth mentioned in the book of Job?

  9. Blue Steel responds:

    It appears that the correct spelling for that area is “Likouala” swamp-forest.

  10. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    One thing that stands out for me on this creature is the tail. It is shaped like a reptile that is aquatic. Crocs, large lizards and sea snakes. I know of no other type of animal that has the broad sided tail except for some salamanders and this doesn’t look like a salamander to me. I read that we have only found a very small percentage of the dino types in fossils. This creature, I feel is a real reptile.

  11. youcantryreachingme responds:

    What’s to say this is not an artist’s rendition (not based on observation) of a mythical creature, much the same as a gargoyle sculpture might be?

  12. russeley responds:

    As ‘U T Raptor states’, the carving looks like a composite creature to me – the tail of a crocodile, the body of a rhino/hippo, the ears of an elephant, rhino’s horn etc.

    The large ears and aquatic tail seem incompatible – large ears evolved in elephants to help cool their body temperature, however an aquatic or semi-aquatic creature would not need to have evolved that adaptation, as the body temperature would be cooled by being in water (eg hippos have no need for large ears). Additionally, the large, heavy, aquatic tail would be a very cumbersome adaptation for a land-based animal.

    I work in a remote region of west/central Africa, and often come across carvings of local wildlife – but generally only in areas frequented by tourists. I am skeptical that this carving was produced by a local artesian, and was then found by Ballot. I think it is more likely that either the carving was never meant to represent a specific creature accurately; or that the carving was produced for Ballot to his specifications.

    It will be interesting to get more details of where the carving was discovered, and to see some examples of other carvings of known creatures in the same tribal style.

    I have no doubt that there are many creatures currently unknown to science waiting to be discovered in that region, but I suspect that this carving is a ‘red herring’.

  13. CRH responds:

    Hmmm, smaller than an elephant but presumably mammalian; comfortable in the water and an odd almost ‘duck-like’ snout. Finally, a possible ‘horn’ (tusk?).

    What about an extant mastodon sub-species? If memory serves, they were indeed smaller and distinct from elephants/mammoths and some species had what could be termed ‘inverted’ tusks that protruded from flat upper and lower jaws. The tail is a total mystery, but the description could be the result of lack of clear observation. If it spends large amounts of time in the water and is aggressive, what’s to stop humans from equating it with some sort of crocodile, which of course have long, thick tails, one transposed onto the other due to lack of certain detail.

  14. jinxstarr responds:

    I agree with the composite theory.

    However, as most all things do, I would imagine that any surviving sauropods, cerapods, whatever, would also have evolved over the centuries changing and distorting many recognizable features of their fossil brethren.

    As to the ears, maybe they’re not actual ears at all but rather a frill that has adapted to it’s environment and lifestyle. Like the frilled lizard in Australia, being able to lift and lower it. Or maybe, if it’s become obsolete as it was, it’s simply become limp and protects the vulnerable neck.

    The tail would make perfect since if the creature has adapted to aquatic life.

    Being an Elephant killer wouldn’t necessarily make it carnivorous in any way. Herbivores kill in defense every day but don’t eat the victim.

    A Triceratops, for example, may lose it’s head horns and develop a much larger nose horn as it evolves. It was known to have had a sort of beak (not unlike the odd snout on the statue) and teeth. It had a similar tail in length and proportion and may well have developed an aquatic edge to it over time, if it has taken to the water. Being very similar to Rhinos, it would likely have poor eyesight which may lead to more aggression. It would likely have gotten smaller over time but still be quite large compared Rhinos and Hippos.

    Just my thoughts 🙂

    I’ve been reading here for a long time now but have just started commenting. Thanks so much for having this wonderful site and for allowing me to be a part of it 🙂


  15. busterggi responds:

    The whole surviving African dinosaurs issue is something I’m completely skeptical about.

    Large animals still need sufficient numbers to maintain a breeding population. They also leave lots of physical evidence like trackways, broken plants/trees. And they eat a lot.

    So where is the physical evidence for these African beasties? No tracks, no areas of obvious grazing, no skeletal remains.

    Nope, I don’t buy them. Maybe a dwarf forest elephant but not a dinosaur.

  16. zogarma responds:

    Similar carving here.

  17. SageBrush responds:

    I keep on looking at the tail, and although it looks reptilian (fat, 3 dimensional, crocodile-like) in the drawing, if you look more closely at the sculpture, it appears to be quite flat. Granted, we have only one perspective, but it looks very two dimensional, as if it were just a skin flap. If this is so, it would seem the purpose of the tail is to dissipate heat in the same way the enlarged ears would, and not aquatic navigation, since it does not seem to have the muscle mass needed.

    If the tail is just a mass of skin, like the ears, it would seem the animal is mammalian. If its body mass is much larger than a rhinoceros’s (say, closer to that of an elephant’s), the more skin surface area, the better.

    I do wonder how it manages to keep from tripping over such a *long* tail, though. If this is a real animal, I’d think the tail would either be no longer than the legs, or held aloft. If it’s semi-aquatic, the water would hold the tail up, but then, considering the lack of muscle, what is the purpose of the tail? A decoy for crocs? Display?

  18. vet72 responds:

    Has anyone other than the natives in the northwest region of the Likoula Swamp actually witness this “creature” kill an elephant. It would be interesting to see the kind of bodily damage on a an elephant supposedly killed by one of these. There are very few animals that can kill an elephant other than another elephant and of course man. A creature capable of such power is quite interesting to say the least.

  19. Bob Michaels responds:

    Could be a Chipekwe? A type of Stegosaur? More likely a type of water rhino.

  20. pbro responds:

    For one thing, the tail makes no sense for aquatic occupations when appended to the body we see represented, as the musculature and form of the Body would have no way to make use of the tail for propulsion, which the tail’s shape suggests it would be used/adapted for.

    And, as a tail otherwise, it has an improbable shape and length for this body regardless of purported use…

    This does seem like a composite, and a contrived carving/representation to me.

    For this creature to ‘kill’ Elephants, one would think it would have to do so on dry land. And, if it is supposedly an aqautic creature, what motive or reason would it have to do so?

    If is were to attack Elephants in rivers which elephants only occasionally or carefully would have much to do with anyway, it still makes no sense to me.

    Certainly not be ‘killing’ Elephants to eat them, and, as Elephants are Herbivorous, Elephants, in aquatic or more arid contexts, are hardly a threat to anyone or anyone’s vulnerable young, which would invite agressive acts of defense, so…

    Maybe a figurative attribution to what seems at best, is a very doubtful probability of creature.

  21. skeptik responds:

    Maybe they were pot-belly elephants?

  22. kamoeba responds:

    When I was a kid in the days before VHS and DVD, there was nothing better than catching a 50’s or 60’s Japanese monster movie on TV (especially if I got to stay up past bedtime to watch). After watching the movies I’d often draw the monster(s) I’d seen. Looking back on these 30-year-old drawings, I made a lot of mistakes. My drawings were generally recognizable as the monsters I’d watched, but they often had major mistakes/omissions/changes in the finer details. I’m sure that if I was 7 years old today and watched the same movies with the benefit of crisp DVD picture, pause, slo-mo, access to monster photos on the internet and so forth, my drawings would be much more detailed and accurate. My guess is that the person who carved this piece had never seen the beast in question and had probably heard about it from more than one unreliable source (and these sources in turn were perhaps merely passing a description without ever having seen the creature). If this creature does exist, I would think that it’s possible it may look drastically differnt from this sculpture.

    By the way, I recently caught a few minutes of a nature special about elephants killing rhinos. The program showed of dead rhinos that had been killed by elephants. The theory is that when elephants reach maturation, they rut. During this phase the males become agressive and territorial, especially if they have matured at a younger-than-usual age. This is not to say that all male elephants in this phase go out and attack rhinos. It doesn’t seem logical, but it still does happen occasionally. The reason I mention this is because there are some posts in this thread that wonder why an Emela-Ntouka would bother to kill an elephant. I’m not saying it’s for the same reason an elephant would kill a rhino, I’m saying that to us it seems as illogical as an elephant killing a rhino…an event proven to occur.

    As far as dinosaurs surviving in the Congo…if they’re there, I’m sure they leave plenty of physical evidence. There just aren’t that many people around that area to find the evidence. A part of me is also skeptical, but then there’s that darn coelacanth…

  23. crypto_randz responds:

    What a great subject back to the dinosaur ages, this story has always intrigued me. In my opinion, the animal may be a cousin to the rhino but I’m leaning towards a descendant of the triceratops perhaps a new specie of triceratops. The thing that has always amazed me about the Congo region is how these animals are so elusive. The Congo is so very large. I have looked at various maps of the Congo region, it’s a perfect place for dinosaurs to roam.

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