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Re: Loch Ness & Lake Tele in Africa

At 08:17 PM 14/01/1999 +0000, you wrote:
>Good post, Dwight.  You're right about our imaginations and desires to
>confront the unusual.  I'm interested in cryptozoology, although I think
>few (if any) of the "spectacular" cryptids like sasquatch or lake monsters
>exist.  I'd love nothing better than to be wrong, of course.  :)

I think it is worth pointing out, in this context, that one of the "bibles"
of cryptozoology, Bernhard Huevelmans' "On the Track of Unknown Animals",
was written over 45 years ago.  It describes a very long list of
potentially unknown creatures (not counting sea and lake monsters which
appear in other books). In the years since there have been a number of
truly spectacular new discoveries (in addition to hundreds of birds,
countless fishes and insects etc described since then), such as the saola
of Vietnam and the megamouth shark.  And yet NOT ONE of Huevelmans'
creatures has come to light!

This reinforces a conclusion I have come to, particularly while researching
a children's book on some of the new discoveries.  It is that the more an
animal comes to the attention of cryptozooogists and the public at large,
the less likely it is to actually exist.  The real new discoveries have
been almost entirely total surprises (though not, of course, to local
people in the area), and the confirming scientific evidence establishing
their reality came to hand at the same time as their discovery.  The saola
(the "pseudoryx" shown in the NOVA program) was discovered by John
MacKinnon and his team the FIRST DAY they entered the Vu Quang area, in the
form not of rumors or fleeting glimpses but of skulls hanging as hunting
trophies on the walls of village huts.  The megamouth was completely
unknown until a specimen was hauled up (despite the statement on NOVA this
is no more "prehistoric" than any other shark).  That's the way real
discoveries get made.

>You mention the mokele m'bembe  (sorry for errant spelling, my spell
>checker doesn't have that for some reason!) in or near Lake Tele.  Perhaps
>someone on this group can clear up a question I've had for some time.  The
>current view of dinosaurs is that they were NOT sluggish, cold-blooded
>lizard-like reptiles, but active creatures.  The brontosaurus/apatosaurus
>image we had, of swamp-bound animals, was almost certainly wrong, yet the
>mokele m'bembe is supposed to be a small sauropod dinosaur, and it lives in
>the middle of a bloody swamp!  Either current science is wrong about
>dinosaur habits, or this simple fact eliminates the dinosaur hypothesis for
>what the creature in Lake Tele is.

The idea that mkole mbembe is a dinosaur is, I think, entirely a
consequence of the "swamp-bound" restorations of these creatures popular a
few decades ago.  Frankly, if it exists (which I doubt) it could be just
about anything; the reports are pretty vague.  Of course, we have no proof
that real dinosaurs didn't drop in to the local swamp now and then
(elephants do, but that doesn't make them "swamp-bound").  I think that
this is a case of people like Roy Mackal putting two and two together and
getting a million or so.  Combine a local legend and a few funny noises
with a few inaccurate pictures in a book, and hey presto! A living
dinosaur.  After all, there are so many unusual fossil animals known that
it would be surprising if any legendary creature (most of which are just
exaggerated versions of living animals anyway) couldn't be "identified"
with one or the other of them, especially if you squint a bit. 
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court                 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          mailto:ornstn@home.com