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Living Dinosaurs?

Once upon a time, reptilian giants ruled the planet. From the terrifying jaws of the Tyrannosaurus rex to the swooping neck of the Diplodocus, the sheer variety of dinosaurs that walked the Earth is only slightly less amazing than the fact that every six-year-old can memorize all their quirky Latin names. Unfortunately for the dinosaurs — though, rather fortunately for mammals — the reptile empire ended about 66 million years ago, when an asteroid smacked into Earth. While some dinosaurs evolved into birds, the rest of these giant prehistoric animals were wiped out, forever.

Or were they? If you ask some folks in cryptozoology circles, they'll tell you that a few dinos are still roaming about, whether they're swimming in Loch Ness or stomping through the Australian Outback. Now, to be clear, there's no truly verifiable evidence to suggest these creatures are around in anything but Jurassic Park movies. Nonetheless, legends persist, probably because it's a whole lot of fun to imagine that dinosaurs are still alive today.

According to legend, the dense rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hide one of the last great undiscovered wonders of the world, a mysterious creature of epic proportions. This massive animal, known as Mokele-mbembe — in the Lingala dialect, "one who stops the flow of rivers," according to Herman A. Regusters — is said to be 35 feet long, with grayish skin and a long neck. Eyewitnesses report the monster resembles a Brontosaurus, as LiveScience explains, other than the fact that Mokele-mbembe is no gentle, plodding vegetarian.

Anyhow, legends about a living Brontosaurus in the Congo aren't a recent phenomenon. The first published reference to Mokele-mbembe occurred in the 1909 book Beasts and Men by  Carl Hagenbeck, a showboating zoologist who tried to find the creature. His journey proved fruitless, but he still came away believing it was real. 

Hagenbeck wasn't the last foreign invader to hunt for Mokele-mbembe, of course. More recently, the so-called "Newmac Expedition" was a Kickstarter campaign by a bunch of inexperienced kids, which somehow raised almost $28,000 in the promise of finding the animal. Speaking to The Huffington Post, expedition lead Stephen McCullah emphasized that he planned to bring the legendary creature back alive, rather than dead, by using tranquilizer rifles. Guess he never saw Spielberg's The Lost World, huh? Unsurprisingly, the Newmac Expedition failed miserably, according to the Sun-Sentinel. 

If you looked outside your window and saw a 10-foot-tall, Tyrannosaurus-looking mofo with gray skin and sharp teeth, what would you do? Well, back in 2004, a handful of people in Papua New Guinea reported having this exact problem. The creature allegedly devoured three dogs, which is about as mean as it gets. One witness, Christine Samei, described the dinosaur as a "very huge and ugly looking animal." So, understandably enough, according to Australian newspaper The Age, the villagers had phoned up the cops. 

Soon enough, the police swarmed into the marshes near Rabaul — a town destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1994 — hunting for the dino. And yep, you guessed it. Nothing was found. This was rather disappointing news to local Kokopo mayor, Albert Buanga, who rightfully pointed out that a living dinosaur would've made an awesome tourist attraction. Hey, can't argue with that.

That said, this is hardly the first dinosaur "sighting" that's happened in Papua New Guinea. As points out, the island province has plenty of stories about the so-called "ropen," said to be a living pterosaur. Though people have recorded footage of the ropen in action, these clips have been debunked, since they clearly depict ordinary frigatebirds. These animals might look like pterosaurs, if you squint hard enough, but they're certainly not going to take on Godzilla anytime soon.


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