History Channel - Original Air Date: 6/24/09
MQ goes to Cameroon, Africa, to search for the Mokele-Mbembe, a supposed throwback to the dinosaur age -- like a brontosaurus. The show features the usual compelling eyewitness accounts and supporting animations. Dr. Roy Mackal has spent a long time looking for the beast, but other scientists point out there is no fossil record to support the ongoing existence of such creatures. Mackal tells stories from explorers of three-toed tracks three feet across. Because of eyewitness reports, Mackal is convinced the creature is real: a living dinosaur. In 2004, Peter Beach returned with pictures and casts of supposed footprints. He says the local foliage, too tall for any known animal to reach, had been stripped. The prints and photos are taken for analysis. MQ sends a team to Africa to investigate, but -- already, at the start -- one of them says they're more interested in the eyewitness reports than in the opinions of western scientists as to whether the animal can exist. This does not bode well for scientific inquiry. The remoteness of the region makes just getting to the area in question difficult (especially in the rainy season). Locals draw a dinosaur-like picture in the sand, but the show's claim that these people have little contact with the outside world seems undercut by their western wardrobes. They do, however, pick a dinosaur out of a "mugshot book" of possible local animals.
Theorizing that the creature may hole up on local caves (15' across) during the dry season, the MQ team sets some camera traps and boats out looking for lairs. (At this point, we seem to be into speculation.) They find a deep hole, but the earth is too hard to excavate and discover what's inside. So they decide to use sonar to check the river bed, and seem to find some crocs, snakes, and perhaps tree branches. But they get no video, and most of their "discoveries" are mere speculation based on sonar blips -- especially when they seem to think they've found something with a big body and long neck. Surely this would have been worth further investigation, even if starting the motor might have scared the beast. (Maybe especially if.) Yet, they keep drifting and trolling the river, finally motoring down to the deeper headwaters. They think they may have found something here, too, but they drift too close to the Congo, on the other side of the river, and have to turn away to avoid political trouble. Their camera traps, as usual, turn up nothing out of the ordinary. The sauropod expert says that the toes on the casts are placed wrong for a dinosaur, and pictures of dino tracks bear this out. "Who knows?" one researcher says at the conclusion, "the next time we might get some film." Yes, that would be nice.
I'm a sucker for dinosaur stories, and the legend of this beast is fascinating to me. The witness stories are interesting and compelling, but the researchers seem to be entirely too invested in the reality of the creature and it being some kind of dinosaur. That's not a very scientific POV. And, I should point out that a recent episode of Destination Truth concluded that the beast was merely legend and misreporting of encounters with hippos. Sadly, another strikeout for MonsterQuest. By my count, that's no real monsters found (and only a couple of large animals). Better luck next season.
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