It sounds like a script from Steven Spielberg's waste basket, but an expedition named Dino2000 is preparing to visit uncharted swampland in the Republic of Congo's Likouala region, searching for mokele mbembe, a 10 metre-long creature like a scaleless crocodile, supposedly a member of the sauropod family of dinosaurs.
Just how mokele mbembe survived the various disasters visited on its cousins 65 million years ago, Dino2000's founder, Adam Davies, declined to say. But this has not dissuaded other crypto-zoologists from joining his expedition to find the Congolese equivalent of the Loch Ness monster.
Sightings of mokele mbembe (it means "stopper of the river") date back to 1776 when clawmarks, said to be three feet in circumference, were discovered embedded in the mud of a river bank. It is variously described as "half- crocodile, half-elephant" and alleged proof of its existence emerged as recently as 1958, when one was reputedly caught by villagers. But no one survived to tell the tale: the villagers died after eating the creature.
Since the local legends began, there have been about a dozen abortive attempts to find the creature, including one in 1910 by the Smithsonian Institute. The latest journey to find mokele mbembe involves Mr Davies, a Cable and Wireless manager from Bramhall, Cheshire, and seven other enthusiasts who will set off on their expedition to the Congolese swamps next year.
Among the Dino2000 team members will be the tireless Swedish explorer Jan-Ove Sundberg, president of the Global Underwater Search Team, whose other project involves scouring Lake Seljordsvatnett in Norway for a mysterious sea serpent.
Sceptics believe that Dino2000 is doomed to failure since all the evidence points to mokele mbembe being nothing more exotic than a large python. This has done little to dim the enthusiasm of Mr Davies, who earlier this year went to Sumatra to find a "yeti-like" creature, the orang pendek. He had no joy.
He said: "I suppose I've got a low boredom threshold. I can't sit in front of a TV every night. I need the buzz of adventure, and in all honesty I wish I'd been born in the last century. But we are talking about an area undisturbed for millions of years, and if we find the creature it will be an argument for protecting this habitat from development and economic pressures."Reuse content