Ever since I can remember, I had heard grand tales of a giant species of bear that lived in the western slopes of Kenya only known by locals as ‘Ngoloko’. The unofficial name was the Nandi Bear. Scientists like to call creatures like this, a cryptid, a fancy way of saying ‘unconfirmed animal’ or they do not know what it is.
The hunt for this mysterious, seemingly ferocious and powerful carnivore, has now entered the books of mythology alongside the Abominable Snowman of Asia or the Loch Ness Monster of Europe. No concrete evidence of the existence of these animals has ever been presented despite numerous claims of sightings by campers, fishermen and hunters.
The description of Ngoloko, helps one see why it is regarded as Africa’s most vicious killing beast. With sharp claws, huge teeth and a body the size of a large lion, the Nandi Bear has high front shoulders over 4 feet tall and a sloping back resembling that of a Hyena.
The Nandi people claim it hunts humans only to eat their brains. Some say it can even climb trees and pounce on its unsuspecting prey below. Like a bear, it has been ‘observed’ on several occasions by witnesses, to have the ability to stand on its hind legs.
One, Major Toulson, a military settler in Uasin Gishu, in 1912, talks of having seen a “strange beast which stood about 18 inches to 20 inches at the shoulder and appeared black, with a gait similar to that of a bear – a kind of shuffling walk”.
While some locals strongly believe it could be one of either a Hyena or Bear, there are those who think the Ngoloko is a giant-sized Baboon. Hyena, Bear or Baboon, the true nature of this animal remains a mystery.
Chances of it being a Bear are slim though because the last known Bear in Africa, the Atlas Bear, lived in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and was hunted down for sport to extinction by Roman conquistadors spreading the hold of Rome to North Africa. No fossil evidence exists to suggest it may have had a habitat different from these – especially in these parts of Kenya.
The giant hyena theory on the other hand, seems to fit the bill. Fossil records show that during the Pleistocene, there lived a hyena in Africa that was roughly the size of a lion called the Short-Faced Hyena. Being a much more active hunter, the Short-Faced Hyena would match many of the reported attacks by the Nandi Bear.
Having said that, it is still hard to be conclusive on what exactly the Nandi Bear’s real identity is and eye-witness accounts are not helping a lot. Two accounts recorded more than a century ago by 2 well-known Kenya colonists, Major Braithwaite and Mr. C. Kenneth Archer, seem to be the closest identification ever made – being military and all.
Their descriptions seems to point to the bear theory. Could it be that the Atlas Bear has made a comeback and is on a revenge mission to destroy humanity by eating their heads-off?
Until the day a real sighting is clearly documented beyond a shadow of a doubt or better yet, one is actually caught for science, the story of the Nandi Bear shall remain hidden in great mystery and local folklore. Only time will tell. If you have some credible evidence – perhaps photos or videos of a sighting, be in touch with us. We are very interested. Really!