Ever since I can remember, I have 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 these cryptids. 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 and 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, giant teeth and a body the size of an enormous lion, the Nandi Bear has high front shoulders over 4 feet tall and a sloping back resembling a Hyena.
The Nandi people claim it hunts humans only to eat their brains. Some say it can climb trees and pounce on its unsuspecting prey below. Witnesses have observed it standing on its hind legs several times, like a bear.
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 a Hyena or a Bear, some think the Ngoloko is a giant-sized Baboon. Hyena, Bear or Baboon, the true nature of this animal remains a mystery.
The chances of it being a Bear are slim, though. Mainly because the last known Bear in Africa, the Atlas Bear, lived in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Roman conquistadors spread the hold of Rome to North Africa and subsequently hunted down this bear to extinction for sport. No fossil evidence suggests 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. According to fossil records, the Pleistocene had a Short-Faced Hyena, a lion-sized hyena in Africa. Being a much more active hunter, the Short-Faced Hyena would match many of the reported attacks by the Nandi Bear.
That said, it is still hard to be conclusive on the Nandi Bear’s real identity. Eyewitness accounts are not helping a lot. Two accounts recorded more than a century ago by two 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 seem to point to the bear theory. Has the Atlas Bear returned on a revenge mission to destroy humanity by eating their heads off?
Without conclusive evidence or capture, the Nandi Bear remains a mystery and local legend, unlike the Ol Jogi Bear. Only time will tell. Contact us if you have some credible evidence – perhaps photos or videos of a sighting. We have great interest in these kinds of things. Really!