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INKANYAMBA: (SOUTH AFRICA)

These gigantic, winged eels are notorious for their vicious territoriality as well as their decidedly carnivorous dispositions.

The Inkanyamba are said to be a population of large, migratory, carnivorous eels, which are allegedly indigenous to southern Africa. The most renowned representative of this rare species is said to dwell in the deep pools beneath South Africa’s legendary Howick Falls, which are known to the Zulu as “kwaNogqaza” or “The Tall One.”

Often compared to the savage, eel-like animals said to dwell in Newfoundland’s Crescent Lake (CRESSIE), these creatures have been described as being a colossal eel-like anomalies with finned manes, huge fore-flippers, a horse-like head and a decidedly nasty disposition. Judging from this description, it’s no wonder that the Inkanyamba have inspired both awe and terror throughout the Zulu and Xhosa communities for centuries.

Accounts of these animals actually date back to aboriginal cave paintings found throughout the KwaZuluNatal area. These paintings depict creatures which archaeologists have come to refer to as “rain animals” due to their association with vicious summer storms.

Believed by most investigators to be a large species of freshwater eel, such as the Anguilla mossambica or the Anguilla marmorata — both of which can grow to a respectable length of about 6-feet — the natives of the area insist that the Inkanyamba are much larger and bear some decidedly supernatural characteristics.

As recently as 1998, residents of the Ingwavuma and Pongola regions of KwaZuluNatal blamed the violent Inkanyamba for a brutal storm in which thousands of people lost their homes.

This ancient connection between the Inkanyamba and sever meteorological events is due to the fact that the animal is rarely seen during the summer months. According to traditional Xhosa beliefs, the Inkanyamba (which, according to some ancient legends is also a “winged” serpent) takes to the sky annually — in the form of a giant tornado — in order to find its mate.

Native superstitions aside, the absence of the Inkanyamba during the summer months is indicative of the long held Zulu assumption that these creatures are migratory in nature. In fact, these animals have been seen in the Mkomazi River, which is about 44 miles South of Howick Falls, as well as in the waters pooled around the Midmar Dam (an area which covers approximately 500 square miles.) There have also been eyewitness reports hailing from smaller dams near farms in the Dargle area of the Midlands.

Even more intriguingly, there have been occasional (though admittedly unconfirmed) reports of two Inkanyamba engaging in vicious aquatic battles over what one must assume is an issue of territorial supremacy. Other witnesses have claimed to have seen fleeting glimpses of mating rituals. Perhaps they are one in the same?

The animals first claimed international attention in 1996, when a local newspaper offered a reward for anyone who could produce photographic evidence of the creatures; although two photographs were published, neither one gave any clear indication of the animal’s appearance and were accused of being hoaxes.

These (admittedly dubious) images only served to fuel the fierce controversy surrounding the existence of these creatures. Just a year later, in a region not far from Howick, known as the Mzintlava River, a similar controversy raged regarding the reality of another large, aquatic predator. Locals there claimed that they were under siege by a huge crocodilian creature with a long neck and skull piercing proboscis, dubbed the “African Brain Sucker” or in the native tongue “MAMLAMBO.”

In May of 1996, yet another flurry of media attention responded to the rumor that the South African government was planning on capturing the animal that lurked beneath Howick falls and transplant it into an environmentally protected area. Local Zulu’s were outraged by the plan, petitioning their local council for an intervention, though not for the same reasons that PETA members might expect. The residents were terrified that the expedition sent to capture the beast, might not be prepared to deal with the vicious disposition of the creature and that the resulting carnage might spill over into the local villages unless the Inkanyamba’s rage could be abated.

The most recent reports indicate that the South African government has reconsidered the wisdom of challenging these mighty semi-aquatic beasts on their home turf.

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