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Before we headed back to the States for our furlough, we spent a few days camping at Camp Brian. One night, I went out to look for some small marsupials or birds before the fire lulled me to sleep. We had caught very little on the trip so far; hunting to me was equally important as finding signs of the mbakngge.
I went down the trail from our shelter and planned to come back up in a half circle with the camp in the middle. The jungle is a totally different place at night; it comes alive with strange creatures that only come out when it's dark. Walking only a few meters I saw that the entire underbrush was infested with phasmids and an assortment of other strange insects. After twenty minutes I still had found nothing. Stealthily I approached a thicket, but unfortunately not stealthily enough—when I came within five feet, a large bird burst forth and flew away.
Bird-finding at night takes a lot of skill because they tuck their heads under their wings, making them look like little feather balls. Distinguishing birds from leaves can be difficult. Pu has mastered this skill, but he wasn't able to come with us because he was attending a literacy class.
I passed our camp and continued up the trail to check my traps I had set that afternoon; they were all empty. On I went until the campfire was quite a distance away, but I could still hear muffled voices. I found a large rotten log that I climbed on and searched for any movement in the trees above. After standing there for a good five minutes, I decided to continue on. I turned around and shone my flashlight beam to the left, ready to jump off the log, when I was suddenly stunned by a shining pair of eyes.
About five feet in the distance was the largest and brightest pair of green and blue eyes I had ever seen. All other creatures in the jungle from moths to the large tree kangaroo have eyes that shine red with the reflection from light. This beast had eyes with a green and blue reflection. Above its eyes were two very large and broad triangular ears, lined with white fur, pointing straight up and toward me, listening to my every movement.
I am not one to easily get scared in the jungle. But this creature had been stealthily following me from behind, its eyes staring straight at me, keeping its body only inches from the ground . . . . this was not the behavior of usual, timid jungle animals. This creature seemed to be stalking or observing me, but we were very far from a village, so most likely this animal had never seen a human before. I felt a little threatened, like the hunter becoming the hunted.
Before I could whip my flashlight around, the animal lunged toward me, and those bright green eyes never left mine until it was under the log that I was standing on. Before it went under, I saw the ridge of its long back and a large fluffy tail. I was almost relieved because I thought the beast was coming for me.
Spinning around I shone the flashlight beam on the other side of the log and all up and down it, but there wasn't even a rustling leaf. Everything was totally quiet. During this whole experience the only noise the animal made was when it leaped toward me and its tail brushed against a low branch of a bush. If I hadn't made visual contact, I would have been totally oblivious to its presence.
The creature I saw was bigger than our hunting dog Suri, but I still called her name multiple times. There was no response. She is a faithful dog and always comes when I call, plus she is a bit clumsy in the jungle and makes a lot of noise when running fast, so I knew whatever I saw wasn't Suri. I jumped off the log and looked under it—there was about two feet of space from the bottom of the log to the ground. About fifteen feet away was where I estimated the animal exited the tunnel. I searched the ground for paw prints to give me clues as to what the animal might have been. We were going through a drought, however, so the ground was too dry for prints. No doubt the beast ran a few meters and then stopped to see what I would do next. I tried to find it again but gave up shortly after and went back to the camp.
I pondered long and hard that night about what I had seen as I laid awake by the crackling fire. The thought of it being the elusive mbakngge was too crazy to think about; it wasn't until a long while later when I had gathered enough evidence that I came to the conclusion that it was the mbakngge. I am very thankful the Lord allowed me to see a glimpse of the mbakngge, and we will continue to set trail cameras. Maybe one day we will get a picture—that would be the perfect conclusion to our long and hard efforts of searching for the mbakngge. To re-live our adventure searching for the elusive mbakngge, check out our fourth video, titled Tiger Trail.
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