Sea Monster of West Africa .
Etymology: Coined by Karl Shuker a fter the
name of the country, The Gambia .
Variant name: Kunthum belein (Mandinka
word for dolphin, litera lly “cutting ja ws”).
Physical description: Smooth, sca leless skin.
Length, 15 feet. Width, 5 feet. Dark brown on
top, white below. Dolphinlike head. Sma ll,
brown eyes. Jaws, 18 inches in length, with
eighty sha rp, conica l, uniform teeth. No blowhole.
Nostrils a re a t the tip of the ja ws. Short
neck. No dorsal fin. Four paddle-sha ped flippers,
ea ch 18 inches long. Pointed ta il, 5 feet
long. No flukes.
Distribution: Kotu, The Gambia .
Significant sighting: On June 12, 1983, Owen
Burnham discovered the ca rca ss of an odd sea
creature washed up on the beach near the Bungalow
Beach Hotel at Kotu. Local people were
in the process of cutting off the hea d to sell
when he found it.
(1) The combination of four pa ddles, eighty
teeth, la ck of sca les and blowhole, and long
ta il rules out sea ls, known ceta cea ns,
sirenia ns, modern reptiles, a nd fishes.
(2) Fossil archaic ba silosa urid whales only
had forty teeth.
(3) Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus
shepherdi) ma tches somewhat in colora tion,
but it ha s a blowhole, ta il flukes, a dorsa l
fin, a much shorter bea k, no nostrils, and
no pelvic flippers. In a ddition, this ra re
ceta cea n prefers the cold water of New
Zealand and the South Atlantic.
(4) A surviving pliosa ur, a member of a
group of short-necked plesiosaurs with la rge
heads, elonga ted jaws with ma ssive teeth,
two sets of flippers, and pointed ta ils. In
some la rger species such a s Kronosaurus
queenslandicus (over 40 feet), the skull wa s
as much a s 10 feet long. These ma rine
reptiles lived 200–65 million yea rs ago
(from the Ea rly Jura ssic to the end of the
Cretaceous), swam underwater
aerodynamica lly like penguins, and were
probably pursuit preda tors.
(5) A surviving mosa sa ur, a group of twenty
genera tha t included some of the la rgest
marine reptiles ever, frequently exceeding
33 feet in length. They lived in the La te
Cretaceous, 95–65 million years ago, and
had la rge, conical teeth, ea ch set in a deep
socket. The plioplateca rpines and
tylosa urines ha d short bodies a nd long,
(6) A surviving metriorhynchid a rchosa ur, a
member of a group of tha la ttosuchians with
flippers, no derma l a rmor, and an expa nsion
at the end of the ta il. These reptiles lived
200–95 million yea rs a go, from the Ea rly
Jura ssic to the La te Creta ceous. Like
mosa sa urs, they moved through the wa ter
by undulating trunk and ta il.
(7) A surviving ichthyosaur, a group of
dolphinlike reptiles with na rrow, pointed
snouts a nd spindle-shaped bodies. They
lived 245–65 million yea rs a go, from the
Early Tria ssic to the end of the Creta ceous,
rea ching their grea test size (a bout 48 feet) in
the La te Tria ssic. The ichthyosaur ha d big
eyes, nostrils pla ced well back from the tip
of the snout, a dorsa l fin, and a fishlike ta il
tha t did a ll the work of moving the anima l
through the water.
(8) A surviving champsosa ur, a freshwa ter,
crocodile-like anima l with a fla t skull and
slender snout tha t lived from the La te
Creta ceous to the Oligocene, 70–30 million
yea rs a go. It ha d well-ossified limbs and
could probably walk on land.
"Gambo" is the name given to a carcass of an unidentified large marine animal that was reportedly washed up on Bungalow Beach in The Gambia.
The carcass of the Gambo was reported to have been discovered by 15-year-old Owen Burnham and his family on the morning of June 12, 1983. Owen, a wildlife enthusiast, decided to take measurements and then make sketches since he did not have a camera at the time. According to later testimony, he did not think to take a sample until after he realized he could not identify it in any books. According to Owen, local villagers called it a "dolphin", but that was likely only because of the superficial similarity.
The carcass was later decapitated by local villagers, and the head was sold to a tourist. Its body was then buried and attempts to relocate it have failed.
After Owen mentioned the carcass in a newspaper article three years after the event, it caught the attention of cryptozoologist Karl Shuker who requested more information on the carcass. According to Owen, the carcass showed little or no signs of decomposition and measured around 15 feet (4.6 m) in length. The coloration was brown on top and white below, and the skin itself was smooth. The most specific measurements were taken on the head, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in length. It had a beak measuring 2.5 feet (0.76 m) long, 5.5 inches tall, and 5 inches (130 mm) wide with 80 uniform and conical teeth. A small pair of nostrils were present at the tip of the beak. The somewhat domed head measured 10 inches (250 mm) tall and 1-foot (0.30 m) wide, and had small eyes. The front pair of flippers measured 1.5 feet (0.46 m) long by 8 inches (200 mm) wide. One of the rear flippers was badly damaged and nearly torn off, revealing some intestine. The waterlogged and bloated body was around 6 feet (1.8 m) long with a 5-foot (1.5 m) girth. No fin was present on the top of the animal. The tail was long and pointed, and measured around 5 feet (1.5 m) in length.
There has been a great deal of speculation as to what the carcass could have been in life. Some, such as paleontologist Darren Naish, question whether the carcass ever existed in the first place. Naish expresses doubt that the carcass was real, and finds it suspicious that no sample was taken. Cryptozoologist Chris Orrick proposed that it was a severely mangled Shepherd's Beaked Whale that was twisted so that the dorsal fin and genital slit lined up, giving the appearance of a torn off limb. Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe speculated that it may be an unknown form of Beaked Whale. Another common suggestion is that the carcass is some sort of surviving prehistoric reptile. Shuker proposed initially that it was either a pliosaur or a thalattosuchian crocodile, but later referred to it as "the last of the mosasaurs." A 2006 expedition by the Centre for Fortean Zoology failed to uncover any remains of the creature at the alleged burial site. They also learnt from local people that the carcass was possibly that of a dolphin.
"Gambo" has been connected to many sporadic reports of crocodile-like sea serpents.