Africa Dreaming

The Wanjilanko

A journey in search of the Wanjilanko (The mysterious giant lion of West Africa)

"The Wanjilanko hunts the hunter" an old man of the Mandinka tribe once told me. With these words he introduced me to one of the strangest creatures that inhabit the minds of the African hunter.

I began my search for the Wanjilanko which is described as "the lion that eats lions", and armed myself with certain questions. Namely is it a spirit creature or a real animal? Where does it live? What makes it so feared? Above all else I wanted to ascertain what it looks like.

I have journeyed widely in search of the answers to these questions. Wherever you meet old hunters - those that walked in the human and spirit world in their quest for prey- there is the legend of the Wanjilanko. It remains a fearsome creature, "the lion that eats other lions".

lioness
Lioness

 

sleeping

Description

The Wanjilanko is a great cat. "The greatest of the cats". It is described as being "the colour of the grass but with stripes and spots on its flanks". It has "longer teeth than a lion and a different smell than either a lion or leopard. Above all else, its growl is said to "freeze a hunter's soul and when paralysed with fear he becomes easy prey to the creature". As for the habitat of the Wanjilanko. It is a creature of the wildest tracts of wilderness, found in those areas where the true lion roams. It is in the deep gloomy forest filled canyons and caves that a hunter is most likely to encounter it.

The Story

This is the story of my journey in search of the legend of the Wanjilanko. It begins in a village in a remote corner of Senegal. In this small village there are still people who treat the ordinary lion as sacred and it is to them I go first in search of the Wanjilanko. The lion-men are a fascinating group in their own right. They believe they can communicate with the lion and these great cats are often found in the vicinity of the town along with numerous other creatures. My journey then takes me into the land of the Jallonke people and the vanishing culture of the Banapas where the sacred animals are the porcupine and the leopard. In the dark and gloomy forests of the huge Tamgue mountain I meet a man who finally gives me answers to my questions and even a piece of skin he says came from a Wanjilanko.

lioness

This story will be a fascinating entry into the world of the traditional African hunter and his magic. It is a personal journey into a world that is fast disappearing along with its great creatures - both mythical and real.

As we journey we will have a chance to see many spectacular and rare animals such as the magnificent roan antelope, the endangered West African leopard and of course the maneless lion of Senegal. We will meet those who have seen and smelt the Wanjilanko and in the dark sacred forests we will enter an older world where many realities are possible and even dreams can come true.

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