11 Mysterious Monsters of South America
There are creatures that may or may not exist. Some examples are Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Himalayan Yeti. Many of these animals are just legends or myths, made up to scare little children, or tales about real animals that have become more and more exaggerated as time has gone by.
Whereas biology is the study of living organisms, cryptozoology is the study of living organisms whose existence is yet to be proved or disproved. These organisms are called cryptids. Some may be total fantasies and some may be creatures thought to be extinct but have actually been living in low population areas for centuries, if not millennia. One animal that was thought to be a myth and then turned out to be real is the platypus. Another is the okapi.
Here are 11 of these creatures thought to live in South America. Some of them might not be real, but then again, some of them might be very real.
Alicanto - Chile
The Alicanto is a luminescent bird that is supposedly found in the mines and caves of Chile. Their feathers are a metallic color and shine in the darkness. Their eyes seem to glow.
There are two kinds of Alicantos. One of them feeds on silver and the other on gold. Sometimes they will eat so much they get too heavy to fly. Their diet dictates what color they are.
Seeing an Alicanto is supposed to be good luck. Miners will follow the creature to find gold and silver. The legend says if the miner is spotted by the Alicanto, the bird will push the miner off a cliff. It’s also said that some Alicantos will help miners find gold and silver, but the miner is expected to share with the creature.
El Cuero - Argentina
El Cuero means "the leather" and resembles a primitive stingray. It has a hairless spine and head and the body looks like cowhide. It has a long, whip-like tail but no barb like a stingray does. The eyes are located at the top of stalks and its mouth seems to be extendable. There are razor sharp claws on the edges of the monster that it uses to clasp its prey. El Cuero ranges in size from between two and five feet wide and weighs about 65 pounds.
The claims of sightings of El Cuero have all occurred in the glacial Lake Lácar in the Andes Mountains. The natives have nicknamed him aquatic tiger. It is said to leap out of the water like an orca and engulf its prey. It uses its proboscis to puncture the skin and then sucks out the blood and internal organs.
One story was told by a woman who said she was washing clothes in the lake with her baby sleeping nearby when the creature lurched from the water like a crocodile and snatched the baby up. It slid back into the water just as quickly.
There is another South American cryptid known as the Hueke Hueke that sounds so similar to El Cuero that they may, in fact, be the same type of creature in different locations.
Giglioli's Whale - Chile
Giglioli’s Whale was named after a sighting by Enrico Hillyer Giglioli. He was an Italian anthropologist and zoologist who lived from 1845 to 1909. He described the creature as having two dorsal fins which no known whale has.
Giglioli spotted the creature on September 4, 1867, while aboard the Magenta some 1,200 miles off the coast of Chile. He watched the animal for about 15 minutes and made very detailed observations. It was around 60 feet long with two large dorsal fins about 6.5 feet apart. It also had two long sickle-shaped flippers.
In 1868, there was a reporting of two of the double finned whales from the ship Lily off the coast of Scotland. The next reported sighting was in 1983 by French zoologist Jacques Margret between Corsica and France.
One possible explanation for this odd creature is that it was caused by a genetic mutation.
Mapinguari - Brazil
Mapinguari was a shaman in the Amazon forest in Brazil and Bolivia. Thousands of years ago he is said to have discovered the key to immortality. The gods were angered by his discovery and punished him by turning him into a wandering beast.
Most sightings describe the creature as a giant sloth. A few see it as an ape-like creature. Cryptozoologists have speculated that it is either a Giant Sloth or maybe a Megotherium which was a large ground sloth that lived in the area during the Ice Age.
Titanoboa - Amazon Rainforest
The Titanoboa was the largest known snake on earth. It reached lengths of 25 feet and could weigh up to 550 pounds. However, for over 100 years, explorers in the Amazon have claimed to witness these creatures as long as 150 feet and weighing up to five tons.
British explorer Percy Fawcett claimed to have killed one of these snakes and measured it at 62 feet long. Cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans verified his claim. It is thought this animal had gone extinct, but tracks have been found in remote locations measuring six feet wide.
Boraro - Colombia
The Boraro is a creature that lives in the northwestern Amazon Rainforest along the Vaupés River, mostly in Colombia. It is considered a protector of wildlife. The indigenous people of the area are the Tucanos.
Its description is quite grotesque. It has backward facing feet like its cousin the Curupira in Brazil. Supposedly, that is to confuse its enemies. It is extremely tall with pale skin but covered with black hair. The ears are large and face forward. It also has fangs and huge, swinging genitalia. Its knees are not jointed so it has trouble getting up if it falls down.
It has two ways of killing. One is that its urine is a lethal poison. The other way is by crushing its victim’s body until its insides liquefy and then piercing a hole in the skull and sucking out the liquid.
The creature can be placated by tobacco or confused by running away from it backwards.
Tapire-iauara - Venezuela & Brazil
The Tapire-iauara is an animal supposedly found in remote areas of the Amazon Rainforest. Witnesses claim it looks like a cross between a tapir and a jaguar. It has been reported near the Orinoco River in Venezuela, the Negro and Madeira Rivers in Brazil and along the Amazon River from Santarem to Codajas.
The creature was first reported during the Spanish Conquest between 1519 and 1521. It is described as being about the size of a cow. Most of the time it is said to have red or reddish-gold fur, but a few witnesses report black fur, sometimes with a white patch on the chest. The head appears jaguar-like, minus the spots.
It has large, drooping ears shaped like a cow’s, but the legs look like those of a donkey and appears to have hooves. There are fewer descriptions of the feet than the rest of the body because it is often seen standing in water. It has a glossy coat that repels water like a duck’s feathers.
The animal is thought to be carnivorous and has sharp teeth. It has been seen with a caiman in its mouth. It generally lives in remote swamps, flood plain lakes and sluggish creeks. They take shelter in aninga groves, which is a swamp shrub with heart-shaped laves.
They are usually seen alone, but occasionally they can be seen in groups of no more than four. They are often hunted, not for food, but because they are considered to be a pest.
Minhocão - Amazon Rainforest
Minhocão is a Brazilian Portuguese word meaning "big earthworm." It supposedly lives in the rainforests of South America. It is described as a giant worm with black, scaly skin, an obvious mouth and two tentacles on top of its head. At least one person has claimed it has a snout, almost like a pig.
It mostly lives underground but has also been seen in water. There are reports that it preys on large land animals such as cattle. It burrows and has created trenches measuring over ten feet in width. Its length has been estimated from 75 to 150 feet.
Cryptozoologist Karl Shuker has proposed that the Minhocão may be a giant caecilian. Caecilians are limbless, snake-like amphibians that mostly live underground. In Bernard Heuvelmans’s book On the Track of Unknown Animals, he suggests that the Minhocão may be a surviving glyptodont. The glyptodont was a member of a subfamily of armored armadillos that are now extinct.
There have not been any sightings of the Minhocão in 130 years so it too may have gone extinct. However, because of the vast area and low population of the South American rainforest it may still be surviving there unseen.
Yo-te-veo - Guiana
Ya-te-veo translates to "I see you." The Ya-te-veo is not an animal but a carnivorous plant. Think venus flytrap, just much bigger. The tree lives on a high mesa in the Guiana Highlands of South America called Tepwi. It also has an African cousin. The plant captures and devours large insects and is said to attempt to do the same thing to animals, including humans.
Descriptions vary, but generally the plant is said to have a thick, short trunk with long tendril-like appendages. Natives claim the tree is the work of an evil witch doctor.
In 1881, explorer Carl Liche told a story of seeing the plant devour a small filly. In 1887, J.W. Buel, author of Sea and Land, described the plant as an abomination.
Nahuelito - Argentina
Nahuelito is a lake monster much like the famous Loch Ness Monster. Nahuelito lives in Nahuel Huapi Lake in the Patagonia region of Argentina. It has been described as a giant serpent or as a plesiosaur.
There have been reports of the creature going back to the late 1800s, but press coverage didn’t really begin until 1922. The Buenos Aires Zoo has been trying to find evidence of a plesiosaur ever since. Zoologist Clemente Onelli has contributed funds for an attempt to find evidence of the plesiosaur, but to date there is still no proof. Today the small lake is called Laguan del Plesiosaurio (Plesiosaur’s Lake).
The last reported sighting was April 17, 2006, by an anonymous photographer that dropped off two photos at a local newspaper.
Malpelo Monster - Colombia
The Malpelo Monster is a shark-like fish found off the coast of Isla de Malpelo, 285 miles off the coast of Colombia. It is about 15 feet long with very large eyes. The dorsal fin is above the pectoral fins. It generally stays in cooler water below a depth of 160 feet. The first verified sighting was at the National Malpelo Park when park director and biologist Sandra Bessudo came face to face with the unknown species during a routine drive.
In 2002, she organized an expedition to learn more about this unknown shark species, but the trip was cut short after she and her crew were attacked by pirates.