Kampung Benoni of Papar in North Borneo Once Home to Dinosaurs?

Did North Borneo have its own version of the Loch Ness Monster? Find out more what used to lie under the waters of Benoni, Papar in North Borneo.

Dinosaurs in North Borneo?

A newspaper article was published on The Straits Times on 5 April 1904 detailing prehistoric monsters which probably once existed in North Borneo. The article first appeared on The Siam Observer – the first daily published in Bangkok, Thailand. Read on…

A waggish contributor to the Siam Observer has a fine story of prehistoric animal which puts the sea serpent into the shade. He narrates the experience of of the natives of North Borneo, where so many strange things happened and gives the facts as he claims to have heard them. His story runs as follows:

It is not unreasonable to believe that in secluded spots may be found the last of the ichthyosaurus or the last of the plesiosaurus or of some of the contemporaries of these ancient inhabitants of the earth. The latest evidence in support of this belief comes from a spot on the coast of North Borneo known as Benoni.

Ichthyosaurus is also a type of prehistoric animal

Here in a cave by the sea there undoubtedly exists a monstrous creature, which may be either an abnormally developed crocodile or direct descendant of some primeval branch of the saurian family. The attention of a European official of the North Borneo Company was quite recently directed to the existence of this animal by the natives of the place.

They showed him the track which the unknown creature had left on the sand when leaving its cave dwelling for the sea. Round about were the tracks of ordinary crocodiles which are numerous in this locality. But the track of the unknown was very different to these. The track of the crocodile is one continuous line caused by the dragging of the tail, and at intervals the marks of the feet of the reptile turned outward from the body.

Now the track of the unknown also showed a continuous line, but so much deeper and more pronounced as to argue much deeper and more pronounced as to argue a much larger and heavier tail than the largest known crocodile ever possessed. The marks of the feet were also there, but instead of being turned outward from the body, they were turned inward under the body. They also were much larger than those of an ordinary crocodile.

Plesiosaurus used to rule the seas

These are facts to which an English gentleman, and an official, is prepared to testify. The Natives, when questioned, declared that they had seen the animal, which they described  as having the body of a huge crocodile, feet which turned inward, and a long snake like neck surmounted by a head also resembling that of a huge snake. Is not this suggestive of the plesiosaurus? Perhaps some of your readers who are learned in natural history can answer the question.

It is inconceivable that these poor fishermen had ever seen the columns of Punch or studied the history of the world geologically. As a preliminary test strong pagars (fence) were built (chiefly of bamboo) round the entrance of the cave where the monster resided. These, intact at night, were found entirely demolished in the morning and the tracks showed that the beast had come down to the water in the usual way and removed obstruction as if it were a straw.

Pagars were used to try to prove the existence of this creature

It is quite agreed that a huge crocodile might have forced the pagars, but it would have done so by getting under them and forcing them up. These pagars were destroyed from the top. Next an attempt was made to smoke the monster out of his den, and this was in such a way as to make it certain that there must be another exit to the cave from which the creature can get away to sea.

Thus the matter stands, and a fine thing exists in Benoni for adventurous sportsmen.

The Editor of the Siam Observer commenting on the story remarks: “It is quite an interesting mystery, and it is to be hoped that all attempts to spoil it by clearing it up will be rigorously repressed. If the Benoni Monster is allowed to preserve its incognito it may serve for many a long day as a rival to the sea-serpent and fascinating subject for speculation and wonder. If it be found out, the result may be to turn the idea of antediluvian survivals into ridicule, and we cannot have a pretty theory destroyed in that way.”

Whatever used to exist there remains a mystery until this very day. There’s never been any record of dinosaurs in North Borneo before but given the high biodiversity of Sabah, one should note deny the possibility that dinosaurs may have once ruled the lands here.

In Owen Rutter’s book on British North Borneo, one chapter also talked about this mysterious creature:

Any idea which cave in Benoni were they referring to?

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Richard Ker

I love the history of North Borneo (Sabah) and strive to digitally archive any related information on this website. I'm also the author of LifeinMy.com and CyberjayaCity.com. Follow me on Twitter @richardker.

11 Comments

  1. I know Benoni quite well and to my knowledge there’s no cave there. Until there’s a solid evidence about the existence of dinosour in Benoni this article remains a pure speculation.

  2. I’m a native of Kampung Benoni, Papar Sabah. As far as I know there have not been any story regarding any dinosour like creature in our kampung. Kampung Benoni is a flat land area surrounded by rivers flowing out to the sea. Our ancestors are mostly paddy
    farmers and fisherman. Personally I doubted this article to be true at all.

    • ceta org dulu2 ada pasal tambuakar, ne yg menjadikan spekulasi dinosaur atau prehistoric monster tu, loch ness sabah kunuk dorg bilang, ceta org dulu2 ada tu, cuma mebi ko nda pernah dgr suda ne, atau kurang suda diceritakan, sbb lama suda barang ne nda muncul2, benda ne ada mistik skit, mebi ada kaitan dgn benda2 ghaib n jin, wallahualam

      • Yes, tombuakar is one of the myth told by my grandparent. Maybe this giant “snake” like creature (as told by my grand parents) was one of the now extinct dino?

  3. Older people who live on the west coast of Sabah especially near that area always warned children to beware of ”buaya” or crocodile when swimming at sea. There is a crocodile which can live on sea water. Probably this sea monster is a giant crocodile. Or perhaps may be it was really a dinosaur mistakenly as a crocodile by folks of the old days.

    • tambuakar baitu, mystic creature, suka bertapa, mmg ada sm bentuk dgn pliosaurus ne, gambaran dari para saksi, mungkin penjaga kpd dunia dimensi makhluk ghaib

  4. I live in a village around benoni and its a common old folk story that a large snake/serpent like creature lives in the thick jungle and river around the area…some old folk says they spotted the animals, which is a dragon/snake like creature..this article you wrote shock me as i thought the old folk story in my village is only meant to scare children..but since north borneo company even wrote an article on it….then i believe they might really exists..no research have been done since our country is not really keen to explore a mythical like-research unlike those in the west (loch nest etc..) but hopefully in the future someone will dare to do research on this.. plus i never heard a story of a monstrous creature in other places in sabah, except in the area of benoni – kelatuan – kimanis. i will wrote here on the story from the witness in my village later, who claimed to have saw the creature..

  5. This article refers to Benoni in 1904. Something i could not imagine the boundry and the size of kampung Benoni as compared to kg Benoni now. Probably at that time kg. benoni is by the seaside, that is why some nearby villages that exist much later are sandy and plant water melon . I heard of a cave somwhere between kampong Mandahan and Kimanis, that can be seen from the highway.interesting news though

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