A Talking Turtle Helped Topple a Dictator

TortoiseLeopardStampIt doesn’t get much madder than this. Forget monsters chasing us in the night. There once was a talking tortoise that helped topple a dictator! This is a cryptozoology story like no other – a talking tortoise offering astute political advice!

Friends of mine told me about this strange tale from long ago. Apparently the talking tortoise appeared on the Ugandan scene back in 1978 during the horrible reign of then dictator, Idi Amin. According to a couple newspaper accounts I read, tens of thousands of Ugandans claimed to have seen and heard this tortoise speaking.

AminTo counteract this fantastic tale, the dictator launched a huge press campaign around the country. The Voice of Uganda newspaper reported the rumors to be “Totally untrue, baseless and nonsensical.”

Officials from every level (government, police, security, all the way down to local chieftains) were called upon to gather and figure out how to deal with this bothersome “enfundu,” the Ugandan word for tortoise.

The people were so worked up over the tortoise and its message that they called neighboring Kenyan radio stations to report the progress of the turtle across Uganda. The lumbering beast reportedly rolled into a town called Jinja (on the Nile River, near Kampala) and demanded to speak to the provincial governor and commissioner of police. It claimed it had a special message for them.

Amin’s newspaper, The Voice of Uganda responded by reporting, “The provincial governor and the provincial commissioner of police have dismissed as totally untrue the rumor that has been circulating around that there is a talking tortoise anywhere.”

Tensions mounted and eventually the government ordered anyone, police or mere citizen, to arrest anyone talking about the talking tortoise. They were referred to as “confusing agents who are collaborating with the exiles to try and confuse the people of Uganda.”

The benevolent dictator repeatedly stated he would put these “confusing agents” before a firing squad as soon as they were caught.

What did the Tortoise Say?TortoisePancakeEndangered1978.01

Why all the fuss over a talking tortoise? The problem wasn’t the animal speaking, the problem was its message. You see, the tortoise was predicting the downfall of Amin’s regime. Oops!

According to a biography of Amin (notablebiographies.com) in response to the dire prediction, the dictator “constantly changed body guards, traveling schedules and vehicles, and sleeping places. He controlled the army through frequent reorganization. He also kept his army happy by giving them tape recorders, expensive cars, rapid promotions, and businesses that had been owned by Asian traders.”

That’s one way to keep everyone on their toes!

Did it Exist?

But did the tortoise really exist? It seems unlikely. Why? Because in their culture, the Ugandans would often use cryptic stories during time of political unrest to make their reigning government look bad.

So it seems this legend was just a bit of folklore carried throughout Uganda by oral tradition for the purpose of making the dictator paranoid and uneasy and vulnerable for defeat.

TortoisePancakeUganda’s Tortoises

I found two types of real tortoises in Uganda, the Pancake and the Leopard Tortoises.  The pancake tortoise grows up to 7 inches long (photo left) and can weigh up to 20 ounces.

The leopard tortoise (photo below right) can grow between 11-17 inches long and can weigh up to 40 pounds. According to scientists, neither species is capable of speech.  🙂

TortoiseLeopardStillWhat Might it Mean for Cryptozoology?

This incident makes me look at all the cryptid stories that we love to ponder in a whole new way. Could any of them be instruments for rallying a political viewpoint? The ones that spring to mind are UFOs and aliens. There are already rumors and controversies about them that would indicate our government is using them to hide its own military operations.

What about Mothman who supposedly appears prior to some disaster’s occurrence?

I think it’s worth noting the talking tortoise story because it teaches us how stories/information can be used to foster another agenda. I think we all should renew our resolve to look at these fantastic stories even more carefully in the future.

Any thoughts?



http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2194&dat=19780824&id=ec8yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FO4FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1056,2300492  The Ottawa Citizen newspaper report.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=348&dat=19780824&id=Je0uAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0jIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4522,3508338 The Rome News-Tribune newspaper report.


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