Cryptids and Disasters: Serpents and a Werewolf in the Western Indian Ocean Region



Disasters, such as those linked to floods and cyclones, are physical events filtered through cultural lenses and beliefs. Cryptids, including nature spirits and mythological beasts, are sometimes reported during disasters or in their immediate aftermath. This article describes and examines two cases of disasters and cryptids from the western Indian Ocean region: serpents in northeast Tanzania and a werewolf in Mauritius. Cryptids help members of society to express the trauma of disaster and to make anxiety relatable. Moreover, through sightings of cryptids and debates about them, they help to make rebalancing possible in anticipation of the future. Disaster experiences can be more completely understood by accounting for cultural responses.

Author Biographies

Jonathan R. Walz, SIT Graduate Institute

Jonathan R. Walz is associate professor at SIT Graduate Institute. He earned his PhD in anthropology in association with the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, USA. He has conducted anthropological, historical, and environmental studies on mainland Tanzania, in the Zanzibar Archipelago, and in Kenya, Seychelles, and India.

Rory A. Walshe, University of Cambridge

Rory A. Walshe is a research associate in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. He earned his PhD from King’s College London and University College London. He specializes in disaster vulnerability and resilience and the role of culture and knowledge in disaster response.

A photo of the West Usambara Mountains in Northeast Tanzania.