email a friend iconprinter friendly iconGustave, the Killer Crocodile
Page [ 5 ] of 16

Big bulls of Gustave's age and size were exceptionally rare then and are even rarer now; perhaps a single massive individual in every 100,000 was lucky enough to survive the onslaught. These supercrocs are the strongest, fittest (in terms of reproductive success), and most cunning, and their genes are vital to maintaining the gene pool of a population that, because of the widespread poaching, has likely lost its genetic diversity. Faye pictured Gustave living out his years as a captive breeder—the top stud of the Rusizi.

Faye approached financial backers about his plan, gave interviews, and spoke publicly. Gustave's renown spread to the far corners of the republic and beyond. But it wasn't until the Burundians (an 85 percent Hutu population) chose the nickname "Gustave" for the country's then president, the ruthless former army major Pierre Buyoya (a Tutsi), that Faye came to believe his crusade to save the giant croc might stand a chance of succeeding. "That," he recalls today, "was the launching of the legend of Gustave."

An eccentric self-described "man of the bush," Patrice Faye arrived in Burundi with long hair and a beard in 1978, pedaling a five-speed bike someone had given him in South Africa. Prior to that, he'd hitchhiked through Canada, the U.S., Central America, and Africa, taking odd jobs and living on nothing. When he reached Burundi, the road-weary vagabond found cosmopolitan Bujumbura, the verdant mountains surrounding it, and, especially, the windsurfing on Lake Tanganyika all to his liking. He quit roaming, found construction work in the capital, and married a Rwandan refugee.

Though settled, Faye hasn't lost his thrill-seeking spirit. When he first uncovered Gustave's murderous identity, he decided to get as close to the vicious croc as possible. A framed photo in his living room reveals how close that was: Faye snapped the shot from about six feet (two meters) behind Gustave's tail; looking at the photo, I can count the scales on the monster's broad back.

That was one of Faye's closest encounters. He has tracked the croc ever since and is confident that Gustave is an almost preternatural predator with a pronounced inclination toward human flesh. Gustave's exact victim count is unknown and unverifiable; some researchers well-versed in the ways of man-eating crocs, including our capture man Brady Barr, doubt that a lone individual could be responsible for such carnage. But in every cluster of attacks that Faye has investigated, witnesses have described the same enormous croc with a distinctive dark scar on top of its head. Faye thinks this could be a scar from an old bullet wound.

Page [ 5 ] of 16
Join the discussion

National Geographic Adventure is pleased to provide this opportunity for you to share your comments about this article. Thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Recent Comments
  • Its great to know that such creatures are still existing on our planet.But for the betterment of peo…
  • gustaf is a huge croc ive seen it myself it eats wilderbeast like we eat crisps.and should not be ki…
  • Has gustav been caught
  • I REALLY like this article and i think that they should take Gustave to the wild , a place with no h…
  • Actually, as of January '09, Gustave is still alive and kicking. And still roaming the Rusizi river.
Read All »