email a friend iconprinter friendly iconGustave, the Killer Crocodile
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Gustave kept his distance throughout the documentary team's capture efforts, regardless of how tempting the bait or powerful the potions concocted by Gatumba's preeminent witch doctor. The team tried a live goat, flapping chickens, and finally, out of desperation, the sorcerer's old unwanted dog, which he offered as a face-saving sacrifice. The dog broke free and escaped. Faye's trap itself was immense—more than 30 people were required to carry it—but every morning the team found it empty. Overnight video footage recorded only a gigantic crocodile's spooky eyes, shining near the trap's gate.

Finally the colossal contraption began to sink slowly into the Rusizi's sediments, turning the capture attempt into a total bust. For a second try the following March, Faye placed a number of snares along the lower mile of the Rusizi. These also proved ineffective.

Leslie came away from Burundi unconvinced that Gustave has claimed as many victims as legend would have it, or that he is some sort of malevolent villain that kills humans for pleasure. "Crocodiles take food opportunistically," she explains. "They attack if they're hungry. They can also become territorial and aggressive during breeding season."

But when is the breeding season in the Rusizi delta? Leslie wasn't sure, because so little is known about the delta's croc population. Similarly, she explains, much remains unknown about the natural history of Nile crocs of Gustave's size and presumed age in the region. How large a territory does he guard, for example: a 30-meter beach, a 30-mile radius? We don't know. Does he move from the delta into the lake to seek a larger harem and establish wider boundaries? A mystery. Could it be that he leaves the delta in October and returns in February during certain years because between those months the Rusizi is full of silt, whereas Lake Tanganyika is clear and full of easy-to-see fish? Or is he eating people because he can't make a living on other animals? That's Faye's theory at least, and while untested in a long-term study, it's not easily dismissed.

Like crocodiles, lions also take food opportunistically and have been known to prey on humans, most famously the man-eaters of Kenya's Tsavo region, who dined on coolies building the railroad line from coastal Mombasa to Uganda at the turn of the 20th century. Those lions turned to feeding on humans when an epidemic of rinderpest, an introduced cattle virus, devastated populations of their usual prey: buffalo, antelope, and other ungulates. To the hungry lions, the railroad workers were an easy lunch.

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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.
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