A croc of similar stature and markings killed a fisherman near Ruziba in April. "He was standing waist-deep in the lake when the croc dragged him away and drowned him," Faye recalled. "There were a lot of witnesses. They raised such a commotion that the crocodile let him go. His widow showed me pictures of the corpse. He had a nasty bite in the stomach and one in the leg." Onlookers chased Gustave away before he could finish his bloody work, Faye said, noting that Gustave doesn't always eat his victims: "I think some of his attacks could just be hunting practice."
During our 2004 mission, the plan was to have herpetologist Brady Barr, the daring host of the National Geographic Channel's Dangerous Encounters, sneak up on Gustave at night in a pirogue, slip a wire noose around his prodigious neck, and wrestle him to shore. After taking measurements and tissue samples, Barr intended to implant a global positioning device beneath Gustave's armored skin that would have alerted villagers to potential danger.
Such warnings might still have gone unheeded, however, because the people who live around the lake depend on it both for life's necessities—food, water, bathing, washing clothes—and for recreation. After Gustave showed up again in the Rusizi, in mid-August, Faye cautioned residents in the nearby village of Gatumba to be on guard. "The fishermen and swimmers didn't interrupt their activities," he said. "It is wishful thinking that people will stay out of the water."
Gustave has yet to snatch anyone from Gatumba, but Faye has no doubt that he is the big croc responsible for these new attacks. When he's not lurking beneath the muddy waters of the Rusizi, fishing and waiting for opportunities for larger prey, he basks on his favorite sandbar, wearing what seems to be a sinister, self-satisfied grin. "I am 100 percent sure it's him," Faye said.
Whether we dust off our plans and head back to Burundi for Operation Gustave, Part Deux, remains to be decided. Barr has almost fully recovered from massive bite wounds on his thigh, the result of a too-close encounter with a giant python on the Indonesian island of Flores. As this issue went to press, he and his field producers had just completed an expedition to Costa Rica and were digesting the news of Gustave's return.