Gustave, the man-eater crocodile

Hyperaxion May 3, 2020

A crocodile known as Gustave lives in Lake Tanganyika, the second largest lake in Africa, and became famous for a very bad reason: he has a habit of attacking humans.

Gustave weighs over a ton and is about six meters long, and he is capable of frightening even hunters. Every time Gustave was seen, his appearance was linked to a questionable number of deaths: some sources say there were 300 deaths in total.

The animal has been the subject of study for a long time: a preliminary analysis estimated that it was, on average, 100 years old. However, a new study pointed out that, due to his intact dental arch, he is likely to be 60 years old.

The giant crocodile was shot three times and also has numerous scars, which were identified after the attacks. According to scientists and herpetologists, the scars are the result of injuries caused by hunters trying to kill the animal.

Due to his weight and size, Gustave shows no interest in fish and other agile and small prey. Crocodiles his size generally prefer to feed on larger animals, such as hippos and wildebeests, which often results in violent conflict.

Crocodiles can go months without feeding before selecting their next victim. Fishermen or children are easy prey. In order to capture his human prey, Gustave uses his tail and kills them by suffocation. He was allegedly responsible for the death of an employee of the Russian embassy while she was bathing in the water.

An alleged photo of Gustave.

Gustave’s fame only grew and in 2010, French hunter Patrice Faye tried to capture the reptile using a large crocodile trap – which clearly did not work. In a note to the BBC, Faye alleges that Gustave is very smart and his survival instinct leaves nothing to be desired.

For two years Faye studied the possibilities, even creating a documentary called Capturing the Killer Croc, which aired in 2014 and recorded Gustave’s several capture attempts.

In the first attempt, a giant cage that weighed a ton and was about 9 meters long was used. Different baits were placed inside the cage, but none of them attracted Gustave or any other creature. The scientists installed three giant traps on strategic river banks to increase their chances of capture; then, only smaller crocodiles were captured by the traps.

In its last week before having to leave the country, the team put a live goat in the cage and, one night, the camera broke due to a storm. The next morning the cage was found partially submerged and the goat wasn’t there. It was not clear what happened that night.

Gustave. (Credit: National Geographic).

All attempts were unsuccessful, although there was evidence that Gustave was hanging around and, even though Faye failed to capture the animal, the hunter was considered a national hero, because he was determined to kill Gustave. His obsession was so great that he himself named the crocodile Gustave. However, in the same year, Faye gave up on this and started trying to put a tracker on the crocodile so that he could study his behavior.

To achieve this, Faye received help from Burundi residents themselves, who spend a lot of time near the lake. He decided to follow Gustave’s trajectory, giving residents several cell phones and asking them to be his informants if they saw him. Meanwhile, many fishermen tried to shoot the animal, but without success, of course.

With an analysis of the animal’s trajectory and disappearances in the region followed by documented deaths, Faye concluded that, in just about three months, 17 people were devoured. “I calculated that if he had been killing people for 20 years at this rate, he would have already eaten more than 300 people,” he explained.

Faye says that Gustave’s menu is based on human beings because he is huge and slow. It is not a matter of preference or “personal taste”, but rather the ease with which you can find human beings when you are hungry. Many people still insist on bathing there, without even knowing the danger that awaits them.

There are reports from one of the locals who claim to have seen Gustave dragging an adult buffalo into the waters in 2015. There is no official information on the giant crocodile’s whereabouts, and some people believe he is dead.

Are you a fan of crocodiles or wildlife in general? Then you will love any of the following books:

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