Monday, June 10, 2013
Gustave: Search For A Man-Eater
For 20 years, near Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, locals have been terrorized by one of the largest freshwater crocodiles in the world. The 25 foot long crocodile, named Gustave, has an insatiable appetite... for people. He is known for having eaten over 200 people, though some believe that number to be as high as 300. In the past, all attempts to catch or kill Gustave were unsuccessful. Still, for one man who has made it his mission to hunt the crocodile, there may be a more humane solution to stopping this man-eater.
Patrice Fey is a Frenchman, but he's been living in Burundi for the past two decades. He became something of a local hero 11 years ago when he made his first attempts to capture Gustave using a trap, but that didn't work out well. "He must have a very strong survival instinct , because he has survived while other crocodiles were massacred," Fey told the BBC Brasil.
Despite the fact that Gustave has eaten so many people, Fey still has respect for his elusive nemesis--and does not intend on killing him.
We live in an age where creatures like these are increasingly rare. He's a prehistoric animal, very fat. In the water, he's like a hippo. But he still has all his teeth, suggesting that he is about 68 years.
During one three month period that he followed the crocodile, 17 people were eaten. This had lead Fey to estimate that Gustave has probably eaten over 300 in the last 20 years. "I do not think it is a matter of taste, but a question of what he can hunt," he said.
Fey points out that Gustave's massive size likely makes acquiring more conventional meals difficult--plus a diet of fish probably wouldn't be enough to satisfy his appetite. Faye says the crocodile "has no choice but to hunt easier prey," and humans in or around the lake are good candidates.
So, what's the best way to humanely deal with a man-eating crocodile? Fey hopes that following Gustave's movements more closely might reduce the numbers of people being eaten.
I have informants. In Burundi, thousands of people who live along the lake, especially fishermen who spend most of their time in water. I gave them a dozen cell phones to tell me where he is.
Still, some gun-wielding locals have made attempts to stop Gustave themselves. "Many fishermen said they had hit him. He seems to have bullet proof leather."
It may take more than a bullet to stop an enormous, man-eating crocodile--or to discourage his devoted follower, Patrice Fey.
I will remain faithful to Gustave and expect him to do the same.
NOTE: In Capturing the Killer Croc Patrice Fey and other scientists attempted to capture Gustave. According to the film, Patrice had done two years of investigations before the capture attempt. However, Patrice and the scientists were given a 2-month time slot for capturing the beast; afterwards, a change of government would risk plunging the country into civil war. First, a trap cage weighing a ton and nearly 30 feet in length was developed. The team then located Gustave and installed the cage and baited it -- and also placed a hidden infrared camera into the cage. Several different forms of bait were installed, yet none of them attracted Gustave or any other creature. The scientists also then installed three giant snares on strategic banks to increase their chances of capture; although smaller crocodiles were caught by the traps, Gustave wasn't.
In their last week of time before having to leave the country, the team then installed a live goat into the cage; but night after night were no results yielded. On one night, the camera gave out due to the stormy weather; the next morning, the cage was found partially submerged and sunken into the water whilst the goat had disappeared. It was speculated that the rising waters from the rain helped the monster to escape his hunters, or that the trap cage failed; but with no visual evidence as to what happened and now forced to leave Burundi due to political conditions, the team was only left to guess and will never know for sure what exactly happened that night
UPDATE: As of May 2013, the last reported sighting of Gustave was in February 2008 by National Geographic sources. A lack of subsequent reports makes Gustave's current status uncertain. Here is a link to a 2005 National Geographic report on this beast - Gustave, the Killer Crocodile