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 Faye is 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," Faye told the BBC Brasil.
Despite the fact that Gustave has eaten so many people, Faye 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 Faye 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.
Faye 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? Faye 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 Faye.
I will remain faithful to Gustave and expect him to do the same.
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