18 December 2007

Beware of Gustave!

"Beware of Gustave!" was the subject of an email from a friend who has a friend from Bujumbura. Gustave is a gigantic crocodile that lives and hunts in Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River. Bujumbura is located on the northern shores of the lake.

Gustave is most likely the largest crocodile in Africa. He's a long-lost "supercroc," an ancient breed of Nile crocodile. They just don't make crocs like Gustave these days. He's estimated at being 20 feet long and weighing one ton. He's responsible for possibly hundreds of human deaths along the water's banks. He's become a local legend, and while many of the croc-related deaths may not be him, there's evidence that most are. The local villagers are afraid of him, yet they have no choice but to fish in the river in order to feed their families.

Over the weekend we watched a PBS special about Gustave, Capturing the Killer Croc. (It's available from Netflix.) While the show is admittedly sensationalized there's no denying two things: 1) The landscape along the river and lake is gorgeous. We just bought a new big screen TV and we watched with our mouths hanging open at the lush greenery, hardly believing we could be living there within 6 months. 2) Gustave is freakin' huge. It showed him laying next to regular-sized crocodiles and with hippos. I have visions of him terrorizing downtown Bujumbura, Godzilla-style.

There's a French naturalist who's obsessed with Gustave, Patrice Faye. He's been studying Gustave for years and trying to capture him to use for breeding in the Rusizi national preserve. Faye also collect specimens for the Bujumbura natural history museam, Musee Vivant. I'd love the chance to visit that museum while we're there. I'm a natural history museum freak.

For more information on Gustave, read the National Geographic article Have You Seen This Crocodile?

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