I’ve already covered crocodiles and their success as apex predators, but now I’d like to introduce you to someone. Gustave is a prime example of his species: a man-eating Nile crocodile who is near impossible to kill. Gustave hatched around 1955 in the African country of Burundi, making him roughly 67 years old. This massive beast has reached mythical status, having allegedly killed nearly 300 people and survived many attempts on his life.
Gustave has never been captured, but he’s estimated to be around 18 feet long from head to tail, weighing over 2,000 pounds. Scientists and herpetologists who have studied him put him at about 60 years due to his teeth, which indicate he is not finished growing. Aside from his unnatural size, Gustave has several distinctive markings: three bullet scars on his body and a deep wound on his right shoulder.
Gustave’s unusual eating habits came about because of his extreme size. While crocodiles usually hunt antelopes, zebras, and fish, these prey are too agile for Gustave. So to fill his stomach, he is forced to hunt larger animals like hippos, wildebeest, and sometimes even humans. Crocodiles’ metabolisms allow them to go months without eating, so Gustave only has to feed every so often. A disturbing habit of his seems to be killing people and leaving their corpses, uneaten. The fact that he is killing prey without eating it has some nasty implications.
With the crocodile posing such a dangerous threat to locals, there have been many attempts to relocate or destroy him. Herpetologist Patrice Faye had documented him since the 1990s and made a 2004 documentary, Capturing the Killer Croc. In it, a nine-meter-long cage was lowered into the river and outfitted with bait and an infra-red camera. Only a few smaller crocodiles were caught, not Gustave.
Before the research team had to leave, they made one last attempt: putting a live goat in the cage. One night a storm hit, the camera failed, and when they arrived at the scene the goat was gone. It could have escaped due to rising water or a fault in the cage, but without the camera footage, no one knows for sure.
It’s clear that Gustave would not go down without a fight. He has been shot at multiple times; not just with shotguns but machine guns as well. They haven’t done a thing to deter him.
Myth or Legend?
It’s likely that some reports of Gustave have been exaggerated. Like the mythical Beast of Gevaudan, it’s possible that it was multiple animals killing these people. There are rumours of him having burning red eyes, or people throwing hand grenades to scare him (because even those wouldn’t kill him). It’s difficult to tell how many victims have fallen to this massive crocodile, but he does exist. Or at least, he did at one point.
There were reports in 2019 that he had been killed, but there was no evidence to support these claims. Nothing has been said since then, but it’s entirely possible that this monstrous modern dinosaur is still out there, just below the surface of a Burundi river.