Gustave the Nile Crocodile

Gustave is claimed to be an exceptionally large Nile crocodile that is or was present within the Rusizi River delta and adjacent Lake Tanganyika in Burundi. It is claimed that Gustave has been responsible for around 300 human deaths since 1987. There are many problems with the Gustave story. For starters, photos and video purported to show the crocodile in question actually appear to show many different crocodiles, with some of the videos likely being stock footage of large crocodiles used for previous sensationalist television programs detailing Gustave's claimed reign of terror. While many of the crocodiles shown are large, none of them are exceptional in size.

Back in 2015 I was asked to be a part of a documentary looking into the truth surrounding Gustave. Due to safety related issues, the project never progressed beyond the earliest stages, but it did result in some useful research that revealed a number of interesting facts. Through correspondence with documentarians who formerly investigated Gustave I learned that most of the attack incidents that were investigated resulted in "dead ends" with very little reliable information available. They believed that the number of attacks had been exaggerated once certain local residents learned that a film crew was visiting the region. I also had a correspondence with local authorities in Burundi and was told that a recent crocodile survey had yielded sightings of only two crocodiles, both of which were only 2 meters in length.

The fact is that any adult Nile crocodile is capable of killing a human and attacks are very common along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Even today reports of people being killed are very common, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo portions of the lake (North and South Kivu provinces). While I have no doubt that a large crocodile (but likely no more than 5 meters in length) was seen in Burundi and that there were frequent attacks on humans during a certain period of time, the truth is likely far less sensational than what is claimed. It is often the case that when attacks occur the largest crocodiles are blamed, since they scare people, but there is no reason to think that these crocodiles are the culprit (or, at least, the sole culprit) in most incidents. What likely occurred is that there was a spike in attacks (which often occurs in many parts of Africa and Southeast Asia) and local residents blamed a large, "scary" looking crocodile. From there, the myth grew, along with the crocodile's size and death toll.