For over thirty years, a “Demon Croc” has terrorized central Africa…
The Ruzizi River runs for over seventy miles, through some of the most dangerous and hostile territory in the entire world.
Flowing from the southern bay of Lake Kivu - which separates the nations of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - the Ruzizi River runs south, towards the oblong Lake Tanganyika. As such, this deadly body of water runs through the central African nations of the DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Once upon a time, this river used to be populated by a great number of species. As recently as the 1950's, several variations of buffalo, elephants, and warthogs populated the area, living alongside the sprawling human population. However, decades later, very few of these species remain, with most having been hunted and eliminated from the local ecosystem by man.
Now, very few creatures populate the Ruzizi. Of them, hippos remain the most popular, but are in a constant struggle with their natural enemy: Nile Crocodiles.
Niles Crocodiles thrive in this environment of Central Africa, as they are apex predators that aren't particularly picky about their prey. They are generalists, who eat essentially anything close to them: as long as it is made of meat, of course.
These crocodiles are seen as very aggressive - even compared to other subspecies of crocodiles. They live primarily in freshwater, but have much in common with their salt-water relatives: they are believed to be responsible for hundreds of human deaths every year, although that is hard to verify.
Nile Crocodiles are some of the largest creatures in the world, with the adult males averaging anywhere between 11.5 to 16.4 feet in length. However, they can grow even larger than that, growing upwards of twenty feet if allowed.
This includes one crocodile, who has become an urban legend in this area of central Africa.
This is the story of Gustave, whose myth might be the only thing larger - and scarier - than he is.
The earliest reports of Gustave surfaced in 1987, when villagers on the northeastern shores of Lake Tanganyika reported being attacked by a large, vicious crocodile.
These reports continued sporadically through the late 80's and early 90's, until a couple of violent conflicts sent the area into chaos.
The early 1990's were a hotbed of bloodshed for central Africa, as several wars set the area ablaze. Perhaps the most publicized of these conflicts was the Rwandan genocide, which left hundreds of thousands - if not millions - dead in its wake.
It is rumored than in the aftermath of this conflict, that military leaders ordered many bodies thrown into the surrounding rivers. This included the Ruzizi River, where Nile Crocodiles had begun to thrive as other species died off.
This is where the legend of Gustave began.
Gustave was a large male Nile Crocodile, who was rumored to be upwards of twenty feet long. It would be impossible to verify his true size, as he has never been captured or killed, but it was believed that him being the size would put his age close to a hundred years old.
Just for reference: Nile Crocodiles can live to be several decades old. They often average out to live around fifty years, but have been known to live upwards of a century. Those crocodiles tend to be the largest among them, but - by the time they're 100 - their teeth have usually fallen out.
Not Gustave, though. When he was spotted, early on, he was seen with a full set of teeth - meaning that he was still relatively young, and - terrifying enough - still growing.
At one point, Gustave was reported to take down an adult hippopotamus, a near-impossibility for a crocodile of any size. After all, hippos are natural enemies of crocodiles, and can grow upwards of 3000 pounds.
This just added to Gustave's growing urban legend, which continued growing through the 1990's.
It was believed that Gustave had begun not only killing humans - but actively hunting them. He was described as a "man-eater" by many villagers that knew of him, and he had allegedly killed dozens of humans.
Most terrifying of all, though, were the allegations that Gustave wasn't just hunting humans for food. Reports began to surface that Gustave had begun leaving human corpses uneaten, implying that he killed them for no real reason. He wasn't killing for survival, but perhaps out of boredom... or maybe he was just a picky eater. After all, it has been reported that Nile Crocodiles can go months without eating, so perhaps he just didn't like the taste of those particular men, women, and children.
Nonetheless, among reports of Gustave's growing appetite, several herpetologists and hunters being trying to track him down.
It was believed that Gustave, this alleged killer crocodile, could be "easily more than 18 feet" long, and weigh more than a ton.
Witnesses had seen a crocodile matching his description with a full set of teeth; which, again, would make him relatively young for a crocodile of his size. Several experts theorized that - if he still had his teeth - he was likely no older than sixty years old and still growing.
One of the recurring descriptions provided by witnesses was Gustave's growing history of injuries. Starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s, eyewitnesses described Gustave having several bullet scars; including one large scar on the top of his head. This allegedly came from a gunshot, which had failed to kill him.
Several African soldiers that reported encounters with Gustave said that they had tried shooting him numerous times; including some reports of volleys from automatic AK-47's. In one report, it is alleged that Gustave responded by "eating the bullets," like a demonic entity that couldn't be harmed.
It is theorized that if Gustave is as big as some witnesses describe him as, that he is - theoretically - bulletproof. His skin might just be so thick that it cannot be pierced by normal or moderate-sized ammunition.
Other descriptions, providing by central African soldiers, say that the only way to get Gustave to retreat is by dropping a grenade in the water. That, apparently, gets his attention, but is one of the very few ways to get him to scatter.
Gustave has also been seen in the past with a large, deep wound to his right shoulder, which impeded his movement. It is theorized that this wound - in addition with some of his other gunshot wounds - might have been what spurned him to develop his current hunting habits. After all, if his movement was impeded by this injuries, it would have made him slower and dulled his reflexes... which would then inspire him to hunt larger game.
In 2004, a documentary was released, which has become the biggest source of information about Gustave.
Called "Capturing the Killer Croc," this documentary highlighted herpetologist Patrice Faye, and his quest to find Gustave - the large crocodile he had named, and been studying for over two years. It was Faye that began theorizing that Gustave was responsible for taking the lives of over 200 Africans, based on the cases of missing or murdered villagers along the bodies of water he haunted.
This documentary makes Gustave out to be an urban legend, spoken about by villagers and school-children as an entity that patrols the water, looking for prey. Some attributed unnatural acts to Gustave, and claimed he had murdered friends of friends. If you watch the documentary, you'll see that it has become really hard to differentiate what was real and what was fiction.
Patrice Faye, the French scientist that was trying to capture Gustave before hunters eventually tracked and killed him, tried to develop multiple traps for the large crocodile. However, all of these traps failed, with Faye theorizing that Gustave - who is likely over 60 years old, and has been shot several times - is too distrustful of humans and too smart to be fooled.
Faye and his team had to abandon their plot to capture Gustave, due to a pending governmental turnover and a potential civil war, but he has remained active in the hunt for Gustave in the years since.
Gustave remains an urban legend throughout central Africa, and has become one of history's most notorious cryptids, as a result.
Many liken him to mythical beings like the Loch Ness Monster or the Mothman, considering him a demonic entity. In fact, he has even been nicknamed "The Demon Croc," and has led to all kinds of theories and allegations.
In 2007, Gustave became the inspiration for a low-budget horror movie, called Primeval. The marketing for that film highlighted the most salacious allegations against Gustave - that he is responsible for over 300 deaths, making him one of the most prolific killers in history.
However, it is hard to tell what is urban legend... and what is real. Many of the reports and allegations regarding Gustave are based on rumor and gossip, hearsay from central African villagers, and the foreigners that find the legend of Gustave awe-inspiring.
Every time the legend of Gustave begins to fade away, he seems to resurface, as if to remind the world that monsters do exist.
In 2009, after a long period of inactivity, Patrice Faye claimed that Gustave had been spotted several miles west of the Ruzizi Delta. Then, in June of 2015 - following a similarly long period of nothing - an unconfirmed sighting claimed that Gustave was spotted, dragging an adult buffalo into a riverbank.
The story of Gustave, the killer crocodile of central Africa, remains unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on September 9th, 2018
Other original music created and composed by Ailsa Traves