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Meet 'Gustav' – the world's most dangerous crocodile, rumored to have killed over 200 people

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Anyone who has lived in alligator or crocodile territory knows the ferocious speed of a surprise attack. Being cautious and protective of any pets becomes critical around water. Yet even caution by locals and tourists doesn't always help prevent attacks. Unlike attacks by other predators, such as bears, alligator attacks seem to have no pattern or reason. One crocodile in particular enjoys legendary status among the locals. But not for good reason. This particular animal is the most dangerous crocodile in the world. So, who is he and where does he live?

The following article will introduce you to this dangerous animal, cover some basic crocodile knowledge, and briefly describe other animals that live in the same area. So read on to learn about the world's most dangerous crocodiles.

Meet "Gustav"

"Gustav" is known locally as a cannibal. That's because he's rumored to be behind more than 200 deadly attacks on humans. However, to the confusion of some researchers, "Gustav" did not always eat his victims. He often killed people and then threw the body away.

The ferocious predator was the Nile crocodile ( Crocodylus niloticus ) that lived in Burundi. He traveled between the edge of Lake Tanganyika and the Ruzizi River.

"Gustav" was named after a herpetologist who studied him. In the late 1990s, Patrice Faye gave this moniker to the giant animal. But interestingly, no one is sure how big the alligator really is. Despite numerous attempts, he was never caught. One such attempt was even documented in the movie "Catch the Killer Crocodile" . After studying his habits for two full years, researchers spent two months trying to catch him. The documentary aired on PBS in 2004.

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So all we have is a rough estimate of size and age. Years ago, experts believed that "Gustav" was closer to 100 years old due to his estimated size. But shortly after making up his mind, someone noticed that he had a mouth full of teeth. So the researchers adjusted his age estimates. They now think he's around 60 and still growing up.

Scientists believe he was about 20 feet (6.1 m) long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds (910 kg). He can be easily identified not only by his stature but also by his distinctive features. "Gustav" suffered three gunshot wounds and a wound to his right shoulder blade. However, no one knows how he received these injuries.

Because of his size, he has trouble catching smaller prey such as antelope, fish, and zebras. So he hunts down animals like hippos, buffaloes, and unfortunately, people.

"Gustav" was so famous and feared among the locals that Hollywood even started paying attention to it. The movie Primeval is actually about the monster crocodile.

Some rumors claim that "Gustav" died in 2019. But there was no photographic evidence, and no bodies were found.

Aggressive animal Nile crocodile
"Gustav" is a Nile crocodile, considered the most dangerous crocodile. The locals called him "The Man-Eater".

© Gaston Piccinetti/Shutterstock.com

What is a Nile crocodile?

Nile crocodiles (like "Gustav") are native to Africa and are freshwater reptiles. They prefer rivers, swamps, lakes and swamps. Distributed in 26 African countries. The only extant reptile larger than the Nile crocodile is the saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus.

Alligators are usually about 10 feet (2.94 m) to 14.5 feet (4.4 m) long. They can weigh from 496 lbs (225 kg) to 914 lbs (414.5 kg). Their size does vary widely between males and females, being on average about 30% smaller. But these are just average sizes. Have seen some Nile crocodiles weighing up to 2,401 pounds and 20 feet long.

Top predators are not picky about their food. Preferred prey include birds, other reptiles, fish and mammals. They use conical and sharp teeth for a powerful bite that allows them to hold their prey dead tight, allowing the crocodilians to drown their prey.

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They have scaly, thick armored skin that is difficult to pierce. Nile crocodiles can swim underwater for 30 minutes. They can stay underneath for up to 2 hours when they are inactive. They are incredibly fast swimmers, with cruising speeds of up to 19 or 33 miles per hour. And they're also capable of short bursts on land at speeds below 9 mph. The combination of these abilities allows them to launch unpredictable and sudden attacks on their prey.

Nile crocodiles are very social animals, but they do have a hierarchy within groups based on size.

Males reproduce once a year. However, larger female alligators typically only build their nests every two to three years, at which point they lay a clutch of up to 95 eggs. After laying eggs, female crocodiles protect them. Cubs are also protected, but not provided. They have to find it themselves.

A giant Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus, runs from the beach into the water. Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe.
The Nile crocodile is huge. The only reptile that is bigger than these amazing animals is the saltwater crocodile.

© Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com

What animals live in Lake Tanganyika?

Since one of the main places "Gustav" calls home is Lake Tanganyika, it's helpful to know what other animals are nearby. The lakeshore is a biodiverse space, so the animals listed below are only a small sampling of those that live there.


The selection of animals that live around Lake Tanganyika is an interesting collection. It includes bushy-tailed mongooses, plains zebras, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, brown greater Caracas, common hippopotamuses, gray red colobus monkeys and rust-spotted genetic monkeys.


Fifteen spectacular bird species live around the lake. They include striped herons, African gray hornbills, ospreys, water plovers, African fish eagles and European bee-eaters.


'Gustav' and his Nile crocodile mates weren't the only reptiles on the lakeshore. Also Mt Rungwe Bush Viper, Nile Giant Snake, Spotted Mabua, Eastern Twig Snake, East African Garter Snake, Finch Lizard and Ringed Water Cobra.


The lake is famous for its finned inhabitants. More than 50 species of fish live in Lake Tanganyika. But it is best known for its high concentration of cichlids. There are more than ten varieties of cichlids in the lake!

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There are fewer small animals in the area compared to the impressive large fauna. Only one amphibian (crested bullfrog), three arachnids and 25 insect species were observed in Lake Tanganyika.

Three zebras on the golden meadow
Zebras are one of the fascinating animals that hang around Lake Tanganyika with "Gustav".

©iStock.com/Cavan Image


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© Mari Swanepoel/Shutterstock.com

about the author

Jennifer is an author, nutritionist, herbalist and hobby gardener. She is passionate about writing and loves to discover new and unique topics. When not staring at a computer screen, she enjoys hanging out with the kids, working in her garden, and making crazy goodies.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What do Nile crocodiles eat?

These animals are apex predators, so no animal would hunt an adult of the species. However, a newly hatched crocodile (or baby crocodile) is easily hunted by other animals. Some predators that hunt baby crocodiles include African ospreys, honey badgers, Nile monitor lizards, and snakes.

Are Nile crocodiles in Florida?

While Florida is known for its native alligator population, the state also has a few gators. Unfortunately, Nile crocodiles have been spotted in Florida. It is considered an invasive species.

What's so special about Lake Tanganyika?

Nile crocodiles, including Gustav, inhabit Lake Tanganyika. But that's not what makes these waters so special. This impressive lake is the second deepest lake in the world, the oldest lake in the world, and the second largest (by volume) in the world.

Are there jellyfish in Lake Tanganyika?

Yes, actually. There is a recorded species of jellyfish living in the lake. It is Limnocnida tanganjicae .

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