In April 2012, a fisherman went to work hoping to catch fish but he caught a crocodile instead. This happened in Lake Rumira found in the district of Bugesera. The unexpected catch led to the outbreak of a fierce battle between the crocodile and a battalion of fishermen. At the end of the day, the crocodile succumbed to severe axe and machete wounds.
The four-meter long reptile weighed about 600 kilograms. Its body was taken to the former Museum of Natural History. I guess I should refer to this crocodile as ’he’ instead of ’it’. The last time I addressed an animal inappropriately, I offended one wildlife activist. So, allow me to correct the disrespectful part: His body was taken to the former Museum of Natural History.
His skull was broken and the scales were badly scratched. In addition, his forelimb and part of his tail were missing. The fishermen claimed responsibility for the deformation of the skull but denied any involvement in the disappearance of body parts.
No one was in trouble. The murder was ruled self-defense. Legally, the fishermen were off the hook. That brings us to the question: what happened to the crocodile’s limb and tail? According to the experts who chipped-in their two cents, damage on a crocodile’s body is common because of the competitive nature of the animal kingdom. Survival for the fittest is the norm out there. Sometimes, even the fittest end up broken. Crocodiles and other animals fight brutal wars throughout their lives. As a result, they suffer terrible wounds and surrender parts of their own bodies. Yes, the fishermen had nothing to do with the chopped off limb and tail. Before the crocodile lost his final battle, he had survived many costly fights. Fights that left him physically impaired.
During his lifetime, this crocodile lost organs while doing what he had to do to survive. His final battle brought forth additional losses — the day he was entangled in a fisherman’s net. Even after death, the poor crocodile kept losing lifeless parts. The thorough cleaning process conducted before the transformation of the body into an exhibition item led to the displacement of the skull and several smaller bones. How do you lose a skull while cleaning the body? Someone needs to explain something here.
The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda reconstructed the skeleton and replaced missing body parts in a successful bid to recreate the appearance of the fallen crocodile. The missing parts were obtained from Lake Birira in Ngoma District where another bloody encounter between fishermen and a huge crocodile led to the loss of the latter’s life.
For a long time, the crocodile from Lake Rumira had been accused of turning members of the surrounding communities into lunch. Evidence was found during the process of preserving his body. One victim’s shoe was found in its belly and another victim’s attire was found therein. There are even unconfirmed rumors that one missing person’s I.D. card was found there too. If you have ever wondered why I don’t visit some lakes, there you have it.
The man eater’s body is now displayed at the Museum of Environment in Karongi District. Inside the museum, it doesn’t look like a dead crocodile. My bad, he doesn’t look like a dead crocodile. He looks alive and immortal. Have you ever entered a building and bump into a crocodile? That happened to me during my latest visit to Karongi. This trip is part of my grand tour of Rwanda on Indakangwa, a made-in-Rwanda adventure motorcycle.
The author is on a tour of all 30 districts of Rwanda. His Karongi expedition is sponsored by The Click Creations, Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, Kivu Tours and Travel, Rebero Kivu Resort and Imari Hose Ltd.