The Bestiary: Predators

More Beasts

Other beasts of note, from man-eating chimps to mysterious, wolf-like monsters.

  1. Man-eating chimpanzees - 15 victims
  2. Monster from the deep - victims unknown
  3. Meat-eating hippos - the most dangerous mammal in Africa
  4. Man-eating sharks - 7 recorded deaths in 2004
  5. La Bête - 64 victims

Man-eating chimpanzees

Over the last 7 years in western Uganda, there have been over 15 attacks on young children by chimpanzees. Half of these attacks have been fatal, and victims who have survived have come away with terrible wounds, including lost fingers and limbs. One chimp responsible was named Saddam. Saddam terrorized villagers near Kibale National Park for over two years. He became increasingly bold, even snatching a child from its home. He was eventually hunted down and killed by an angry mob after he had taken his third victim.

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Today, another chimp nicknamed Kiki terrorizes the area, having killed one child and maimed another. Local villagers have abandoned fields near the forests where the chimpanzees live. Even so, reports of chimps charging at children or stealing goats continue on an almost monthly basis. (See BBC news report.)

Monster from the deep

Giant squids were once the stuff of legend, but today we know that a huge species of squid (Architeuthis) does indeed exist, though until recently no specimen had been scientifically observed in the wild. However, in 2005, Japanese scientists observed Architeuthis in the wild, taking some 500 images of the monster that measured roughly 25 feet long. The squid was attracted by a baited fishing line some 2,950 feet beneath the North Pacific Ocean. The researchers reported that Architeuthis appeared to be a much more active predator than previously suspected. It homed in on its prey, using its elongated feeding tentacles to strike and tangle the prey, before enveloping it in a "ball of tentacles." (See National Geographic news report.)

Meat-eating hippos

Hippos were long thought to be pure vegetarians, that is, until they were witnessed scavenging flesh from animal carcasses. Even so, no one imagined that they might have an even greater appetite for meat. While hippos are known to be aggressively territorial and protective of
their young, it was never thought that they ever killed animals for their meat. But now researchers have witnessed groups of hippos killing and devouring gazelles. While vegetation is plentiful, hippos seem to follow a vegetarian diet, but during summer months when vegetation is scarce, they are more than happy to eat meat and are quite capable of killing their own prey.

As a predator, the hippo is truely awesome. At three tons in weight, and armed with huge, razor-sharp teeth, they are the largest predator in Africa. They have been responsible for numerous attacks on people, and by some accounts, they may be responsible for more deaths than even Africa's top killer, the crocodile. Many villagers near hippo populations bear the scars of their encounters with hippos.

Hippos spend the majority of their time in the water, and this is where many attacks on fishermen in their boats occur; however, hippos also come onto the land at night to feed. In areas of human habitation, they frequently raid farms for their crops and will kill cattle, other livestock, and their handlers.

Along with their new status as predator, the hippo has two more gruesome aspects to its behavior, infanticide and cannibalism. Like male lions and baboons, male hippos will kill the young of rival or displaced males. Also, they have been witnessed feeding on the carcasses of other hippos!

Man-eating sharks

In 2004, the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) reported that there were 109 incidents of shark attacks. 61 of these were unprovoked. 7 of the attacks proved fatal. 8.9% of all attacks from 2000-2004 have been fatal, and there has been a steady increase in the number of shark attacks over the last few decades. (See ISAF.)

La Bête

Between 1764 and 1767, a beast terrorized a region near Gevaudan in central France, killing 64 villagers, mostly children. The first attack that provided a description of the beast took place on a girl from Langogne who was working on a farm when she saw a large, wolflike animal charge from the trees in a straight line toward her. The farm’s dogs retreated as the beast drew closer, until the bulls from the farm’s herd of cattle menaced the animal enough to drive it back into the forest. The beast was described as a wolflike animal the size of a cow. It had a wide chest, a long sinuous tail with a lion-like tuft of fur on the end, and a greyhound-like head with large, protruding fangs. It was also noted making huge leaps approaching thirty feet. The animal had a strange method of killing, often ignoring the torso and throat, going for the head, crushing it before feeding. It seemed to favor humans, ignoring farm animals, and instead attacking the person tending them.

The killings continued for 3 years despite the efforts of Antoine de Beauterne, chief huntsman of King Louis XV, who spent those years hunting and killing wolves in the region. A couple of large wolves were eventually killed, one in 1765. It weighed over 130 pounds (typical European wolves weigh 70–100 pounds). The other, killed the following year, weighed 109 pounds.

Today La Bête is a household name in France, spawing numerous books and even movies. Most recently released was the critically acclaimed movie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, the highest grossing French movie of all time. It is available at Amazon.com

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