- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

LUGANGA, Uganda — Osama the crocodile, the terror of Lake Victoria and reputedly one of the world’s most prolific man-eaters, is staring blankly at the concrete wall of its new home, its expression suggestive of deep depression.

Only two weeks ago, it was feasting on the remains of a 12-year-old boy, the 83rd victim from Luganga village it had dragged to its lair on the papyrus banks of Africa’s largest lake.

On Monday, however, a beast once thought to be charmed, if not immortal, was finally captured by 50 local men and wildlife officials after a stakeout in southern Uganda lasting seven days and seven nights.

Osama is now the property of Uganda Crocs Ltd., purveyors of fine crocodile-skin handbags destined for the followers of fashion in Italy and South Korea.

Despite a fondness for human flesh, Osama, who measures 16 feet from snout to tail, and weighs 1 ton, is to be used for breeding stock.

Alex Mutamba, the proprietor of Uganda Crocs, with nearly 5,000 animals in his care, was delighted when the country’s wildlife authority rang him up requesting a home for Osama.

Uganda is famous for its man-eating reptiles. In the 1970s, Idi Amin, then dictator, tipped 4,000 disabled citizens into the crocodile-infested headwaters of the Nile in an unusual bid to rid his country of them.

Osama, who is thought to be about 60 years old, may well have been a beneficiary.

Though wildlife campaigners will consider it shameful that Osama will spend its remaining days propagating handbags, Luganga locals believe it has gotten off lightly.

Since 1991, it has attacked both young and old in a reign of terror, eating its way through one- tenth of the village population.

After the 1998 al Qaeda attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, villagers named the croc after terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

In the end, their revenge came after the weeklong vigil, mounted by local men who lay in wait patiently, squatting on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority had draped a pair of cow’s lungs over the branches of a tree near Osama’s favorite hiding place, known by horrified locals as “the butchery,” as bait.

It was villager John Mangene, father of nine and grandfather of 31, who first spotted the giant beast, its eyes barely visible above the surface of the lake, gliding toward the bait.

One lunge and the crocodile, flailing furiously, hung by its jaws from the tree. A copper snare had been concealed within the cow’s organs and the more Osama tried to break free, the more his teeth became entangled.

Grabbing ropes attached to the snare, 50 of the village’s men hauled in the furious crocodile, ending its reign of terror.

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