man-eating Tsavo lions | BE HISTORY


During their stay, several Indian laborers (called “fools”) were attacked and killed by two male specimens of the Tsavo lion (characteristic of their absence from the man’s custom), which at night led the workers to be pulled from their huts to devour them.

What distinguished these man-eaters was their strange behavior. The whole thing was unusual, Patterson trusted in his journal. It was about two lions hunting together, which is not a normal thing between two lions, and on many occasions it did not appear that they were killing to feed themselves or for their own sake, but rather for pleasure or revenge. In fact, many of the victims appeared in a state of rot and without being eaten. His modus operandi was to attack, kill and disappear. Lots of jerks were made, but they all failed.

There are several theories about what could happen to these lions. It is believed that in a very short time there was a great concentration of human beings to build the bridge through which the railways had to pass. That is why lions saw a better opportunity to hunt rather than antelopes or dangerous bulls. Indian workers were not in their environment and often put themselves at risk. It is also believed that Tsavo lions have actually tasted human flesh before because there were many Arab slave traders in the area and had them travel long distances to reach their ships on the coast.

In 1907 Patterson wrote and published his book recounting everything that happened during the months from March until December 1898, when the two lions were finally killed, and said that 135 people had been eaten while the railroad company counted 28. Who was telling the truth? In 2001, an isotopic study was done analyzing the bones of the skulls and it was found that lions could have eaten the meat of about 35 people in the last months of life. In 2018, Vanderbilt University in Nashville (USA) found that a problem with the teeth of these two cats was the reason for the impossibility of catching their usual prey, for example, zebras. All this is known because when the lions were killed, Patterson kept the skins and skulls as souvenirs. He later sold it to the Field Museum in Chicago, where the furs were stuffed and displayed.

This story is told in the movie Ghost and Darkness (entitled Night Demons in Spain, 1996) starring Val Kilmer with Michael Douglas.

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