Tsavo Man Eaters

Tsavo is a National Park located in south eastern part of Kenya in Taita Taveta County, measuring 13,747km2. It is one of the oldest and also the largest park in Kenya. It is home to many species of wild animals including elephants, zebras, and lions among others.

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Talking of lions, during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway that links Kilindini Harbour in Mombasa with Kampala, two maneless male lions in the Tsavo stalked the campsites of the railway constructors (Indian natives) dragging the workers and devouring them. The railway passes through the park. Nothing deterred the lions from coming back and doing what they loved most; hunting humans.

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The workers lit bonfires, even tried to scare them off, built thorn fences around their camps for protection but all these did not put off the appetite of human fresh from the lions but they still made their way in. At one point the railway construction was halted after the workers fled from Tsavo.

Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson led the construction project. He unsuccessfully tried to kill the killer lions until the night of December 9th 1889 when he shot the first lion. The second lone killer lion was killed twenty days later. These lions killed most of the victims during the construction of the bridge over the Tsavo River. The workers later resumed duty to complete the bridge construction in February 1899.

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Patterson gave several figures of the victims whose lives were claimed by the man eater lions with the final figure standing at 135 workers. Several studies by different scholars have been conducted on the number of people they might have killed and they have put the numbers to be between 28 – 35 humans. The first lion killed by Patterson was named FMNH23970 and the second one was named FMNH 23969.

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In 1924, Chicago Field Museum bought the skins of the slain lions for a sum of $5,000 though they were in bad conditions. The lions were then reconstructed and are now on permanent display along with their skulls.

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Post Author: Sam Muya

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