The Tsavo Man-Eaters

I really love the movie The Ghost and the Darkness; if you’ve never seen it, go forth and do so. I’ll wait.

The topic of the movie is the two man-eating lions that terrorized the railroad camp in Tsavo, in Kenya. The movie itself is based off of the account by the engineer in charge of designing the bridge over the river there, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. As you can imagine, just how close Patterson’s account came to the actual truth is something of a point of curiosity. Patterson did indeed hunt down and kill the two man-eating lions, and their remains now reside at the Chicago Field Museum. The lions on display there look a little to the small side now, but that’s apparently because they were put together for display from the original lion skins, which had been cut down to be rugs for Lt. Colonel Patterson.

Anyway, since the original remains exist, there’s been some very cool research done about the historical incident – including a new study about how many people the lions actually ate. I find it fascinating, particularly since they could track this by looking at various isotopic ratios. You really are what you eat.

The other thing I’ve found interesting are the possible reasons why those particular lions started eating humans. Apparently one of them had some bad dental problems which would have made it difficult for him to hunt and eat normally. There’s just something sad and a little beautiful about two male lions hunting together, the one helping the other get food that he could eat.

…of course, considering that food was humans, well… brrr.

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