postheadericon The Man Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures

Have you ever seen the movie The Ghost and the Darkness starring Val Kilmer? Well, whether you have or not, the movie is based on a captivating book called The Man Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures which is a true account of how two man-eating lions caused havoc amongst the workers on the Tsavo railway bridge project in the present- day Kenya. Here is a brief description of the story:

In 1898, the British East Africa Company commissioned Col. John H. Patterson to oversee the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in present-day Kenya. Almost immediately after his arrival, lion attacks started to take place on the workers, with the lions dragging men out of their tents at night and feeding on their hapless victims.

Despite taking various measures to curb the attacks, they escalated dramatically, and eventually the bridge construction stopped due to a mass exodus of the workers. The superstitious workers became increasingly hostile and many of them were certain that the lions were evil spirits who came to punish the bridge builders.

The lions’ methods became so uncanny, and their man-stalking so well-timed and so certain of success, that the workmen firmly believed that they were not real animals at all, but devils in lions’ shape. The workmen were quite convinced that the angry spirits of two departed native chiefs had taken this form in order to protest against a railway being made through their country, and by stopping its progress to avenge the insult thus shown to them.

Col. Patterson reckoned that between them, the lions had killed no less than twenty-eight Indian workmen, in addition to scores of unfortunate African natives of whom no official record was kept.

With his reputation, livelihood and personal safety at stake, Patterson, an experienced tiger hunter from his military service in India, realized that he had to deal with the crisis in the only way he knew how – hunt the man-eaters down and kill them. Patterson vowed that he would spare no pains to rid the neighbourhood of the brutes. But little did he know the trouble that was in store for him, or how narrow were to be his own escapes from death.

Patterson recorded this true story in book from in 1907. This story was the basis for 3 films; a monochrome, British film of the 1950s, a 1952 3-D film titled Bwana Devil, with The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), starring Val Kilmer as Patterson, being the latest.

A number of theories have been put forward to explain the lions’ man-eating behavior, such as poor burial practices (which made bodies easy to dig up by the lions), low populations of food source animals due to disease, etc), it is now believed to have been primarily due to dental disease—it was later discovered that one of the man-eating lions had a badly abscessed canine that could have hindered normal hunting behavior.

Read more about The Man Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures here:

postheadericon The Man-eaters of Tsavo

The Man-eaters of TsavoBy J. H. Patterson

And Other East African Adventures

In 1898, the British East Africa Company commissioned Col. John H. Patterson to oversee the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in present-day Kenya. Almost immediately after his arrival, lion attacks started to take place on the workers, with the lions dragging men out of their tents at night and feeding on their victims.

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