New Study Finds Evidence Why The Tsavo Man Eating Lions Loved To Devour People

“I have a very vivid recollection of one particular night when the brutes seized a man from the railway station and brought him close to my camp to devour” —Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo: And Other East African Adventures.

This was the terrifying description of how two man-eating lions terrorized a Railway construction project in Tsavo, Kenya in 1889. The incident was dramatized in the movie, The Ghost and the darkness where 35 workers were ruthlessly dragged even from hospital beds and eaten alive. Researchers have now found evidence why Lions became man-eaters.

1 Researchers in the past were baffled as to why the Tsavo Lions became man eaters

The Tsavo incident which occurred during the building of the Ugandan – Mombasa railway was one of the most notorious cases of man eating lions as witnessed by the project in charge Lt Col John Henry Patterson. Scientists still wonder why the two lions became such ferocious man eaters.

A few experts felt it was lack of prey that led the Tsavo lions to start attacking humans. Disease and drought reduce the animal population which made the lions desperate man-eaters; however proof of the methods of killing by the lions laid waste to such theories simply because the Lions did not even consume the bones of humans but kept them in their lair. It seemed they loved their human prey. Analysis of the man-eaters teeth showed no signs of bone crunching despite of Patterson’s accounts that he would hear them chewing on bones of their victims.

Lions Tsavo became man eaters

Image Source:

2 The animals were just supplementing their choice of meat

Research leader Larisa DeSantis, Paleoecologist at Vanderbilt University along with her team used 3D imaging to map the teeth of the Tsavo lions which have now been preserved in the Museum of Natural history Chicago. The animals were killed by Patterson and a lion hunter. Teeth of another lion that had attacked 6 people in Zambia in 1991. None of the three sets of teeth showed any signs of bone crushing but were smooth like lions in zoos that were fed on soft foods like beef.

This proves that the Tsavo man-eaters weren’t killing humans out of desperation but just supplementing them as food choices. “We often see ourselves as the top of the food chain, where in reality we have been on the menu of lions and large cats in general for a long time,” DeSantis says.

Tsavo man-eaters

Image Source:

3 Oral injuries in all three animals

The fact that makes this theory correct is the injuries on the teeth of one of the Tsavo lions and the one in Zambia. The oral cavity showed signs of broken canine, abscesses and loss of teeth. The Zambia lion suffered from a fractured jaw. Although common lions do have such injuries as a result of hunting prey, the Tsavo lions would have been unable to take down an animal prey because of the inability of opening their mouths wide.

According to DeSantis, The second Tsavo animal did not feature serious injuries and most probably learned to hunt humans watching the first lion. Notes Paul Emily, founder of the Peter Emily Veterinary Dental Foundation. “Taking these mouth maladies into account, Emily adds, preying on humans makes total sense. We don’t have any fur or heavy hide, and our flesh would be very easy to eat.”

Oral injuries in all three animals

Image Source:

4 The Tsavo Lions ended up killing 35 people

According to DeSantis it was lack of prey, an abundance of humans in vulnerable areas and possibly bad teeth that turned the lions into man eaters. Several evidence shows how injured animals can adapt and were led down the road to become Man-eatres by the presence of a lot of humans. Lack of prey and bad teeth.

Museums that preserve fossils are the best possible resource to make such studies and observations with new technology of the time to find out why lions become man eaters. The Tsavo Lions took to incessant killing and were shot and killed but not before they had devoured 35 innocent people.

Man eater Tsavo Lions ended up killing 35 people

Image Source:

You may also like...