Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Man eaters

I share this item stripped of an additional thirty some pages of images.  It pretty well assembles all the literature out there about known man eating lions and includes a case as recent as 2004 in case you think this was manufactured in days gone by.

It all is a stiff reminder that all carnivores are our predators and that management has historically meant extirpation.  North America in particular was cleansed of its carnivores by the pioneers who simply had the necessary firepower.  At the same time, the wolves of Europe were also wiped out with the same firepower.

Lion populations have declined from 100,000 to a present 23,000 mostly in South Africa and East Africa.  Their survival outside protected refuges is unlikely.  Over the next generation, every African farm boy will have a rifle and he will be hunting out the carnivores generally.  Read this and you will understand why.  This war has been sustained for thousands of years and only fully turned in favor of mankind with the advent of the rifle.

I personally am not sympathetic with excessive conservation of land based carnivores anywhere near agriculture.  Even coyotes and foxes represent a management problem to be watched over with much larger farm dogs that have had rabies shots.

Fortunately, most carnivores know that encounters with humans are fatal if pushed.  That is why most grizzlies leave such encounters.  I fear too little trophy hunting may lessen their fear in time and end up giving us grief.

The original piece is from the cryptozoologist blog.


Posted on: Tuesday, 3 November 2009, 05:45 CST 

Scientists now believe that the two infamous man-eating lions of Tsavo, which allegedly claimed 135 victims during railroad construction in Kenya in 1898, may have only killed around 35 people. 

Lt. Col. John H. Patterson, a British officer who killed the lions in December, 1898, claimed the lions killed 135 people in nightly attacks and halted work on the 1898 railway expansion.

The Ugandan Railway Company argued that only 28 people were killed, but the detailed description of Patterson's nine month lion hunt made his account more believable.

After an analysis of bone and hair samples from the lions, which Patterson sold to
Chicago's Field Museum in 1924 after using their hides as rugs, researchers discovered that the railway company's account was more accurate.
"This has been a historical puzzle for years, and the discrepancy is now finally being addressed," said Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Isotopes were analyzed to determine the number of people actually factored in to the diets of the lions so that researchers could tell approximately how many humans the lions would have to eat in order to survive. Based on the data, the researchers found that one lion probably consumed 11 people, and the other lion likely ate 24 more people in their last nine months.

According to Dominy, the analysis suggests an "outside chance" that, at most, a total of 75 people were killed. He also noted that there may have been others killed, yet not eaten. Dominy believes that Patterson’s claim that 135 people had been killed by the lions was more than likely blown out of proportion to help elevate his reputation.
[Cryptozoologist's Note: Dominy's suggestion that the number of people killed could vary from as few as 28 to as many as 75 (a difference of approximately 168%) demonstrates the inadequacy of drawing meaningful conclusions from isotope analysis based on the surviving physical evidence in a case such as this. In addition, there seems to be some unneccesary discrepancy over whether these lions killed 135 people or actually ate 135 people. Patterson made it very clear that the lions "killed" 135 people, and that this number included not only railway workers but local natives as well. Consequently, it is entirely possible that fewer people were actually consumed, since the lions may have been disturbed for one reason or another before being able to feed on many of their kills. On the other hand, Patterson reported that the lions would leave the area for extended periods of time, which means they were probably killing people in other areas of which the railroad company may not have been aware, but of which Patterson was cognizant. Finally, Dominy's comment that, "Patterson’s claim...was more than likely blown out of proportion to help elevate his reputation" is not only highly debatable—it seems painfully obvious that the Ugandan Railway Company would have had the most to lose if 135 people had been killed, as reported by Patterson, rather than their reported 28—but borders on libelous, especially now that Patterson is no longer alive to defend himself! Is it possible that Prof. Dominy is guilty of the very misrepresentation he has accused Col. Patterson of? Let the reader decide!]

The study goes on to say that during the last months, which Patterson described as a "reign of terror", about half of one lion’s diet was made up of humans, with the rest consisting of mid-sized herbivores such as impala and gazelles. The other lion's diet was more dependent on grazing animals

One of the lions had even sustained significant dental and a jaw injuries that made hunting difficult.

The lions were probably attracted to the railroad camp for food after drought and disease wiped out their usual prey, says Dominy.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


In September, 1991, while on a hunting safari to
Zambia, Africa, Wayne Hosek was asked by the locals if he could help hunt down a maneating lion that had been terrorizing the town of Mfuwe. Wayne agreed to take on the task. With some serious effort put forth, the lion was finally shot about two weeks later. It turned out to be a spectacular specimen—the largest man-eating lion ever recorded. Like the Tsavo maneaters, it, too was a maneless male. Wayne, well aware of the story of the Tsavo maneaters, and their less-than-perfect mounting job, saw to it that this lion's skin was properly collected and dried. Later, Wayne had this lion mounted (taxidermy work done by the noted taxidermist Bob Snow). He then donated it to the Field Museum. It went on display in 1999.

The Maneater of Mfuwe Was Responsible for Eating At Least Six People
The Maneater of Mfuwe is not on display with the Tsavo maneaters. Instead, it is in the museum's lower level, near the children's exhibits. Going down the staircase from near the Egypt exhibit, you will find the Maneater of Mfuwe under the staircase. This kind of odd location displays the lion in the best possible way. It is possible to closely examine the lion from all angles. The first impression one gets from looking at this lion is that it is HUGE! One also notices that this mount is properly proportioned, giving you an idea of what a large male lion looks like without the mane. All notoriety aside, this is a fine specimen to study. In any case, this lion is worth a good, long look. 

Field Museum does have a small webpage about the Maneater of Mfuwe. There, you will find a detailed account of the taking of this lion, as well as an interesting photo showing Mfuwe "coming" out of his shipping crate. 


Narrative by  Wayne Allen Hosek

Looking into the eyes of the Tsavo man-eating lions on exhibit in the
Chicago Field Museum as a child led me on a pursuit that eventually put me face to face with another man-eating lion as a grown man. The exhibit fueled my appetite to learn more, but it never prepared me to be looking into the hungry jaws of another man-eater. 

September 1, 1991, my first evening in camp afforded me the opportunity to meet a visiting lion expert from
Japan. He had come with a single purpose, to study the situation and hunt down a man-eating lion. Earlier in the week while scouting among the villages with Game Management Scouts, they encountered three lionesses near a hut, and he shot one of them. In the two preceding months five other lionesses had been killed in the village areas outside of hunting concessions and of course the National Parks where hunting is prohibited. It was his opinion at the time that she was the man-eater. Despite the kill, he was returning to Japan not at all content the next morning. He knew that the man-eater was still alive since the sixth known victim of the Man-eater of Mfuwe had succumbed to the beast the very night before. I was very interested in the enticing conversation but I had no desire to become involved with the man-eating problem.

The discussion was quite informative and intriguing though, with Charl attesting to the fact that every year for 10 years 8 maned lions had been taken out his assigned safari designated area. With the presence of additional numerous lions in and amongst the villages, there was no doubt in my mind I was in the center of ‘lion country’. Some believed that the lionesses were part of a male man-eater's pride. Charl maintained that if that was so, the man-eater had witnessed the lionesses being shot, and this had probably made him even cleverer. The expert from
Japan was not the first outsider to fail to kill the man-eater: a professional hunter by the name of Carr had also made numerous attempts to get near the man-eater, but the lion seemed to always run away and stay away from whichever area of the villages Carr was working. Pressure was building for a solution. Local officials were open to any help and suggestions to help extricate them from the problem. They had approached Charl and other professional hunters to get involved, but their commitments to their clients and other responsibilities made such diversion prohibitive. 

Having made the 35 hour journey from
Los Angeles to Kamana Camp on the Luangwa, I retired to my quarters and fell immediately asleep, as the bush came alive with noise that surrounded our open-air 3-walled straw huts. Up well before dawn, we prepared to begin exploring the concession and check for lion spoor at baits hung in a few locations several miles away. Greatly excited, I met the three trackers who would complete our ‘team’, Gilbert, Boniface and Ken, who had grown up in the area hunting for sustenance. Very familiar with the area, they would be working with us, at times with autonomy.

As we went about our business, Charl commented that I had slept quite well. My curiosity got the best of me, and I asked him how he had come to that conclusion. He told me that soon after everyone turned in to their quarters, a group of hyenas started prowling around the skinning shed, seeming to enjoy every minute of it. Their hooting and howling continued intermittently for a couple of hours despite efforts to drive them away. Later a baboon broke through the camp ‘kitchen’ door, and began thrashing everything he could get his hands on, making and apparently enjoying the noise he made with the camp's pots and pans. Last but hardly the least, about midnight, a herd of elephants glided into camp and began ripping at trees eating and chomping and grumping and getting in each others way, possibly as they stripped the flower beds in the center of our camp about midnight. The elephants were not less than 30 feet from every one of us during their raid. This went on, I was told, for another solid hour, as the entire camp lay awake, talking back and forth to each other from their individual quarters. Finally, after an hour of siege, the camp manager, an English lady named Joan, asked Charl to ‘For God’s sake do something’.

With his 12 gauge shot gun, Charl ran out of his quarters shouting and began to shoot in the air above the elephants’ heads. His actions worked, yet I made a mental note to myself that these animals in Africa were anything but shy. It was the last good night's rest I would salvage until I departed camp two weeks later.

After 3 days of wide exploration throughout the designated concession into areas that seemed, under the conditions, to be the most favorable spots for wildlife, following game trails and crossing points to the Parks, we found no indication that any mature male lions were visiting inside our designated concession. We saw and observed many lionesses and one or two young males, but no mature males. Even when we observed several lions at a time in early dawn hours, skirting in the river boundaries of the national parks, none were mature males nor had manes. Incredibly, no Cape buffalo, common to the area, were spotted either. A two year drought kept the Cape herds along with most species common to the area, hanging back in the high water table in the Parks. We visited one Park briefly and, indeed, conditions there also were worsening as they had begun browsing. The Park bushes and trees were being stripped rapidly. The lions were crowding things over there, no doubt. At night we heard their roars, calls, and snarls mixed with occasional elephant squeals and trumpets. The leopard sawing was incessant, intermingled with the almost predictable hippo calls and hyena chatter close to camp. Despite my fears, I was in my dream world.

I pondered the increasingly frustrating situation. On the one hand, we could continue to work very hard in the heat and flies, until I was scheduled to leave and join Bryan Findlay-Cooper along with Charlie and Jerry to tour
Bryan's southern Zambia concessions, Victoria Falls, and especially the Kfuwe flats with the famed Kfuwe Lechwe whose habitat and population Bryan was actively trying to preserve. On the plus side was that other species were present, not in large numbers except for Impala. We did have success in taking three: a sizable Sharpe’s Grysbok, a large Southern Greater Kudu running with two others, and from a healthy herd of about 50, ‘record book’ sized Cookeson’s Wildebeest, in that order. The trackers and Charl painted my face with the Grysbok’s blood, a customary ritual with ones’ first African trophy.

But it appeared that the prospect of even seeing a mature male lion during the next 11 days was bleak based on the signs thus far. The drought was almost two years old, and no seasonal rain was due for 3 months. When it would come, the camp would in all likelihood be washed out, as it had been each of the last 10 years. The chances of any cape herds migrating through our area before then remained slim. 

Charlie and Gerry and two other professional hunters (hereafter referred to by the author as "PH’s") were also looking for lion spoor during their work and tracking. Close to the farthest border of the concession, devoid of rivers and creeks, they had found only lionesses drinking from a tepid, algae filled water hole. They spent three days observing the water hole, seeing different lionesses but without any sign of a male lion. 

I kept reminding myself to heed the warnings of friends and others who had experienced rural Africa: Don't waste time. The Africa environment can be treacherous. Take advantage of every opportunity. Be extremely cautious. There will be many unforeseen pitfalls. It's easy for someone to come back at best disappointed. Don't hunt "cats" the first time you go...try a short 5-day trip the first time to just get adjusted to Africa. It's a long way away from home. Remember, anything can happen. Their words kept ringing in my ears. Almost as loudly as the ringing of silence from the noon day heat. Even the Tsetse flies seemed to have taken a break from harassing us around noon.

On the other hand, although I had embarked on this safari full of fear and apprehension and faced with countless unknowns, I finally decided that a rational man would make changes in the situation that might improve it, if at all possible. Laying back onto my bed, with the wind blowing through the shady camp, drying up every little vapor of moisture, conscious thoughts of the man-eating lion started to meld with the others. Gazing with half-closed eyelids out across the Luangwa to the village area, I felt a sense of urgency, almost a compulsion, to intervene. To not do so would be irresponsible. The entire camp's priorities revolved around my decisions, and to continue on our path would be an exercise of my self-will and not be of service for the others in camp or for those in the villages. Despite good intentions, no one had been successful so far. In fact just the opposite was true: villagers continued to be attacked and 6 lionesses had been needlessly killed. "To him who knows good and doesn't do it is sin" I told myself.

After a look at the calendar—based on what I’d experienced so far, particularly the obvious capability of my hosts, the impact of the drought conditions, my excellent shooting ability so far, and that despite being fatigued, I felt physically strong—I met late one afternoon with the camp PH’s and, taking the ‘step into the unknown’, I announced that I would go after the man-eater. He was after all, a "large male with a huge mane" some of the villagers steadfastly maintained. We knew he was there and didn't appear to be going anywhere else soon, especially with the terror and evil he was perpetrating. We knew where the man-eater was—he was in the villages. Despite my own self-assurance, I didn't feel comfortable with the decision. Three months earlier when I committed to this excursion, I was sure, yet I chalked it up to the fable "that’s what happens in

Charl and Willie had for some time very much doubted he was full-maned if at all. They felt that some of the villagers had asserted this simply as a ploy to continue to induce hunters to come into the area to compete for his hide. Theories that the man-eater was a lioness, based on descriptions of the man-eater given by many villagers that had been the premise of the Game Scouts hunts, lent credence to the theory that, if a male, he was maneless. Very little was known about the specifics of the Game Management Scouts’ activities involving the lionesses except for information given by the Japanese expert who shot the lioness.

Charl confirmed that my going after the man-eater would still generate revenue for the Project, our being outside the approximately 5400 square mile designated area. And, if successful, it would solve what was the major problem of the moment for the local villagers, the Project Administrators and Game Management Scouts. It would give Charlie and Jerry more latitude in their efforts, as we would be working completely away from the concession area. It was sure to be risky, I knew, but it had the potential solution for thousands of people and their children. Charl and Willie and I immediately turned our attention to the unknown arena of hunting the man-eater.

During the next two days we visited various villages where the lion had been seen. We listened to villagers’ descriptions of him and his activities, and put together as best could be done, the latest pattern and whereabouts. At the same time, our trackers worked the area relentlessly. The man-eater's last victim from the village of Ngozo was an adult woman named Jesleen. She had been the topic of discussions my first evening. Encountering the children's fear-filled eyes, and listening to each story from the terrified villagers, caused my paradigm to would shift slightly, generating a process that slowly allowed my mental state to change.

A day after the lion ate Jesleen, it was without question positively identified under macabre circumstances: he was seen entering the victim's house and leaving carrying her white ‘carry’ bag full of some of her possessions! He went roaring about the village while the people banged on pots and whatever they could pound until he left. After this return visit to Ngozo, he was seen playing with the bag from time to time, and a day later, it was found deposited in the dry Lupande River about a mile from her house. Being the dry season, most smaller riverbeds were dry, and even larger riverbeds were dried up more so than normal due to the second year of drought.

Despite the conditions, the banks on the Lupande were lined with healthy full bushes and tall green grass mixed in with dried shrubs and trees. Safe viewing had to begin by walking to a point in the middle of the riverbed, down far away from the lion's last known location. Village women would go in several small groups to dig down through the sandy riverbed about 3 feet to do their family's wash. When we arrived the closest group of women was more than a half mile from the victim's bag in clear sight of it. Even the hornbills lounging in the riverbed seemed to be giving the bag a wide berth.

That night, the lion had obviously toyed with the bag again, because the following morning his tracks led to its new spot a few hundred yards further up from its previous position. Each morning the villagers would take a peek at the bag’s position in order to confirm that the lion was playing with it and moving it during the night. The village elders counseled and concluded that the bag was bewitched. The lion, they felt, was most likely a sorcerer, or if not a demon, at the least demon possessed.

The cat seemed to revel in agonizing the villagers. He appeared in Ngozo again, cavorting around with the white bag, seeming to be only interested in playing with it like a domestic kitten playing with a new found toy, or catnip! The cat's harmless though disgusting escapade seemed to capture the imagination of everyone in the entire North Luangwa Valley within "no time". The man-eater spied the adult male villager who discovered him, but did not persist in pursuing or harassing him. The man stated the lion was maneless, corroborating earlier descriptions. We dubbed this escapade "the catnip episode".

One specific resident, a Game Management Scout, fearing greatly for his family's safety, had been continually on the lookout since the cat's first victim nearly two months earlier. During our conversation with him, with his children huddling timidly around him while he spoke, he told us that he had seen the cat trying to sneak into their village from the tall gold grass surrounding his village clearing the very day before the ‘catnip’ episode, and a few times since. From a vantage point on the edge of the river bank around 40 yards from the man's home, we could almost see the white bag’s most recent position. Lion tracks were visible on the perimeter of his residence clearing.

Other villagers told us that they believed the white bag to be bewitched and that they would not dare go near it. The Game Scout led us down into the middle of the riverbed, but would only point towards the white bag. He stopped at that point and would advance no further. It was the most eerie sight that soon met our eyes as we began following lion tracks in the Lupande with guns at hand: the white bag taken out of Jesleen’s hut. When I first laid my eyes on that white bag, my blood seemed to drain out of my body and to drop to my feet, and I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. The searing heat seemed to dissipate, and my skin became cold. If what I felt was my blood ‘running cold’, then I want to keep it warm forever. This situation became a horrific ‘in my face’ reality. I realized I had not bargained for this state of reality nor did I really want it. There was no denying my feelings, but it seemed beyond my comprehension, and surreal. I wondered what had made me think I was ready for such a venture. I only knew I was never turning back.

With our guns ready, Charl kept murmuring, almost as if to himself, "He's big. He's big" while staring down at the pug marks. The atmosphere was intense and grim in that riverbed, and it became deeper and seemed to try to almost overpower any thoughts other than those of fear. My companions had deep frowns, tight lipped mouths and glaring eyes. I asked Willie where he thought the lion might be as we cautiously strolled through this ‘lion-annexed playground’. His feeling was that the man-eater could have been most anywhere: just behind the tall grass on the bank to our side, or 5 miles away. There was no telling. It was now apparent to me from their demeanors that our trackers were not at all pleased with the situation. Gilbert avoided looking me in the eyes. Ken and Boniface became reticent.

After following the spoor from the white bag, which now we dubbed 'the lion's bag’, it was decided to lay bait about 60 yards directly further up the Lupande from the bag, at the base of a small tree where the bank was about 25 feet above the river bottom. Blind site selection was easily done between trees about 50 yards from the bait. As sunset was fast approaching, we retired to camp. At dinner, the grimness of the situation was evident by the look on everyone's faces. The discussion was stern as to what we would need to do and what the lion might do.

As we were retiring to our individual grass huts, Charlie’s only direct comment to me for the evening was, " Remember to follow-up HARD as soon as you make your first shot." As I stood my rifle up against the straw-made post next to my head and dropped the mosquito netting over my bed, I was still in a state of disbelief at what I was immersed in. The cacophony of nightly rumbles, hoots, screeches, howls, roars squeals and screams from out of the bush were barely noticeable to me. It was a night where I would fall to sleep and then re-awake several times, after which I would pray each time, until our pre-dawn wake-up call.

The next morning our trackers built the blind using grass cut by nearby villagers as their contribution to our effort. A hippo haunch was carefully laid at the base of the fever tree in the riverbed and covered with some shrub. It was completed by about 3:30 P.M. when we entered the blind, knowing that we could not leave until the next morning, for it was too dangerous to leave at night with cats, and especially a man-eater, working the area. We had a clear field of vision approximately 60 feet in width to the bait in the riverbed, and on the opposite side we had the same with several yards of clear burnished ground leading up to the patchwork of shriveled scrub brush, thorn bush and fallen grass that led to the distant huts.

That first evening was uneventful until a grazing hippo took a long, deliberately slow approach towards the blind. I whispered warnings to Willie and Charl, who initially ignored me until the hippo literally ‘bumped’ into the side of the blind nearest our heads, and apparently catching our scent, did a quick hoppity-skip-and-a-jump away. The incessant insects and an occasional bat fluttered in and out of the blind. We were stirred three times by noises in the river. Once we saw that Willie viewed as a genet visiting the bait, but the lion did not appear. However, in the morning our trackers found his tracks about 50 feet from the blind when they came to get us. And fresh pugs appeared at the white bag, which again had been moved. He had come near the bait as well, yet he had stayed away. This lion was evidently quite cautious, and apparently was used to being around people.

After a brief stop at our camp, we grabbed some food and headed out to track and hunt all day. We took a Burchell’s Zebra from a herd of about 200 and returned to camp. After discussions at lunch about what to do next with the man-eater, Charl and Willie decided to try something new: consolidate our bait at the tree with a few baits from several of the spots used by the Rangers and the Japanese researcher near other villages a few miles away. This was a big project: we dragged these baits together, purposely going right by the ‘lion's bag', and placed them next ours. Charl and Willie were sure this night would bring the final contact. I began to feel the pressure mount moment by moment. I kept asking myself the question: ‘Is this really me doing this?' My entire being was beginning to become separated from everything and anything else I knew or thought I was.

Once again, we settled into the blind at about 3:30 PM and waited for a sign—any sign—of our man-eater. I was starting to feel exhausted from the time changes and from the lack of sleep since my first night's slumber. The unrelenting heat taking its toll, I dropped off into what I afterwards came to call a ‘blind sleep’— my eyes were closed, but my ears seemed to have acquired an ability to listen to each and every sound. I was in a parallel state of consciousness. It wasn't a half sleep or light sleep—or any kind of sleep I had ever experienced. When I asked Charl and Willie, they too described this mode of sleep, a sleep which they had long ago acquired.

During the night I was startled by a resounding sharp, 'CRACK!' above my head in the small trees next to the blind. Instinctively I kept still. I slowly turned my head, rolled my eyes to my right, and could see through the thin layer of elephant grass that made up the walls of the blind, two elephant legs, about 6 feet from my head. I rolled my eyes upward, and I could make out an elephant, virtually standing over my head! He was feeding off a tree next to the blind. I rolled my eyes and head slowly back to my left to see if Charl or Willie were either signaling to me or had made a move. Catlike, Charl rose from a lying position, crouched statue-like in silence, and turned to face toward the tusker with his .458 in hand pointing upward. A few minutes of contented munching later, the elephant moved on silently. We settled back down to our ‘sleep’. After this interruption, I found myself ignoring the grazing hippos, roaming hyenas and jackals with relative ease.
As the crimson dawn broke, we disappointedly waited inside the blind until our trackers Gilbert, Ken and Boniface came driving up from the village where they had slept. They told us that the lion had come through that village and they had listened to the commotion as he had caught and eaten a bush pig near them, whilst we had waited in vain. All of us stood silent for a minute or two. I was thinking, how very strange it was that he could stay away from us. Charl breaking the pensive mood, while staring at the ground said:" This one's crafty. He's really a crafty lion." Then looked me in the eye and with dread and bewilderment stated, " He knows what we are doing."

Again we stood silent for a minute— each in his own thoughts, grimly pondering the situation. Brooding with the others somewhat, I decided that I was not in the mood to think for too long. We needed to get some water, and perhaps wash the dust and grime and ‘whatever’ I picked up during the night. Except the thought about, "Do I know what I ‘m doing?" came into my mind.

We were frustrated by this unseen menace. Perhaps after so little sleep, so much stress and with everyone's spirits sinking, I realized that the lion was taking us to a new level of mental conflict now, much more than physically. Possibly somehow even spiritually. As we drove among more villages, we saw the people who were victimized and being held hostage by him. At Ngozo, we met Chief Kakumbi and Charl translated to me some of the accounts of the terror these people and especially their children had to endure.

My consciousness added a new dimension, which had been emerging almost without my realizing it: Outrage and anger. I was in a state of anger at the pitiful conditions many lived under, and the terror of the children, many of whom had a missing limbs, none of whom had shoes, all of whom had been protein deficient, and had been victimized by a myriad of diseases and wildlife. The children became my inspiration. This foul beast seemed to epitomize all of their hardships and sufferings. He had become an embodiment of evil, as he made prey of the weak and downtrodden.

Later that day I told Charl that the lion was beginning to enrage me. As we glanced at each other's bloodshot eyes, he nodded that he understood. Rage had taken a rightful place in my life. This was undoubtedly more than a simple hunt—it was a quest. The man-eater had become the center of all my life's purpose.

My adrenaline was peaking to a sustained level where there was nothing that could have added to the emotional intensity I was carrying as the fear and rage simultaneously competed for my attention. I resolved that I would have to focus on what I was going to have to do, moment by moment, day by day, to keep my adrenaline in control and let the fear and rage play out however it would. This was imperative in order for me to be effective under any circumstances that might come down.

There was a great deal of discussion among all as we ate a late breakfast back at camp. Our spirits were low. Charl, Ken, Boniface and I went out hunting the rest of the day. It gave our minds a rest from the lion's challenge. This tactic helped lift our depressed state, because it stimulated Charl to devise yet another new strategy: We would make a major change in the blind location, hang completely fresh bait and leave it vacant for a day or two. We felt that possibly the man-eater would get comfortable after not being disturbed in the presence of the new object in a ‘new’ location. Our trackers would build it, avoiding the possibility of the lion picking up our scent or hearing anything from inside the blind. The theory went that he would thus most probably be tempted to return the next day and to repeat an unmolested dinner, assuming he took the bait, and then we would be waiting for him upon his return. Charl decided that we should move far away to another location since the lion obviously knew we were in that area. The site selected was about 2-1/2 miles from the Lupande near two water holes where the lion had been seen drinking in the past. It was only a few hundred feet from the nearest of a large group of thatched roofed huts.

While wearily driving between points, out of curiosity, I asked Charl: "Oh, by the way, what about that elephant last night?" With resignation, he replied, "That was bad. If he'd caught our scent he would have stomped." A deadly situation, yet neither of us had been phased by it. Nothing else now mattered except our adversary. Everything else was incidental. We saw lion here, lion there, everywhere a man-eating lion. He was the center of our thoughts, actions, and the shaping of our attitudes.

Charl also said something that proved to be a most accurate prediction: he felt that since this lion was extremely crafty, he would not ever permit us to see him while he was standing still. He would be moving whenever or wherever he was if he finally decided to let us see him. He told me that I should expect to have about 2.5 seconds, maybe 3 seconds, at the most, to make my shot and again, he repeated that the lion would be moving. He looked intently, searchingly into my eyes and said, "You‘ve got to make this shot Wayne. No matter what you think of it, make it. We need to take this lion". I replied: "I'll make the shot". We agreed that when the time came, I would shoot and Charl would be ready for a follow up immediately with his .458 regardless of any follow-up shot by me. Where, when, under what circumstances, who could guess or know.

The next day the new blind was built on level ground and brand new bait was hung on a tree about 60 yards away. Young village boys stood barefoot watching us, asking many questions while we worked. I took a picture of 4 of them in a group posing while holding my .308. It was heart –rendering. The oldest, a 14 year-old had only one arm. We also were given more news of our man-eater: the day before, he had tried to pounce on an unsuspecting 14 year old boy living nearby who, while visiting a wait-a-bush, heard a noise in the bushes as the lion stalked him. Without a second thought, he turned and sprinted back to his home in a heated race with the big cat. Somehow he beat him to his roundoval by a few seconds. He had literally slammed the door in the lion's face! The time was about 4:30 PM. The lion hung around as the barricaded neighbors shouted and made whatever noises they could to try to drive him away. A large number of people now knew the lion on sight. He was without a mane, a fact already accepted by us.



Narrative by Wayne Allen Hosek

Long before now the lion's presence seemed to exert a power unto itself, and had begun to permeate our entire beings. All of our talk, thoughts and actions for those days had focused on him and his challenge to us. We acknowledged the pressure, especially with so many watching who had failed, from the Game Management Scouts and the from local governing tribal councils, but it was inconsequential to us. The local authorities had instituted a 5 P.M. curfew for a large area encompassing approximately 65 square miles; most of the villagers obeyed. On the way back from the villages to our camp, however, we saw many were venturing out past curfew. Apparently they must have been thinking, "It won't be me. It will be the next person who the lion eats". Even so, the entire region took on a somber atmosphere with so many curtailed activities. 

We were all near exhaustion. Sleep was out of the question: it was simply futile to try. I had come to hunt, and it was this very fact that we perhaps clung to and acted out, in order to convince ourselves that he was not controlling our lives. So, during the day when we had time not devoted to tracking and preparing for the lion, we would try to give ourselves an emotional break and occupy our minds by tracking other animals as far as we could into the designated areas. After riding our adrenaline all day, at our camp dinner that night, conversations were short. It was then that I posed a question to Willie, a question that I probably should have asked earlier. "What, I asked, would happen should this lion decide to come into the blind and confront us?" Willie’s response seemed so logical that it made perfect sense to me and so it put me completely at ease about such an attack. He said simply: "If he comes into the blind, there will be 3 guns waiting for him and he will be killed." With that I never gave it a second thought. But he apparently did give it many thoughts himself, as he later told me he never would close his eyes because he held that to be a real possibility with this lion being a man-eater. He didn't want to give him one instant of advantage. 

Ironically, Charlie and Jerry, experienced just such an attempt 5 nights later about 60 miles from camp. It was only a clever ploy by Simon the PH with them, who, staved off what would most certainly have been a very ugly incident. From their report I realized that lions who come into blinds are not such a simple matter for the occupants. 

After another fretful night in bed, shortly after sunrise the next day we scouted the new bait and the area around the new blind. The man-eater had come to the bait, had torn off parts of it, and we could see where he had lain to eat in a footpath used by the villagers leading to a small creek. It appeared he may have taken a nap in the path as well. I stopped to take a photo of one of his pug marks next to my foot. As I snapped the shutter the camera froze. My view through it was black. The camera had broken! 

The snap of the shutter seemed to still be snapping like a whip in my head. I took this incredible event as possibly a sign from The Lord. Staring at the pug mark, I thought it meant "Lights out!" But for which one of us? For me or for the lion? I wouldn't accept the thought of it being me. Charl and Willie didn't seem at all comfortable with what had just happened. In truth neither was I. All three of us didn't want to talk about it. It was almost as if we all accepted that it was an omen. The villagers said the lion, after all, was a witch or a demon. Who knew what it meant? Only time would tell. 

So far the new plan was working to perfection. During that day our talk was of anything other than that of the coming evening's work. It reminded me of a baseball team’ dugout when their pitcher has a no-hitter in his sight. Don't hear, don't talk, don't think it. But, I was thinking about it and I felt the others were as well. We craved relief from the shroud of oppression that had seemed to somehow smother our spirits since we first intruded into the man-eater's affairs. We knew he could be seeing us at any time, and we felt him, whether in his ‘hunting area’, or returning to camp several miles away. It was as if a spirit was around, watching us continually. By this we felt that we had come to know this lion in a most strange way and peculiar. 

Charl, Willie and I returned to enter the new blind about 3:30 P.M. that day. Gilbert, Ken and Boniface made arrangements with villagers to stay in nearby huts. If the man-eater was wounded and escaped death from our initial attack, Gilbert would be the lead man to track him until the lion decided to fight it out or became weak so one of us could put him down. It was too revolting a scenario for us to even think about as a possibility, but we knew we had to be prepared for it. I was hoping the lion would show up soon, and give us an easy shot and allow an early camp celebration. 

We waited, talking in whispers, calmly, even lightheartedly, but we were afraid to talk about the lion. After about 45 minutes Charl suddenly raised his finger to his lips indicating silence. He had spotted some movement in the tall grass near us. Peeking intently through the blind's grass walls he detected parts of a lion's body as it moved. He indicated that the lion was circling the area in the tall grass not more than 40 feet to one side of the blind. We kept quite still and quiet from that moment on. We all were suffering from days of sleep deprivation, and one of my greatest concerns had been the possibility that one or more of us would pass out asleep. Despite the intensity of the situation, I feared that this could happen in a moment of deceptive calm, when physical exhaustion and a mind assaulted by overwhelming emotions, especially in unyielding heat, together seem to fulfill the old saying that ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’.

Charl and I both could snore if we dozed off, and I had asked him if one of us to fall asleep and snore at the wrong moment, could it warn off the man-eater? Charl said he thought it would not as this lion was used to being around people, especially in the middle of the night. He would have heard and become accustomed to human sounds and it might only enhance our chances of him viewing the blind as "just another house". Still, even before I asked the question I knew the answer in my heart was: to stay alert. As we waited and hoped, I prayed a silent prayer. I found myself fighting off attacks of dozing, and I know I succumbed to one as dusk began to envelop us. 

It was seemingly in the next moment when I saw Charl standing and motioning for me to get up! I jumped up with my .375 H&H and looked through the blind window. Willie whispered: "See him? He's behind the tree!" I didn't at first because the lion was approaching from far behind in a straight line with the trunk of the tree from which the bait he'd partially eaten the day before hung, thereby masking his movement. Our preconceived image of him didn't suffer any as he used this tactic. From my view of the lion's body movement from behind the cover of the tree trunk, he wasn't walking calmly as I had seen many other lions walk as when undisturbed. He was in a quick stride, almost trotting. Reaching the tree, he then stepped out from behind it to our left and I saw him for the first time—he was huge! He trotted right past the bait and turned his face to the blind and snarled. He knew we were there. And as Charl had accurately predicted would be the case, he was moving and picking up speed. We would never see him standing still. At least not alive.
Extending his legs he gave me a full broadside view of his body. I scoped onto his stomach at first, but bearing down I jumped the cross hairs and caught up to below and back of his left shoulder, about "1/3 up and 1/3 back" as he began to take his first leaping step in a full run. It was a perfect sight picture! As I continued sweeping with him, I allowed subconscious control as I squeezed the trigger and heard the sound of the hit, a "wok". Suddenly an orange flash next to me extended towards the lion and I knew Charl had squeezed off a round. I know I heard the blast of his rifle, but the sound was as silent as the scene in my scope. I immediately re-chambered as the lion continued to sprint like a greyhound for cover into the elephant grass out of my vision. We listened to him crashing through the dry grass for a few seconds, and then, just as suddenly as he had appeared, the noise of his last 'charge' ended. What came next was a low gurgling, burping sound, the sound heard when a lion succumbs to a lethal blow, and then deadly silence. 

The Man-eater of Mfuwe's reign of terror ended on September 9, 1991. What I had just done and seen was not a dream, but I was not quite ready to totally believe it, even though to me it was more like a dream come true. Charl looked at me and said: " We're going out to check the lion." I’m not sure why, yet I stood there, savoring the moment. Despite the relief and elation, I still strangely held onto the state of mind I had just prior to killing the lion. It lingered on as the fear continued to assert itself. 

The Land Rover could be heard approaching through the dry bush driven by Gilbert, Boniface, and Ken. They heard the rifle blasts and were speeding to our sides, not knowing what to expect. Greeting them as they drove by me, they continued up to where Charl and Willie were approaching the dead man-eater, which was around 40 yards from bullet impact. When they reached them, Gilbert stood over the carcass and began singing the "The Kunda Lion song" in a clear, beautiful, strong voice: "Moto-moto anamata, Nkalam sa funna nkondo" translated: "Fire, Fire Young Man, The Lion does not want a War". As I walked forward, the trackers ran to me and hugged and kissed me with their congratulations. Ken repeated gleefully: "I say today you get your lion". We were all overjoyed it was over. Yet, I believe that I was perhaps more relieved that we didn't have to track the man-eater's blood trail with darkness falling. 

As darkness was now masking the surroundings, the skyline in the distance was lit up all around by orange light. The villagers were setting bonfires in celebration! They had heard Gilbert’s song! Voices began ringing out from the darkness from all directions accompanied by drumbeats. Shouting was back and forth and singing came from all sides. We could see no one. It was as if hundreds of people were conducting a private opera. With the orange glowing halos in the darkening skyline of tall grass as a backdrop, we stood in silent isolation with the dead man-eater. It was a moment of exquisite uniqueness. I stopped and stood to savor the scene and cement it in my memory. 

It seemed too soon when the echoing voices transformed into a huge circle of people converging on a point in the headlights of the Rover. As I approached, I saw Charl was standing next to the rover. Rapidly a crowd of children swarmed at one point in the vehicles’ lights and I watched as they were spitting, and from their body movements, striking and kicking toward the ground. They were casting out their fear and rage on the dead lion! The noise grew as many more people arrived. Charl stood as if transfixed; he eyes reflecting empathy, wonderment and appreciation. He seemed at a loss for words. Equally in awe, I milled around watching the crowd. 

A very old woman approached Charl and asked him who had shot the lion. I couldn't actually hear her above the crowd noise, but I saw him point at me from across the dust filled circle of celebrants. She looked at me for a moment, then back to him for confirmation, and with her cane in her hand, she limped over to me to, took my hand, squeezed it hard, and looked fiercely in my eyes and said, "Zikomo kwambili", which means "Thank you very, very much". This was considered by those present to be great honor granted me from one held in high esteem. Charl later told me when he recounted her greeting and thanks that this was the most dramatic moment for him throughout the entire experience. 

After her recognition, countless others extended their hands to me in thanks as I walked around the crowd. Finally I looked warily at the Man-Eater of Mfuwe. He lay almost as if he were asleep. Yet I could not bring myself any closer to him and remained 25 feet away. Suddenly a story my friend Mickey told me years earlier came to me: He told me that he heard that when one first sees the lion he is hunting, it looks gigantic. And then, after shooting it, the lion immediately looks much smaller. But as the hunter approaches the dead animal, the lion grows in size with each step, until it regains its true size at the very least in the eyes of the hunter. 

It took me 30 minutes or more before I could bring myself to go up from behind, and touch the Man-eater of Mfuwe. My camera had broken when I had photographed the lion's pug mark next to my foot earlier in the day. Charl had brought his along—and it also refused to function as well. Was this a curse from the beast? It didn't matter to those of us who were gathered there. After all the best picture is the one that remains in a person's heart.. Villagers carried me on their shoulders around the crowd in celebration.
Numerous songs were sung, speeches made with countless expressions of individual thanks. To name all would be difficult, yet one of many individuals who stand out in my memory: was the Project Assistant School Principal who thanked me profusely, honoring my mother for "birthing" me. He said that he had to once wait for 17 hours to leave his hut because of the Man-eaters activities. Gilbert sang ‘The Lion Song’ again and again. Willie came alongside me and suggested I listen carefully, since the only time the song is sung is when a lion is killed. It is believed by the Kunda, that if it is sung when a lion has not been killed, whoever sings the song will themselves soon be killed by a lion. 

After expressing my gratitude for the kindness and honors bestowed on me by the villagers during their celebration, our party returned to camp with the Man-eater of Mfuwe in our Land Rover. With our companions and our camp staff we continued the celebration under a bright starlit sky. After the celebration, our skinners cut open the stomach of the Man-eater of Mfuwe to look for identifiable human remains. This was a critical part of the celebration and of the official recognition of the victims. It was required because the Kunda, as well as many other African tribes, believe that if any human remains are found, at least part of them must be buried with a proper funeral, otherwise the deceased will not enter heaven or the equivalent of ‘the happy hunting ground’. Finally, about 6 hours after firing the shot that killed him, I was able to bring myself to touch the lion's head. 

Around 3 A.M., as we were wrapped it up for the night, I saw Kathryn, an
Oxford University wildlife researcher, who was working at the Project’s Kwange Culling Station, with the Game Management Scouts. She had enjoyed the celebration. As I prepared to retire, and take the Man-eater of Mfuwe away for the night, she stood motionless staring at him from the corner. I walked over and asked her if she had a chance to go up and inspect the lion, at least touch the man-eater. "No, not yet,..but I will.." she murmured. Indicating that in a minute the chance was about to be gone forever still did not persuade her to move. She just kept staring at him and repeated that she ‘would’. Finally, I asked this woman, who had lived for four years in the bush, if she would like to walk with me up to the dead man-eater. She said "OK", but only after I took her hand in mine would she step forward with me to ‘meet him’. 

Man-eaters die hard. 

Charl told me he had never seen anything like what had transpired. None of us had. The next morning, Willie came up to me and confessed, smiling broadly, that he had made up his mind that he would never put his head down or doze off, because he was extremely fearful, "that this lion, being a man-eater, just might decide to creep up and suddenly come into the blind". He too said the events were amazing and would never forget them. "You watch", he said, "when you get back to LA, you’ll be asking yourself, ‘Did I really do that?’" 

No human remains where found in the man-eater. Charl’s shot had nicked is left rear ankle, tearing away a noticeable patch of skin and flesh. His back bore the scars of the beating by the crowd of children just hours earlier. He seemed to be a most normal dead lion. The lion measured out at 10' 6" by Charl’s measuring tape. ‘His’ white bag remained undisturbed out of respect for Jesleen; it probably disappeared with the seasonal rains that came a few months later. 

After a short 3 hours of rest, I returned to the scene of our triumph. The blind's grass and bamboo poles had been salvaged by the villagers. Searching the ground, I found my spent cartridge casing from the lethal round taken by the lion. It seemed to reflect my energy level. The landscape now seemed uncharacteristically placid and lifeless, the way my mental and emotional state felt. Everyone in camp said I had been "Africanized". More "Africanizing" challenges came and went with their sudden danger, lethal threats, and uncertainty. Still, none were as "Africanizing" as the moment Charl presented me with the Man-eater of Mfuwe’s floating bones. Taking them into my hands, my heart throbbed and I felt a familiar rush, almost as if he still lived. 

Somehow, for me, he always will. 


Two days later, I had the honor of being presented to the area Chieftainess, Cheiftainess Ensefu. There were numerous congratulatory calls to the nearest phones in Mfuwe from officials including the Norwegian Director of the Project, the Game Warden of the Mfuwe Command, and Zambian newspapers carried the story. Some were relayed by radio to us. We were given the wonderful opportunity to promote the concept of the LIRDP conservation program and similar efforts not only in
Zambia, but all of Africa

I remain honored beyond measure to have taken the Man-eater of Mfuwe. I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunity that was given me and the teamwork of Charl Buekes, Willie Cloete and our trackers Gilbert, Ken and Boniface. In keeping with LIRDP goals and purpose, I had not only taken a fine trophy and benefited it's cause, but also had rid the people, children especially, of the reign terror of the Man-eater of Mfuwe. An experience I never even thought of being a possibility let along reality.

Africa's lions may usually prey on zebras or giraffes, but they also attack humans, with some lions responsible for over 50 deaths.
In encounters with the king of beasts, an unarmed person is "one of the most helpless creatures," notes Charles Guggisberg in Simba: the Life of the Lion. "Man cannot run as fast as a zebra or a gazelle, he has not the horns of the sable antelope or the tusks of the warthog, and he cannot deal terrific blows like the giraffe." People are, in other words, easy pickings. Even though Africa’s lion populations have been drastically reduced in the past decades, lions still regularly eat people; it’s not uncommon for them to kill more than 100 people a year in Tanzania alone.

Many man-eaters are wounded or old; some have been deprived of natural prey sources; others may simply have developed a fondness for human flesh. Most are nameless, but a few of the most notorious have been rather colorfully christened: Namvelieza, or The Cunning One, killed 43 people near
Kasawa, Zambia. Tanzania’s Paper Lion got his name because he seemed to drift from victim to victim randomly, like a scrap of paper floating in the breeze.

This list of the most famous man-eaters includes mostly males, but females are actually responsible for more killings, according to
University of Minnesota lion expert Craig Packer. However, lionesses tend to eat people in isolated instances, then return to their normal diet, while males "are more likely to become recidivists," Packer says. The worst-case scenario, he says, is when a whole pride of males and females starts feeding on people: these lions are the most "persistent" threat to their human neighbors.

Chiengi Charlie

This man-eater—missing half his tail and so light-colored that he was also known as "the White Lion"—haunted Chiengi, the British post on the border of what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), in 1909. "In the district in which he carried on his nefarious practices Charlie (became) a celebrity, almost an institution," according to one account. "He was alluded to with the almost affectionate familiarity with which some people speak of the devil." He eventually teamed up with two other males to feed on the inhabitants of several villages. Charlie and his partners reportedly ate 90 people, including the servant of a hunter sent to destroy him. He eluded all manner of traps and the best marksmen in the country (though one village woman managed to beat him off with a firebrand as he clawed through the mud wall of her hut.) He was finally shot in a gun trap.
Osama terrorized Rufiji, Tanzania, from 2002 to 2004; he was accused of killing more than 50 people from eight villages. Part of a pride of males and females, Osama likely didn’t kill alone, but he was the lion villagers singled out to star in billboard-size depictions of the bloody deeds (according to Tanzanian lion scientist Dennis Ikanda, the lion was named after Osama bin Laden, whose terrorist attacks made headlines even in rural Tanzania.) Osama was just 3 1/2 years old when game scouts shot him in April of 2004. Some have blamed his eating habits on a large abscess on one of his molars, but, according to Packer, whose research team studied the case, plenty of man-eaters have perfect teeth. Osama "probably got started when his mother started eating people," Packer says.

Msoro Monty

Though historically rich in wild game, the
Luangwa River Valley in eastern Zambia has produced a series of fearsome man-eaters. In 1929, one began stalking victims near the Msoro Mission, which furnished his alliterative nickname. "Msoro Monty" never lost his knack for sniffing out traps. After killing a large number of people, he disappeared without a trace.

Lion of Mfuwe

This cat terrorized
Zambia’s Luangwa River Valley—near Msoro Monty’s old stamping grounds—in 1991. After killing at least six people, the lion strutted through the center of a village, reportedly carrying a laundry bag that had belonged to one of his victims. A California man on safari, after waiting in a hunting blind for 20 nights, later shot and killed him. The lion was more than ten feet long and, like the famous Tsavo lions, totally maneless. His body is on display at Chicago’s Field Museum.
Tsavo Lions

Hollywood darlings, and arguably the most famous of the man-eaters, the Tsavo lions have been the subject of several movies—including Bwana Devil (1952) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)—and many books. The pair of males was accused of devouring some 140 workers along
Kenya’s Tsavo River, where crews were building a railroad bridge in 1898. Hundreds of workers fled, halting construction; the project’s chief engineer finally hunted down both lions, and the bridge was completed in 1899. 

The Man-Eaters of Njombe

The most prolific of the man-eaters, this pride of 15 claimed hundreds of lives—perhaps as many as 1,500—of lives between 1932 and 1947 in southern
Tanzania. "The renowned man-eaters of Tsavo were very small fry compared to what these proved to be," wrote George Rushby, the British game warden charged with stopping them. Prior to the pride’s bloody spree, the colonial government had reduced the numbers of prey animals in the area in an effort to control a rinderpest outbreak that was destroying cattle herds. The hungry lions quickly settled on human flesh as a substitute. Unlike most lions, the Njombe pride did its killing in the afternoon, using the night hours to travel as far as 15 or 20 miles to an unsuspecting village. Rushby believed that the cats actually used a relay system to drag bodies into the safety of the bush. He finally hunted down and shot the lions.



by Paul Kvinta

Nature's most efficient predators are hunting down the people of southern Tanzania. The cats are cunning, hungry, and—some believe—not of this world!

In the pitch darkness of the hut, it took Salum Mohamed a moment to get his bearings. It was not quite midnight, and he'd been throttled from a deep sleep by frantic shrieking, the timbre of which seemed so surreal Mohamed couldn't be certain he wasn't dreaming. "What's wrong?" he called out, stumbling from his bed and groping about in the dark.

Mohamed's wife and three sons were all fine, but as he made his way toward the spot where his nephew, Hassani Dadi, normally slept, he found the screaming child in a most unusual predicament. Little Hassani was wedged among the branches and palm leaves that formed the only unfinished wall of the hut, a wall waiting to be sealed with mud like the rest. Strange, Mohamed thought. He tried to grab hold of the boy, to free him from the branches. That's when the attackers on the other side of the wall made themselves known. They began to roar. 
Mohamed knew that lions had been active recently in the area. They had taken goats and dogs near the village of Simana, about an hour's walk from here, and that was never a good sign. Mohamed had just moved his family from Simana to this isolated outpost, though he knew the wisdom of that decision was debatable. On the one hand, his shamba, or farm field, was here and living close by meant he could better protect his maize, millet, and rice crops against marauding bushpigs and vervet monkeys, the bane of his existence. On the other hand, he and his family were all alone, surrounded by the dense thorn scrub characteristic of southern Tanzania, behind which you never knew what was lurking. In case of an emergency, they'd have to fend for themselves. 

One of the lions now snarling on the other side of the wall had moments earlier shoved its massive paw through the branches near where Hassani slept and sunk its claws into the boy's left arm. Now it was yanking him through the wall. Mohamed bear-hugged Hassani and began pulling him back in as hard as he could. A fierce struggle ensued, but it was over in seconds as man and boy stumbled backward in the darkness. Hassani's spindly arm was gone. It had detached at the shoulder. 

Mohamed tried to stay composed. He quickly tied a tourniquet to what little was left of Hassani's arm—the blood was gushing—but the boy was making bizarre groans and gurgles. The otherworldly sounds of death, Mohamed thought. He laid Hassani carefully in another room, one with four good walls, and then hurried with his family up a ladder and onto the rafters beneath the thatch roof. Once again the lions jammed their paws through the makeshift wall, trying to get inside. But the branches held. Mohamed guessed there were two lions, maybe more. All he knew for certain was that if they penetrated that wall he'd have to fight them, with only a machete. The thought terrified him. All night the cats circled the hut. Mohamed waited.

By sunrise the lions were gone. And, miraculously, little Hassani was still alive. 

Mohamed pedaled him on a bicycle several miles to the tarmac highway, where they caught a bus to the hospital in Lindi. The child survived.

It's an amazing story. Breathtaking. But as I listen to Mohamed tell it, by the flickering light of a lantern outside in the village, I realize that one piece of it bothers me. 

"Why did you leave Hassani downstairs?" I ask.

He thinks on this. "I put him in a secure place," he says, vaguely.

"A secure place?"

"I thought he was going to die," he says, stone-faced. He repeats this. He stares past me. But he never directly answers the question. He never says he faced an impossible dilemma that January night in 2003. He never talks about the cruelties of war, which is what this is, of possibly having to make a brutal, Sophie's Choice–like decision. Was there simply no more room in the rafters? Had he made his nephew available to the killers to save the rest of his family? Of course, he owes me no explanation. Hell, lions had invaded the man's home. I'm in no position to judge him.

But there is one person who can judge Mohamed, and he does so, right in the middle of our interview. Little Hassani comes racing up out of the darkness and begins screaming at his uncle. Earlier he had refused to pose with Mohamed for a photograph, saying, "No one helped me that night. I was scared because no one helped me." Now he's livid. "You cannot tell this story!" he insists. "This is not your story! You should not do the interview!" He's a cute kid, short for a ten-year-old, not quite four feet tall. A small flap of skin dangles from the left sleeve of his T-shirt, but the larger wound, apparently, is emotional. He kicks the dirt in front of Mohamed before turning and running off into the night.

His uncle sits expressionless before telling me finally, "This is something no one can really understand unless you've experienced it yourself." 

I had come to southern Tanzania this past spring to investigate a problem that even scientists refer to by the decidedly Hollywood-esque and less than completely accurate term "man-eating lions." In no way are women and children being excluded from this gastronomic phenomenon. In fact, when we pull into the village of Navanga early one morning, the women and children appear at least as freaked out about what had happened here the night before as the men. We're met by a swarming crowd, everyone talking at once. Lions strolled right through the village, we're told. Look, see for yourselves, tracks! There, there, and there! The giant cloud of red dirt kicked up by this jittery throng nearly obliterates the evidence they're trying to show us, but Dairen Simpson and Dennis Ikanda squat down and take a good hard look. "At least two adult lions and a smaller cat," says Simpson, an expert animal trapper from North Carolina. "They were here not long ago, at first light. There aren't even dew pocks in these tracks." The paw marks emerge from someone's backyard corn patch and meander right through the cluster of huts, edging close to verandas and front doors. Ikanda, 35, a lion expert with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, shakes his head and makes a series of soft sucking sounds—"tsk, tsk, tsk"—his way of expressing concern and disapproval. "They're coming right up to the houses," he says quietly. "It's not good." Simpson glances about the village and adds, "It's quite a cafeteria here. There's all kinds of food—dogs, goats, people."

Ikanda begins chatting with a group of men, trying to learn more about the lions' movements, while Simpson follows the tracks back through the corn patch to a shady cashew tree about 40 yards (37 meters) behind the huts. The tall grass beneath the tree has been flattened. "Those dirty bastards," he drawls. "They laid up beneath this tree then walked through the corn and right past the huts." He pushes back the brim of his Indiana Jones–style bush hat and adds, "It doesn't get any hairier than this." 

Actually, we learn it's been pretty darn hairy for about a week now. These particular lions first caused a stir just north of here, near the villages of Kitunda and Kitumbikwela, where they ate two dogs and two goats before heading south. They nailed a bushpig halfway to Mnali, where a woman actually spotted them, although she couldn't be sure if she saw two lions or three. It's not like she lingered for a good look. Then, two nights ago, according to the tracks, they spent some time in Mdima on villager Saidi Hassan's front porch, before visiting a nearby spring. Early this morning they were here, nosing about Navanga. Now, who knows? They could be miles from here. Or they could be 50 feet (15 meters) away, watching us from the bush. Waiting.

The anxiety among these villagers is completely understandable. Not only have lion attacks on people increased dramatically in the past 15 years in Tanzania—with more than 800 incidents resulting in 563 deaths and at least 308 injuries during that time—but almost half of those cases occurred in six coastal districts here in the south. Worse, the district we're in now, Lindi, holds the notorious distinction of being ground zero for Africa's man-eating lion problem. From 2001 to 2004, at least three different outbreaks occurred at the same time in Lindi, meaning three separate roving groups of lions terrorized the district at once. The mayhem left 113 people dead and 52 others severely mauled. After a lull in attacks in 2005, lions are once again engaging in the kind of ominous behavior that residents here remember all too well.

"We are very worried," one villager tells Ikanda. "This is what happened the last time. The lion ate the dogs and goats first, then he began eating people."

Ikanda listens patiently to everything the villagers say, sometimes uttering an empathetic "tsk, tsk, tsk." He's a short, bespectacled man, soft-spoken and studious, and afterward, he can only speculate on why man-eating has exploded here. In northern Tanzania, where Ikanda is from, the problem is almost nonexistent, probably because in prey-rich areas such as Serengeti National Park, lions merely have to wander a few hundred yards (about 200 meters) in any direction to find galloping buffets of tasty ungulates. By contrast, in southern Tanzania, the last place in Africa where significant numbers of lions live outside protected areas, the prey base has been decimated by poaching and loss of habitat to agriculture. As the country's human population booms (it grew by half from 23.1 million people in 1988 to 34.6 million in 2002) and those activities increase, lions are squeezed for both space and meals. The problem is made worse by the landscape. "Lions can hide anywhere in that," Ikanda says, motioning toward the vivid green, eight-foot-tall (two-meter-tall) grass and impenetrable scrub that towers at the edges of homes here. "How can you control lions in this stuff?"

As bad as the conflict is for people, it's worse for lions. Panthera leo once roamed the entire continent, but retaliation for killing people and livestock has eliminated it from North Africa, and only relic populations remain in West Africa and central Africa. The remaining 40,000 or so lions—half of which reside in Tanzania—continue to be hammered for the same reason. Before conservationists can hope to reverse this trend, they need to answer some basic questions about man-eating. For starters, Where do these lions in Lindi come from? Ikanda has hired Simpson to trap and collar four lions with satellite tracking devices to find out. If the lions aren't spillover cats from the Selous Game Reserve, 120 miles (193 kilometers) to the west of here, they're probably native to Lindi. That means the spike in attacks could represent a last gasp by desperate lions in a deteriorating landscape, right before their complete elimination from the area.

Craig Packer, 56, Ikanda's mentoring professor from the University of Minnesota and a leading lion expert, calls this the "Njombe effect," named after a district to the west that experienced the worst man-eating outbreak in history, when lions allegedly killed 1,500 people from 1932 to 1947. That outbreak occurred after the prey base had been purposely decimated by British colonials attempting to stem the spread of rinderpest disease to livestock. Fifteen lions were killed in response, and many others likely fled the general disruption. Njombe has been nearly lion free ever since. Before traveling to Lindi, I'd spoken with Packer in Dar es Salaam, and he'd told me, "In Lindi, you might be seeing lion Armageddon, the end of lions there forever."

The people here in Navanga probably wouldn't mind that one bit, considering what they've been through. Of the outbreaks that occurred in Lindi from 2001 to 2004, the worst unfolded in this corner of the district, in the divisions of Sudi and Mingoyo, which includes Navanga and several dozen other villages. A group of four lions killed 38 people and injured 16, including little Hassani Dadi, just up the road from here. The experience was so horrific for these communities, the attackers so seemingly unstoppable, that most people refused to believe mere flesh-and-blood lions could cause such carnage. It had to be something vastly more powerful. It had to be a "spirit lion," the thinking went, a supernatural, shape-shifting force resembling a lion, a sinister weapon unleashed by the enemies of those attacked. Salum Mohamed, the uncle of Hassani, had told me as much during our interview. He didn't have any enemies, he assured me, but that didn't mean that some malevolent person didn't have it in for the whole community. "Many of the villagers believed it was a spirit lion," he'd said. "They believed that it was sent on a trial run to my house, to see if it could kill people."

Male African lions can grow up to ten feet long and typically weigh well over 350 pounds (159 kilograms), with females being considerably smaller. As one of the animal world's greatest terrestrial killing machines, they possess the speed, strength, weaponry, cunning, and teamwork to dispatch even elephants. On a savanna teeming with prey, males easily maintain their size by consuming an average of 15.5 pounds (seven kilograms) of flesh a day. In a landscape such as Sudi-Mingoyo, with its dense thickets, view-obstructing hills, and coastal marshes, scoring that kind of meat takes serious work. Small, mobile prides—three or four adults, max—must patrol huge ranges, possibly more than a hundred square miles (259 square kilometers), to locate what little game remains here, mostly small antelope. The one game animal that has thrived amid the expanding agricultural settlements of this area is the wily bushpig, an infamous crop raider. As lions chase bushpigs into maize fields, they come into contact with another potential food source—the plodding, largely defenseless, and often unaware human. Compared with, say, taking down a 1,500-pound (680-kilogram) Cape buffalo, attacking and eating a person, for a lion, is a little like Homer Simpson ripping open and inhaling a bag of Cheetos.

It's hard to say why the pride that terrorized Sudi-Mingoyo for three years first attacked on the evening of September 24, 2001, near Mnali. Lions are opportunistic hunters, and it simply may have been a case of desperation meeting opportunity. The Lindi region was experiencing extremely dry conditions for the second year in a row, and the lack of water and pasture had dispersed prey far and wide, leaving the lions few options beyond domestic goats and dogs. It's also possible that the lions had become generally familiar with the routines of the people here. They might have learned that folks typically rise at 5 a.m. and hike to their mashamba, farm fields, along trails lined with thick bush. They might have learned that, after a long day of scaring off pigs and monkeys, people return home after sunset along the same trails, that they eat dinner with their families, tend to their children, and sometimes gather to dance and sing. They might also have learned that children sometimes wander away from homes, unattended. Whatever the case, on the evening of the 24th, the pride came across something more substantial than a dog or goat, something in a green-and-yellow dress. An unsuspecting straggler. There would be little risk in taking it.
Eight-year-old Pili Tengulengu had been playing with her cousins when her aunt called everyone in at 6 p.m. The kids scampered home along a footpath through tall grass. Pili was last in line. No one saw what happened to her, no one but Pili, which accounted for her single, high-pitched scream.
The lion would have approached her from the front, lunging suddenly from the grass, and, most likely, it would have killed her instantly with a vise-like bite to the throat. It then would have carried her deeper into the grass, possibly meeting up with the other lions. They soon would have heard so much commotion from Pili's family in the nearby hut that they quickly would have schlepped their kill a hundred yards (91 meters) away and settled into the thick scrub, where they could eat in peace. A half-hour later, men with spears and machetes came nosing about, but it was dark, and the lions were well concealed. The men soon left. After that, the pride would have finished its meal and ambled off, leaving only pieces of Pili's skull and arm bone.

Villagers viewed the attack as mostly bad luck, as another difficulty in an extremely difficult life. "It can happen anytime, anywhere, to any person," said Samwel Sabuni, Pili's uncle. True enough. Seven weeks later, it happened again. This time it was nine-year-old Maisha Shaibu, in Nachunyu, ten miles (6 kilometers) southeast of Mnali. Eight weeks after that, little Hassani Dadi had his arm taken outside Simana. And eight weeks after that, on March 14, 2002, seven-year-old Sharifa Magendo was eaten in Hingawali. After each of these attacks, the Lindi District Game Office dispatched armed rangers to track the pride. Villagers often joined these parties or sent out their own, typically armed with only machetes and spears. In mid-March, a couple of hunting parties killed two lions, raising everyone's spirits. But the joy soon faded. On May 18 the pride took an eight-year-old in Navanga. Two weeks later it took a 12-year-old in Hingawali.
Sudi-Mingoyo was losing its children. 
From a wildlife-biology perspective, the pattern made sense: The lions were still ravaging domestic goats and catching bushpigs in the mashamba, so humans had become an occasional but regular dietary supplement. And, since the lions were still wary of this new prey, they likely found the youngest ones easiest to kill, carry, and consume quickly. But in the villages, increasingly, the talk was of something else entirely. These killings weren't about climatic shifts, depleted prey numbers, or bushpigs. They didn't even involve lions, many people said. This was black magic, pure and simple. What Sudi-Mingoyo needed was counter-juju, and fast. It was time to seek out an mtaalam, a bush doctor. 

While most of the 56,000 residents of Sudi-Mingoyo identify themselves as either Muslim or Christian, traditional beliefs run deep, and notions about spirit lions have existed for generations. Still, there's little consensus on what exactly a spirit lion is. Some say people can transform into lions in order to kill their enemies and then revert back to human form. Others say dead people return to Earth as lions, seeking revenge. One of the most common beliefs is that spirit lions can be acquired on demand. "People have a belief in owning spirit lions and using them for destructive purposes," says Ikanda, the lion researcher, who has learned as much about spirit lions as real ones since coming to southern Tanzania. This particular belief seems rooted in the area's ethnic politics. The Makonde tribe, which inhabits both sides of the nearby border with Mozambique, owns many of the small businesses in the towns here and has done well compared with the Mwera tribe. The Mwera attribute this to the Makonde—and by extension Mozambique—having exceptionally strong juju.

So, say you need a spirit lion. Say your neighbor has swiped your goat, slept with your wife, whatever, and you'd like to off him. When nobody's looking, you'd slip over the Ruvuma River into Mozambique and find a Makonde mtaalam. For a fee he would give you the "technology" you need, typically two herbs and some how-to instructions. Then, you'd return to the dense bush near your village, toss one of the herbs to the ground, and—poof—you got yourself a lion. You'd then be required to stay in the bush until the lion executes the hit. When it returns, you'd "deactivate" it by placing the second herb in your open palm and allowing the lion to lick it off. This is where things get tricky. Your lion would likely be covered in the blood of your enemy and thus be looking pretty ferocious. So you'd be standing there in the dark, spooky bush, holding out your trembling hand and waiting for this bloody monster to lick your palm. Right. Most people would turn and run. The lion never gets deactivated, and that's how a man-eating outbreak starts.

In short, what Sudi-Mingoyo had on its hands by June 2002 was a spirit lion in serious need of deactivation. This was more than just a quirky worldview. Because people feared reprisals from the spirit lion, many stopped sharing information with the rangers trying to track the pride. The outbreak worsened. On June 28 the lions killed their first adult, 58-year-old Juma Musa, in Simana.

The people of Simana quickly raised money and hired Ahmad Msham Namalenga, a highly regarded Makonde mtaalam and lion trapper from Mtwara, the district south of Lindi. Namalenga's specialty was magically luring spirit lions into his snares. "Most of the villagers believe that these lions have the power to avoid traps," he explains. "My magic confuses this power. They are confused as to where the danger is."
Namalenga traveled immediately to a place that filled villagers with dread, a particularly dense stretch of forest with natural springs, west of Simana, a notorious redoubt for lions. (As if to underline the danger, people had recently taken to calling the place "Baghdad.") Namalenga selected a tree with a hole in it. He then instructed all of the village mtaalams in the area to make magic pepesi and place it in the tree. Pepesi is a flour ground from finger millet into which a bush doctor whispers prayers and incantations. When the deposits had been made, Namalenga collected them, added his own pepesi and sprinkled it over the 30 snares he had set. For three months he tracked the pride and moved his traps. Then, in September, his magic apparently worked. Sort of. Namalenga succeeded in snaring a lioness in Baghdad, but when he arrived with a group of people she escaped, leaving two cubs. Namalenga cared for the cubs in Simana for a period of time before being called home for family business. When he returned two weeks later, they were dead. No one had looked after them.
At least that's the way Namalenga tells it. But according to Msese Gasrpa, Lindi's district game officer, that's not what happened at all. In Tanzania it's illegal to kill lions that pose no threat, which might be why Namalenga's story lays no blame. Gasrpa says that after the lioness escaped the snare, the villagers killed the two cubs immediately. It's not hard to understand their motivation. The outbreak had only intensified since Namalenga's arrival in Simana. Five more people had been attacked, and four had died, two of them children. 

The lions were killing their young. They would respond in kind.


by Paul Kvinta for National Geographic: Adventure

Considering the dicey nature of non-lethal lion trapping, the yin-yang collaboration of my new field partners, Ikanda and Simpson, strikes me, cosmically, as a good thing. Ikanda is diminutive, black, quiet, and highly educated (his master's research focused on the conflict between Maasai herders and cattle-killing lions in northern Tanzania). Simpson is six foot three (about two meters), white, and trigger-happy with the one-liners. As for education, he calls his two years of junior college "a complete waste of time." With his Buffalo Bill goatee and camouflage suspenders, he relishes the hayseed-cowboy role, and as he plants a snare beneath a tree in the brutal midday heat outside Simana, he tells me about trapping for researchers who, unlike Ikanda, cop a condescending attitude toward him. "One time this woman with all these degrees asked for my credentials," he says. "I told her, 'Hell, lady, I can't scratch my name in the dirt with a stick.' So her assistant says, real sweet like, 'It's OK if you have dyslexia.' I said, 'Shit no, I'm just foolin' with you. I kin read, write, even cipher!'"

Since leaving his job as a government trapper in California in 2001 and offering his services full-time to researchers, Simpson, 53, has become one of the world's greatest wild-animal trappers. He's captured hundreds of lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals in Africa and two dozen other species in North and South America. His biggest scare came in 1999 in Kenya when a leopard he'd tranquilized awoke unexpectedly amid a throng of researchers. Simpson dragged the snarling cat by the tail 25 feet away before realizing he had no idea how to extricate himself from the situation. "I let go and dove into the bushes," he recalls. "We stared at each other for a second, then he took off." But drama like that is rare, he says, since he prioritizes safety. That's why the faux drama in television depictions of wilderness and wildlife drive him insane. He characterizes Survivor as "yuppies on a bad Memorial Day weekend."

The snare we're setting now, 25 feet (eight meters) off a dirt road west of Simana, is part of our strategy in response to a disturbing development here yesterday at dusk. A 15-year-old boy, Mohamad Suleman, was returning alone to the village on his bicycle when, in the waning light, he saw two figures on the road up ahead, moving toward Simana. He had no idea they were lions until he was almost on top of them. He slammed on his brakes, and the pair wheeled about. After a split-second stare-down, the cats sprang into the tall grass on either side of the road. Suleman whipped his bike around and took off. "They were waiting in the bush for me," he'd told us this morning, "so I went the other way."

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Ikanda had muttered in response.

Suleman stopped for the night at the first house he saw. He didn't sleep a wink.

This is clearly the same pride we'd seen evidence of four days earlier in Navanga, and after examining the tracks, we determined that they'd probably fled west to Baghdad. However, the villagers maintained the lions would return to Simana this evening to continue gobbling up goats and dogs—and whatever else. Our strategy, then, would be to establish a north-south trap line between Baghdad and Simana, four sets of snares in a row, to intercept the lions. The elders of Simana insisted that the resident mtaalam bless our traps first ("Hey, whatever floats their boat," Simpson said), but after that they approved our plan.

Now, Simpson is caked in dirt and sweat as he arranges the surprisingly minimal amount of gear required to bag a 400-pound (181-kilogram) predator. First, he digs a hole six inches (15 centimeters) deep and fills it with a chunk of foam sponge. Next, he digs a shallow trench adjacent to the hole and buries a "thrower," a spring-loaded contraption about the size of a fire extinguisher. He then fashions a snare around the hole with stainless steel cable and ties it to a tree trunk three feet (one meter) away. Finally, he places the trigger of the thrower across the sponge, before camouflaging the entire setup. The idea is to have a lion step on the sponge and fire the thrower, which instantly raises and tightens the snare. "It's a contest between me and the critter," says Simpson. "Out of all that real estate out there, I'm trying to trick him into coming to an area the size of a pie plate." He does that primarily by "creating a scent," which explains the trussed up goat that's been bleating and flopping about on the roof of our Land Rover for the past hour. Simpson frees the unsuspecting animal long enough to brain it with two swift blows from the blunt end of his hatchet. He then slices it open, yanks out the entrails, and ties both guts and carcass to the vehicle's rear bumper before driving off down the road. This heartwarming scene is called "the drag," designed to lure predators far and wide. After a mile or so of that, Simpson returns to the traps, ties the brutalized carcass to the tree, and leaves it dangling there over the snare as bait, its bulging eyes staring off in ridiculously different directions.

While three of the four trap sites are easily accessed by roads, one isn't: the one closest to Baghdad at a trail intersection recommended by the villagers. We make for a strange parade hiking in, us and our local helpers, schlepping goats, machetes, saws, shovels, and sponges. The footpath gets narrower and narrower, and the grass gets taller and taller—seven feet (two meters), then eight—until it seems like the landscape swallows us whole. "This isn't 300 meters," Simpson grumbles, repeating the distance we'd been quoted. "More like three kilometers. This is extremely dangerous." The 12-gauge shotgun and .454 magnum handgun he's packing make him no less nervous. We reach the spot, and he quickly sets the traps. Then we leave. Later that night, over beers, he regrets having agreed to the site. What if we find a trapped lion there early one morning? Are his partners nearby in the grass? How do we protect ourselves without the truck? "I need to pull that trap," Simpson says. "When someone's getting mauled there's nothing anyone can do to stop it, shy of getting on top of the animal and holding a gun to its head."

Early in the morning on August 4, 2003, Hassan Libanda woke, washed his face, and walked to the well to fetch water for his family. At 14, he was one of those perfect older-brother types, a model student, star soccer player, and responsible family member, willing to do whatever his parents asked—grind cassava, chase monkeys from the shamba, watch over his three younger siblings. He never minded running to the market for his mother, which was no small task, since his village, Nkung'uni, was in the middle of nowhere.

At the well that morning he bumped into his pal Salum Abdala. Salum had incredible news. A hunting party had killed the last man-eating lion! A group of villagers lead by Musa Manga, 54, famed for his trapping and shooting prowess, found the big lioness dead on the shortcut path between Hingawali and Simana. One of their crude-but-effective snares was wound tightly around her neck, slicing into her skin. Apparently, they were displaying the lioness's body in Hingawali that day, and people from everywhere were traveling to see it. It was a three-hour walk from Nkung'uni, but Salum and some of the guys were going. Was Hassan up for it?

Hell yes! How cool would that be, to actually see the man-eater? He'd have to ask his folks, of course. He had chores. But surely they'd let him. This was huge. Since the outbreak had started 23 months earlier, the lions had attacked 22 people, killing 14. They'd struck almost every corner of Sudi-Mingoyo, taking people of all ages. Many families in isolated areas had responded by relocating to village centers, where it may not have been any safer but at least it felt safer. There had been two- and three-month lulls in the attacks, typically when the hunting parties were out in force, causing the pride to lie low (this was the fourth adult lion killed and the seventh overall). But the lions always struck again. Until now.

"This was the end of the man-eating lions," recalls Hassan's father, Ahmed. "There were no more. Everyone wanted to see this lion." So he let Hassan go.

The gang left at 11 a.m., and what they found in Hingawali by mid-afternoon blew them away. Thousands of people were dancing and singing on the tarmac highway, joyously bidding farewell to the lion, which was stretched out limp beneath a clump of mango trees across from the market. "People were even punching the lion," remembers Juma Chipila, a Hingawali village leader. It was a great time. After seeing the lion and milling about for a bit, Hassan and his friends decided to head home. They'd have to hoof it to get back by dark.

At a trail juncture outside Nkung'uni, the boys parted ways. The bush here towers some 15 feet (five meters), and it was after 7 p.m. and dark, but Hassan had nothing to fear as he walked the final minutes home by himself. The giant male lion that sprang out of the bush suddenly and sank its claws into his neck and chest certainly couldn't have been real. All the lions were dead, right? Surely this was just a nightmare, a function of all the lion talk and stories. He would certainly wake up from this.

Hassan's uncle witnessed the attack and came sprinting out of his hut. He yelled to Hassan's father who immediately joined the chase. The two men barreled through the bush with their machetes as the lion dragged a screaming Hassan some 400 feet (122 meters) before finally dropping him and fleeing. Ahmed caught up to his son, but it was too late. Hassan lay motionless at his feet. Ahmed looked to the star-filled sky and unleashed a loud, anguished cry.

There was still one man-eater left.

We check the traps at sunrise each morning for several days but find no lions. Ikanda figures we need to wait them out, that they're probably laid up in Baghdad with a bushpig or two. The villagers think we're just going about it all wrong, and they become increasingly generous with advice. We need to move the snares more, they insist. And we should definitely be using live bait. Simpson isn't keen on the input. "Every one of these armchair quarterbacks has a theory," he says, fuming, one day. "I've heard this all before, how to trap. My fuse is getting short. It's my way or the highway on this deal."

Admittedly, he says he could use some bigger bait. A cow would be nice, if Ikanda could afford it. "If you're driving down the road, and you see a small bite of a hamburger, you're not even going to slow down," Simpson says. "But you will for a whole plate of hamburgers. I got friggin' rabbit bait here. I got something I could barely catch two jackals on, much less a 400-pound lion (181-kilogram)."

Then our vehicles start breaking down. The wet-season muck of southern Tanzania is no friend of truck suspensions. The one good thing about daily visits to the local mechanic shop, a nexus of community gossip and wisdom, is that we finally learn definitively why we're not catching lions. It's because the people who own the spirit lions, or the spirit lions themselves, posing as people—take your pick—are attending our daily meetings with villagers and learning the location of our traps.

Things get progressively weirder and rougher from there.

Two of Ikanda's Tanzanian assistants get malaria. A local we pay to travel to another village to verify a lion sighting simply runs off with the money. The topper comes one afternoon when one of Simpson's goats vanishes mid-drag. "Son of a bitch!" he exclaims, reporting back to us. "Someone stole our goat!" Simpson was alone with Ikanda at the time, and he remembers a shadowy fellow popping out of the cornfield behind him while he tied the carcass to the truck bumper. It's clear the rope has been cut, but we can't believe the guy was ballsy enough to swipe the bait from under Simpson's nose. There's no doubt what the village spin on this will be. "Hell, you could try to explain to someone around here what happened," Simpson figures, "but that's what they're going to believe, that it was a spirit lion."

As the days go by, and our traps produce nothing, Simpson slips into a significant funk. He stops eating and sleeping, and he spends his free hours doing what comforts him during times of stress—lassoing things. One day Simpson is roping plastic chairs with his lariat, behind the modest hotel where we're staying in the town of Lindi (the locals find this absolutely fascinating). Listening to the twangy tunes of Trace Adkins on his boom box, he explains to me that trapping in jungly conditions is always a challenge. Emotionally, he says, this predicament feels a little like that time in the Bolivian Amazon when he spent three months trying to catch a jaguar but ended up catching leishmaniasis, a horrifically disfiguring infection that inflated his face to the size of a basketball. He was cured only after three months of chemotherapy. "I take great pride in telling a person, Here's your cat," he says. "Sometimes I go home feeling like Daniel Boone. Other times, I feel like Debbie Boone."

The lions finally reemerge on our tenth day in the area, this time on the other side of Baghdad, about ten miles (16 kilometers) from Simana, in the village of Nusuru. They kill one dog, chase two others, and dispatch three bushpigs in the nearby mashamba. People are refusing to venture outside to their latrines at night, opting instead to relieve themselves in cans and bottles inside. Some have even stopped working. "Our tools are all inside now," one woman tells us. "We cannot go to our mashamba because we are scared." Then she adds something quite revealing: "Bless you to catch the lion!" A few days earlier, the village leader of Simana had told me, "We are happy that you are here working with us. You are here to catch the lions and protect us from them." Has no one told these folks about the satellite collars? Do they not understand that we're practicing catch and release here? People clearly seem to think our intentions are to kill or relocate the pride. When I ask Ikanda about this he admits that, well, no, he hasn't fully explained his project to the villagers. He doesn't really have an excuse, just that, um, he never got around to it. But it's starting to dawn on him that he might have a monumental problem on his hands. "We will have to tell them at some point," he says. "The worst thing that could happen is if one of our collared lions were to kill someone. We would have a lot of explaining to do." No joke. We'd have to explain that, yes, we caught the man-eater, and, yes, we released it back into the community; but, no, that doesn't mean we "own" the lion, and, no, we didn't direct its murderous behavior through our high-tech juju collar.

On August 10, 2003, one week after the shocking attack on the model son, Hassan Libanda, Musa Manga and 30 other villagers fanned out in the bush near the village of Nunga. Manga had snared the female that sparked Sudi-Mingoyo's premature lion-hater celebration, and now he was hot on the trail of what everyone hoped was the pride's sole survivor. The men were armed with the only weapons they owned, spears, machetes, and bows and arrows, all except Manga, who was using a borrowed rifle. Manga followed the tracks until they ended, after which he organized his cohorts into two lines far apart from each other. They began singing and shouting, and slowly, the lines moved toward one another, attempting to flush out the lion. It worked. The big male suddenly materialized 25 feet (eight meters) from Manga and tried to run for it. Manga drew a bead and fired, nailing the cat in the right side of the neck. But it kept moving. Manga tried to squeeze off another round, but the gun jammed. The lion escaped.

Although he meant well, wounding the lion was the worst thing Manga could have done. The injury would have severely impeded its ability to capture almost anything but humans. As it was, most of the area's natural prey was in the process of fleeing, due to the multiple hunting parties now combing the landscape and inadvertently disturbing everything. Those factors, combined with the likelihood that the lion had become emboldened by his man-eating success, set the stage for a one-lion killing spree that would dwarf all the carnage Sudi-Mingoyo had experienced up to that point.

From October 2003 to January 2004, the lion killed six people and wounded six more. Things were unfolding quickly now. The villagers and rangers would have to hit back. On February 3 a party snared the lion in Baghdad, but he escaped. On February 12, hunters put another bullet in him shortly after he killed a ten-year-old girl in Ruhokwe, but he survived that too. His response was to kill seven people in February alone, surpassing his body count for the four previous months.

The lion seemed unstoppable.

Given such powerlessness, it's easy to see how someone might conclude that more was at work here than just the laws of nature. Even George Rushby, the British colonial wildlife officer in Njombe who hunted down the lions that killed 1,500 people in the 1940s, concedes in his memoir, No More the Tusker, "If a man-eater continues to kill and eat people for any length of time, it develops an almost supernatural cunning." The people of Sudi-Mingoyo certainly thought so. In a February 15 letter to the district wildlife office, desperate village leaders, explaining their decision to hire three more bush doctors, maintained that the wounded lion escaped capture because "it has taken on a new strategy. The lion has become supernatural. The person who injured it strangely fell ill. He has a lot of arm and neck pain. On the night of the 13th, the lion came back to the village and sat on several porches and even went to the extent of knocking on people's doors and walking through the village freely."

Ultimately, however, the new bush doctors failed. In March the lion killed six more people and injured two. Community spirit fell to an all-time low, and the discouraged villagers stopped paying the mtaalams, who ultimately quit, admitting that "the lion is too powerful." By late May the lion had killed ten more villagers and wounded three more, raising his solo attack count since October to 32 and the total count since the outbreak began to 54. Thirty-eight people had been killed, 16 injured.

The mayhem caused many people to relocate from the outskirts of villages to the centers, although some tried to carry on as usual. Somoe Linyambe continued living with her husband and five-year-old granddaughter in Kipanda, a tiny settlement not far from Baghdad. On May 29 she walked to Baghdad to gather ming'oko roots, and when she returned it was almost dusk. Her husband had gone for water, so she began chopping wood for the cooking fire, while her granddaughter watched from the veranda. It's impossible to know whether the lion followed her from Baghdad or staked her out from the thick bush near her hut, but whichever the case, the pouncing and killing would have happened quickly, before he dragged her body half a mile (less than a kilometer) from the hut. When her husband returned, he asked his granddaughter, "Where is your grandmother?" The child, never having seen a lion before, said, "She was taken away by a cow." The husband saw lion tracks near the firewood, but it was almost dark. He was too scared to venture out.

The next morning, Linyambe's brother, Quss M-bani, received word of the attack and arrived with others to search for her. First they found pieces of her clothing, then portions of her insides, then, finally, the only intact part of her body—her legs. The villagers stared at the remains and wondered what to do. Finally, someone floated an idea. What if they poisoned her legs? Maybe the lion would return and eat them. Everyone looked at M-bani. "It was not an easy decision," he recalls. "People had been living in great fear. They were not free to do their daily activities. The lion was coming up to their front doors. So I agreed to it." They sent for rat poison, but when it arrived, no one wanted to do the deed. Again, they looked to M-bani. Reluctantly, he kneeled down with a knife, sliced open his sister's legs and poured in the poison. Then everyone left.

The next morning, they found that the legs had been moved and portions eaten. They were certain the lion was off struggling somewhere, but they couldn't find him. The day after that they tried again with the help of wildlife rangers, and this time they did find the lion, with a piece of Linyambe's leg in his throat. He was dead.

They dragged the carcass to Simana, loaded it into the back of a truck and paraded it around the villages of Sudi-Mingoyo. The outbreak was over. "The villagers were very happy," M-bani says. "The whole community thanked me very much. But for the people who had lost family members, they were sad."

Before coming to Lindi, I had spent time in Dar es Salaam with Craig Packer, who was on an unusual mission, given his status as the world's foremost lion researcher and a committed conservator of the species. Packer was busy meeting with government officials to tout an unexpected savior, the person who he insists could both curb man-eating in Tanzania and save the country's embattled lion population—the wealthy big-game hunter. This is not a popular idea with environmentalists. It does, however, leverage the economic power of one of the country's largest industries, tourism, and it may well represent the last chance lions and humans have of continued coexistence in Africa. "Rural people must perceive lions and other wildlife as valuable commodities if they are to accept the burden of living with animals," he says. "The benefits must outweigh the costs."

Big-game hunting—the only legal way to kill nonthreatening lions in Tanzania—earns ten million U.S. dollars a year and is the major source of revenue for the country's network of wilderness parks and preserves, one of Africa's most extensive. Unlike photo safaris in the Serengeti and other popular parks in the north of the country, hunting lures tourists to the remote, less picturesque reserves of the west and south. Hunters also tend to be a committed lot, more impervious to incidents of terrorism and similar events that cause most tourists to stay home. Unfortunately, despite these positives, Tanzania's hunting industry has always been plagued with corruption and mismanagement. The ills are many. There's no competitive bidding system to award licenses to hunting companies, a flaw that costs the country millions in conservation dollars. Leases tend to be for only a few years, giving companies little incentive to adhere to practices designed to maintain the long-term health of wildlife populations. The trophy quota system, which allows a company to shoot a particular number of a particular species each year (the overall annual quota for lions is about 250, and a hunter pays a $2,000 "trophy fee" for bagging a lion), is not scientifically based, and some hunters overshoot quotas. Most important, hunting companies and their clients, who pay $1,500 or more a day for luxury safaris, have invested little in the impoverished rural communities that must coexist with lions, elephants, and the other dangerous animals wealthy hunters so desire.

Packer is lobbying to change all this. Specifically, he's pushing to make his nonprofit organization, Savannas Forever, the independent auditor of the hunting companies. The idea is to reward companies that engage in the most ethical and ecologically sound practices (a gold-star rating, say), then leave it up to the Tanzanian government to punish those that don't (a revoked lease). Sound practices would include seriously investing in the general welfare and protection of local communities. To lessen lion attacks, for example, companies could implement bushpig control measures, reinforce homes, and provide alternative water and energy sources to villages so people don't have to walk long distances to dangerous places. "Basically," Packer says, "the idea is to turn the hunting companies into the conservators."

It's a visionary plan, certainly. But as I spend time driving with Ikanda through Sudi-Mingoyo, it's clear that lions and people will need more than a well-run hunting industry to save them. Tremendous forces are reshaping southern Tanzania, the biggest one being the country's rapidly expanding human population. One afternoon we're motoring the dirt road from Madangwa to Nachunyu, and Ikanda points out that two years ago this was a drive through dense wilderness. But as part of a plan to dole out mashamba to people, the local government cleared a huge swath of bush here, and now the place looks surprisingly like Nebraska, with tall corn as far as the eye can see.

Most of the time the settlement process doesn't involve the government at all. People simply venture out, burn and cut a swath of virgin bush, sell the wood for charcoal, and start farming. And as the tarmac highway improves—road crews have been hard at it daily since we've been here—southern Tanzania will only open up further. "The more people move here, the less habitat there will be for wildlife, especially the big animals," Ikanda says. "The conflict with lions will increase. We're headed in the direction of West Africa. People are pushing out all the wildlife."

Late one evening we're driving through Simana, when we happen onto something we've never seen here before—a traffic jam. A huge truck is parked on the road in front of us, and our high beams shine a light on what moments earlier was being carried out in the cover of night. Villagers are loading large bags of charcoal onto the truck. Ikanda explains that this middleman will pay villagers four dollars a bag and then sell it in Dar es Salaam for four times that price. Technically, he adds, the production of charcoal is illegal in Tanzania, until the government can devise a more sustainable way to produce it. Ami Vitale, the photographer accompanying us, whips out her camera and starts shooting, which causes the truck operator to go ballistic. He sprints toward us. "No pictures!" he screams. "No pictures! No pictures!" Vitale stops shooting. We inch around the truck and drive off, leaving the villagers in total darkness.

After two weeks Simpson traps nothing but a passing leopard. The experience leaves him equal parts humbled, determined, and more philosophical than ever. "I'm getting bucked off my horse too much," he admits. "I'm starting to feel the ground more, know what I mean?" But he's not going to let these lions get the best of him. He and Ikanda are planning on moving north a bit to the Rufiji district and trying their luck there. If that fails, they'll return here during the dry season and see if they can't snag these cats near a watering hole. "I'm coming back because that lion has thrown down the gauntlet," Simpson declares. "That's how I live my life. I've got a lion to catch."

Hopefully he'll succeed. Hopefully Ikanda will learn critical information about the cats here. Hopefully the people of Sudi-Mingoyo can be convinced one day that the benefits of living next to wildlife outweigh the costs.

But good luck selling that to little Hassani Dadi. I spend one of my last days with him and his mother in Nusuru, with the sun sinking behind brilliant green rice fields and setting the evening sky on fire. Hassani has just finished swimming with his friends, even though someone had to warn them to watch for crocodiles. And now we stroll past a guy who has just killed a five-foot (two-meter) python on the side of the road. Life is tough enough around here with two arms, much less one. "The other kids laughed at him," his mother says, about when Hassani lost his arm three years ago. "They beat him up because they knew he can't defend himself. He would come home and cry. I worry about his future." What she doesn't worry about is the future of lions. Neither does Hassani. "I hate lions," he says. Of course he does.

1 comment:

mark janese said...

Wayne Hosek is a child molester. He was arrested on 12/25/10 in San Diego, Ca. This is public record. He molested my niece and he is lucky someone pulled my brother off of him before he spent the rest of his life breathing through a straw. He is a sick pervert. He shot a lion? He also told an 8 year old girl to never tell anyone what he did to her. Hey Wayne. I don't think your lion story is going to over shadow the incest pedophile conviction in prison. Rot in hell.

Mark Alan Janese