The original piece is from the cryptozoologist blog.
CONTROVERSY OVER THE MAN-EATING LIONS OF TSAVO
Scientists now believe that the two infamous man-eating lions of Tsavo, which allegedly claimed 135 victims during railroad construction in
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
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.
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.
ANOTHER MAN-EATER AT THE
In September, 1991, while on a hunting safari to
THE MAN-EATER OF MFUWE
Looking into the eyes of the Tsavo man-eating lions on exhibit in the
September 1, 1991, my first evening in camp afforded me the opportunity to meet a visiting lion expert from
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
Having made the 35 hour journey from
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’.
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
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.
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
THE MAN-EATER OF MFUWE
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.
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.
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
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?’"
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
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.
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
This list of the most famous man-eaters includes mostly males, but females are actually responsible for more killings, according to
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.
Though historically rich in wild game, the
This cat terrorized
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
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
MAN-EATING LIONS: STALKING THE SPIRIT LIONS OF
Nature's most efficient predators are hunting down the people of southern
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.
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.
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.
"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.
I had come to southern
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.
"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."
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
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."
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.
The lions were killing their young. They would respond in kind.
MAN-EATING LIONS: STALKING THE SPIRIT LIONS, CONT'D