Man-Eating Lions - International Wildlife Museum
Tsavo Man Eaters
The Tsavo Man-Eaters were a pair of maneless male lions
responsible for the deaths of at least 28 construction workers
from March to December 1898 on the Kenya-Uganda Railway,
a project led by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. During the first
nine months of construction, the two lions stalked the workers’
campsite, dragging Indian workers from their tents at night
and eating them. Crews attempted to scare off the lions by
building thorn fences and campfires around their camp, but with
little success. The lions crawled through the thorn fences and
continued to attack. Hundreds of workers fled from Tsavo, and
bridge construction stopped. Patterson set traps, and tried to
ambush the lions from a tree. On December 9, 1898, he shot
the first lion. It measured nine feet, eight inches from nose to the tip of its tail, and it took eight men to carry
the carcass. Three weeks later, the second lion was also killed. In February 1899, the construction crew
returned and completed the bridge. It is unknown exactly how many people the lions killed.
More recently, American and Tanzanian scientists reported that man-eating behavior in lions has
increased. From 1990 to 2005, over 300 people were injured and at least 560 people were killed, many of
which were eaten. The attacks occurred in Lindi Province and in Selous National Park, one of the largest
game reserves in the world.
In 2004, a man-eating lion believed to have eaten at least 35 people was killed in Southern Tanzania. It is
speculated that the lion preyed on humans because it had a large abscess in one of its molars. Like the
Tsavo man-eaters, this lion was large and lacked a mane.
Though the Tsavo man-eaters are thought of as the most famous of any lion attacks, they are not the
deadliest. During the late 1930’s and 1940’s in Tanzania, three generations of a lion pride were thought
to have killed 1,500 to 2,000 people. The lion pride was eventually killed by a game warden and a
professional hunter named George Rushby.