n 1898, two maneless lions attacked, killed, and ate as many as 135 railroad workers in Tsavo, southeastern Kenya, inspiration for the 1996 film, The Ghost and the Darkness. Now Earthwatch supported zoologist Dr. Bruce D. Patterson has put these infamous lions into modern scientific perspective in a new book, The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa’s Notorious Man-eaters. Patterson, MacArthur Curator of Mammals in the Department of Zoology at The Field Museum, Chicago and the leading authority on the Tsavo lions, offers a compelling story about the ecological underpinnings of the lions’ historic “reign of terror.”
The Lions of Tsavo has all the elements of a great adventure: Africa at the turn of the century, the British Empire, monsters, and heroes. Patterson provides a story that is rich in historic detail, but in the tradition of George Schaller supports his findings with scientific detail that only a researcher that spends hours in the field and lab can conjure. He suggests that a variety of causes, including old age or infirmity, depleted prey populations, and careless human habits, contribute to man-eating by lions. He goes on to explore the ecology and evolution of manelessness, the primary subject of his work with Earthwatch volunteers on Lions of Tsavo, with important implications for lion conservation.
The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa’s Notorious Man-eaters. Bruce D. Patterson. McGraw-Hill, 2004.