The Tsavo lions are the most legendary man-eaters in history. According to the story, the pair was responsible for killing and consuming 135 railroad workers in a 9-month span in 1898. They even made a movie about it. I think it was called “Shit! Lions!”
Anyway, researchers now say the lions — which are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago — were likely responsible for far fewer deaths than believed:
But after analyzing fragments of the lions’ bones and fur, scientists at the University of California in Santa Cruz have determined that the true number of humans eaten by the lions was likely closer to 35.
By comparing isotopes in the lions’ samples with their normal prey of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo, with other lions, and with the remains of 19th century Kenyans, the scientists estimated that one of the lions ate 24 humans, while the other ate 11.
“The possible range is between 4 and 72 humans, but 35 is most likely,” said Justin Yeakel, one of the study’s authors.
According to scientists at the Field Museum, the findings confirm their skepticism with contemporary accounts of the lions’ savageness. They note that the lions are also far smaller than John H. Patterson — the British engineer who killed them and had them made into floor coverings — had boasted. They also note that the Field Museum is now more boring than ever. How much more boring? Exactly 100 corpses more boring.
Scientists restate Tsavo lions’ taste for human flesh [Chicago Tribune]