In March 1898 the British started building a railway bridge across River Tsavo. The project was led by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. During the construction, two male lions stalked the campsite, dragging Indian workers from their tents at night and eating them.
The workers tried to scare off the lions and built campfires and thorn fences, around their camp for protection to keep the man-eaters out, but strangely, the lions leaped over or crawled through the thorn fences.
Many workers fled from Tsavo, halting construction on the bridge. Lt. Col Patterson set traps and tried several times to ambush the lions at night from a tree. He shot the first lion on 9 December 1898.
Twenty days later, the second lion was found and killed.
The construction crew returned and completed the bridge in February 1899. The exact number of people killed by the lions is not know but estimated to be over 100 people, mostly Indians
After 25 years in Patterson’s ownership, the lions’ skins were sold to the Chicago Field Museumin 1924. The lions’ skins arrived at the museum in very poor condition. They were then reconstructed and are now on permanent display along with the original skulls.
These treasures are evidence of Kenya’s history hence our heritage, stolen and sold in America. Their rich history in regard to the events of railway construction can be a very important tourist’s attraction to Kenya.
Tragically, this history is thousands of miles away from where it happened, America. The ministry responsible for tourism must demand these lion’s remains back to Kenya, even if it will mean repurchasing them from the Museum. Am sure we have a tourists’ hotel at the site of the man eaters but having in such a site with fully fledged man-eater museum would boost tourists visits at the site.
It’s not unusual if the young generation is not conversant with what happened during the construction of Kenya-Uganda Railway. Such a museum would also inform students about the history of the railway.