Study: Man-eating lions consumed 35 people in 1898

By | November 2, 2009

Study: 2The nightly attacks by two man-eating lions terrified railway workers and brought construction to a halt in one of east Africa’s most notorious onslaughts more than a hundred years ago. But the death toll, scientists now say, wasn’t as high as previously thought.

Over nine months the two voracious hunters claimed 35 lives — no small figure, but much less than some accounts of as many as 135 victims.

It was 1898, when laborers from India and local natives building the Uganda Railroad across Kenya became the prey for the pair, a case that has been the subject of numerous accounts and at least three movies.

The death toll had been estimated at 28 railway workers and “scores of unfortunate African natives,” with the total ranging as high as 135. Delay of the railroad was even subject to debate in Britain’s House of Commons.

Scientists hoping to figure out the actual number of people eaten decided to study the remains of the two male lions, now on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, testing the types of carbon and nitrogen in their teeth and hair.

Those chemical ratios were compared with the carbon and nitrogen found in modern lions in the region, in lions’ normal prey animals and in humans.

Bones and teeth store carbon and nitrogen isotopes over long periods, while the ratios in hair change more rapidly, allowing the scientists to determine the long-term diet and how it changed in the lions’ last months.

Humans made up at least half of the diet of one of the lions in the last months of his life, consuming at least 24 people, they concluded. The other lion had eaten 11 people, they found.

In other words, even a century later, you are what you eat. …

via Study: Man-eating lions consumed 35 people in 1898 – Yahoo! News.

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