How Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson Killed the Tsavo Man Eaters

Published: 13th July 2010
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In March of 1898, the British sent Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson to lead the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River. The project was to be a smooth sail and take not more than six months. This was not to happen as the Tsavo man eaters' wrecked havoc at the Indian workers at the site. They would sneak at night and drag out the workers one by one, kill them and eat some of the body parts. The workers tried to scare them away by building campfires at night but this did not work. They also tried fencing off the area at night with sharp thorns but this too did not work. The lions would penetrate the hedge and get to the scared Indians. It is estimated that over a hundred Indians were mauled by these two man eaters.

The construction was halted as the workers fled from the area. Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson had to think of how to bring down these lions. He started by laying traps for them but this did not work. He also tried ambushing them at night from a tree but this too was not to bear any fruits. After trying to catch them for a few months, he shot the first lion on the 9th of December the same year. According to Patterson, he shot and wounded the first lion with a bullet from a Martini-Enfield chambered in.303 caliber. The lion escaped as it was shot in the hind quarters. It returned at night to stalk Patterson as he hunted it. He shot it with a .303 Lee Enfield and found it dead the following morning.

The second man eater was killed three weeks later. Patterson narrated that he shot at it five times with a .303 Lee Enfield, but it still got up and charged at him though severely wounded. He therefore shot at it twice with a Martini-Henry carbine in the chest and the head and it died. According to his claims, it died gnawing on a fallen tree branch still trying to reach at him.

Dickson is the Chief Tour Guide and one of the Directors of Adventure Africa Expedition, he has traveled in many countries in Africa where he built the spirit of adventure and discovered nature hidden wonders in especially tailored walking trails like in Kisoro in Rwanda and Bwindi in Uganda both for Gorilla tracking. For more information on his work please visit

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