The Brain Scoop:
The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo
In 1898, two lions began terrorizing railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya: over a six-month period, they were responsible for killing and consuming 35 people. The story has been shared in Hollywood movies, books and documentary programs, but over the last century there’s still a fundamental question that scientists seek to answer: why did they do it?
The theories about man-eating motivations range from scarcity of their normal prey, to an aggravating infection from dental damage partially crippling one of the lions. And what I think is so compelling about this story is that we continue finding new ways of answering that question, thanks to advancing technologies, creative interpretations, and access to the lion’s remains here in our Museum!
This week we interviewed visiting researcher from Vanderbilt University, Larisa DeSantis, who is taking dental impressions of their teeth, and Bruce Patterson, who has done extensive research looking into these particular lions (including authoring a book on the topic!).