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The Maneaters of Tsavo



In 1896 the British started to build the Uganda Railway from Mombassa to Lake Victoria.


The original purpose of the line was strategic, to get a permanent line of communication into Uganda ahead of the Germans coming up from the south.


A vocal opposition group in the British Parliament called it a monumental waste of time and money, "a lunatic line to nowhere". But the scheme went ahead with the import of 32,000 Indian labourers from Gujarat and the Punjab.


The railway was driven along the divide between Maasai and hostile Kamba territory until a temporary halt was called at mile peg 327, on the banks of the Nyrobi River. The ground was higher and healthier a few miles further on, but not so flat.


Thus the town of Nairobi was founded as a tented depot on a dank, evil-smelling swamp, infested with frogs and larger wildlife wandering in from the Athi Plains.


While the line was being built across the Tsavo plains, a group of lions developed a taste for the workforce, eating 28 of the Indians and an uncounted number of Africans. Farther up the line, at Kima, one European sleeping in a tent was dragged out and eaten.


Somehow, the animals avoided every trap and after a while one was even confident enough to board the train and drag off its victims.


The terror lasted 10 months until the man-eaters were ambushed and shot. Thereafter, the country on both sides of the track was left as a wildlife reserve, later to become Tsavo East and West National Parks.


The Tsavo lions are unique in that the males have no manes.




The story of the Tsavo Man-Eaters was made famous by Colonel John Henry Patterson in his book The Maneaters of Tsavo written in 1907 and subsequently also made into a film in 1996 by screenwriter William Goldman called The Ghost and The Darkness starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas.


Animatronics did not work well for the movie so the producers searched for trained lions. They recruited two which had been with the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circuses and which were now in the Bowmanville Zoo in Toronto, Canada. Their names were Bongo and Ceasar. Bongo is 'Ghost' with his lighter coloration, and the darker-colored Ceaser is 'Darkness'.  Both also featured in Disney's 'George of the Jungle' and other films.


The first attempt at making the story about the man-eaters of Tsavo into a film was in the 1950s using the revolutionary process in cinematography called 3D. The film, entitled 'Bwana Devil', was released in 1952. It starred Robert Stack and Nigel Bruce.



After killing the infamous lions, Colonel Patterson had their skins made into rugs. The Field Museum of Natural History of Chicago, Illinois became interested in his story after he gave a lecture on the subject, but more particularly they were interested in the skins of the lions. Patterson donated them to the Museum in 1925 along with the skulls of the lions which he had also kept. Although the skins were old, somewhat moth-eaten, cut down to suitable dimensions for rugs, and riddled with bullet holes that had either never been, or poorly patched, the Museum's Taxidermist, Julius Friesser turned the skins back into mounts, and they went on display in 1928.



Tom Gnoske, Julian Kerbis and Ben Marks became fascinated by the story of the Tsavo man-eater story and went out to Africa to search for their cave that Patterson had mentioned in his book.



After several futile attempts and careful study of Patterson's book, they located the cave but were disappointed that no bones were found in the cave, however the floor of the cave was loose enough to be excavated.

They spoke to the Kenya Wildlife Service regional director, John Muhanga, who was so excited by the discovery, that he granted permission to excavate, and talked about setting up some sort of permanent center near the cave.


On April 8th, 1998, an agreement was made between the Field Museum and the Kenya Wildlife Service whereby the cave would be excavated by Chap Kusimba of the Field Museum, and Dr. Karega-Munene of the Kenya Wildlife Service.


Bruce Patterson, of the Field Museum, who was no relation to Colonel Patterson or any of his descendants, was to study the extent of the maneless male lion population of the Tsavo area, an area noted for maneless males, taking DNA samples from local lions and comparing them to samples from the Tsavo Man-Eaters bones.


In addition the team was to look for human remains and dental samples to see whether they belonged to the Indians who had worked along the railway.




A lesser known Man-Eater along the railway line was the "Kima Killer" which once hauled an unfortunate engineer called Ryall from a railway carriage. The original claws of the Kima Killer are on exhibit at the Nairobi Railway Museum and are used by curator John Sinai in his lectures.




In 1991, another maneless male lion turned man-eater near the South Laungwa National Park at Mfuwe, Zambia.


Known as the 'Maneater of Mfuwe', this lion was eventually shot late August or early September 1991 by Wayne Hosek from California.


During his notorius reign of terror this man-eater had devoured at least 6 people during a 2 month period. The lion weighed about 500 pounds and measured 10 1/2 feet nose-to-tail. It is the largest man-eating lion ever recorded.


Wayne had this lion mounted, and it was donated to the Field Museum in early September 1998.








It is believed that the lions, and Hyenas, of the area may have initially acquired their taste for man by devouring the sad victims who died and were left along the old slave trading routes, and that the habit of man-eating among these lions could have been passed down from leoine generation to generation.


The Hilton Safari Camp in Tsavo on the River Bura is based around a house that was originally built for the film A Tale of Africa.




Patterson, J. H. Man-eaters of Tsavo. Macmillan and Co., 1924.




 Read more about the Tsavo Man-Eaters


Other Man-Eaters


Information on Lions











Lions of Two Worlds



Other famous lions of Kenya are Elsa and her cubs who were raised by Joy and George Adamson in 1956 after George had been forced to kill Elsa's mother when she attacked him.


Joy's books about Elsa :

Born Free - A Lioness of Two Worlds, Living Free - The Story of Elsa and her Cubs, and Forever Free - Elsa's Pride became international best sellers and these too were subsequently made into films, starting with Born Free in 1966.


For over 30 years Joy and George devoted their lives to rearing orphaned big cats and preparing them for re-introduction to the wild. George left his job as a game warden to devote all his considerable energies into the task of rearing the cats.


Joy also trained a young cheetah, Pippa, back to her wild ways, and in 1967 wrote another book called The Peoples of Kenya.


The couple separated in 1970 and George moved to Kora where he established Kampi ya Simba (Lion Camp) to continue his work. By 1978 he had released more than 23 orphaned or captive lions into the wild.


Joy moved to Shaba where she began to concern herself with leopards. She wrote her final book Queen of Shaba - The Story of an African Leopard. It was published posthumously as in 1980 she was murdered in her camp by a disgruntled employee.


After her death George withdrew from all public activity and rarely left Kora. He worked with his beloved lions, along with his associate Tony Fitzjohn, and a small team of dedicated workers.


The Kora area was not yet a national reserve and was invaded by nomadic Somali pastoralists, with their goats and camels, and the wildlife in the area suffered.


By 1988 all the remaining elephant and rhino had been poached and they had also killed three game rangers. The following year poachers ambushed some of George's staff and he was shot dead when he tried to help his men.


He was 83 and is buried at Kampi ya Simba beside his favourite lion, Elsa's son Boy.



Photos of Elsa











The Lion Kings 



Meru National Park achieved world recognition with the filming of Joy Adamson's Born Free (the story of Elsa) and The Spotted Sphinx (the story of Pippa).


Borana Lodge in the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves is the retreat where the writers of The Lion King got their inspiration.


The elephant population, only about 600 strong, in the Amboseli National Park is one of the few in all of Africa which has not been ravaged by poachers. The population is also one of the longest studied and best researched by Cynthia Moss and her colleagues who know every elephant by face and name and have written about them in the book Elephant Memories.



The Amboseli is close to the Maasai Mara Reserve, and the original camp at Ol Tukai was built as a film-set amenity in 1948 for the film The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The camp was used the following year for the filming of  Where No Vultures Fly.



The Maasai Mara Reserve lies at the end of the Kedong Valley and in the old days this was the "Blood Valley" where Maasai massacred 550 caravan porters and the "Trader Dick" came after them in a reprisal raid.


East Africa, the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti in particular, attracts photographers the way a zebra carcass attracts vultures.


It is claimed that nowhere else in the world is it possible to find such diversity and concentrations of photogenic creatures, not to mention such a variety of dramatic scenery.


Documentaries abound featuring African wildlife and the country of Kenya itself has featured in many films including the most famous Out of Africa and The African Queen.









Lion Hunters



Early cameras were too big to carry in the film and one turn-of-the-century picture shows an earnest photographer pursuing a rhino with the camera the size of a microwave oven. 


Safari goers will find that the most suitable camera to capture wildlife is a 35mm SLR (single reflex lens) with interchangeable lenses.


A 600mm telephoto lens is the practical upper size limit but zoom lenses in the 800mm-200mm range are more versatile.


An economical way of extending the focal length is with a "doubler" or 2x converter.


To capture an animal on the move you should shoot at fast shutter speeds and the best times to take photos in the Kenyan bush are before 9am and after 4pm when the sun is low and not too fierce.


A polorising filter can help to diffuse the worst of the suns rays and a warm amber filter such as an 81A is useful too, to correct the "bleaching out" of colour.


At the very least you should always have an ultraviolet filter fitted. This corrects the blue blur you sometimes see on the distant horizon and protects the lens.









The Lion of Witu




In the 1860s, the sleepy village of Witu became the seat of a sultanate and the capital of the short-lived state of Swahililand.



The Sultan of Witu came in fact from Pate in 1862 to escape the powerful Sultan of Zanzibar, with whom he had unwisely quarrelled.


Calling himself Simba, which means Lion, the Sultan of Swahililand minted his own currency and issued Swahililand stamps.


His sultanate came to an end in 1888, when he signed an alliance pact with the Dendhart brothers from Germany.


Two years later the Treaty of Berlin brought the whole of Kenya under British jurisdiction.









The Lions of East Africa



The territories of both Kenya and Tanzania are intrinsically linked in time and space as they share much of the same native peoples and in the early days of German, British and Arab exploration and trade there were no boundaries between the two countries.


In the colonial days Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Mozambique were classified as


East Africa.


But as the natural River Ruanda border between Mozambique and Tanzania has still to this day not been officially bridged, and as the Arabs successfully pushed the Portuguese from Mombasa and Fort Jesus to beyond the River Ruanda by the year 1720, Mozambique is sometimes left out of the equation.





today usually grouped with the more southern African territories,

 was known as

Portuguese East Africa.


Uganda falling more centrally in Africa is commonly known as

Central East Africa.


 Nowadays only Tanzania and Kenya are afforded the title of

 East Africa.









The Lions of Arabia



The coast-line of East Africa and much of its interior was under Arabian dominion from as early as the 8th and 9th centuries when they operated mainly as traders.


British intervention in the area came about when the Mazrui Arab chief, Suleiman bin Ali invoked the protection of England as his territories around Pate, Pemba and Mombassa were being attacked by Seyyid Said of Oman in 1822.


In return for their aid and protection Seleiman bin Ali promised to abolish the slave trade and a lieutentant of the British survey ship, the HMS Leven, was appointed Commandant and the decision to assume authority was transmitted to London to await ratification.


However the action was repudiated and the British Protectorate over Mombasa was removed.


This opened the way for Seyyid Said of Oman to restore his sovereignity in 1828. In 1832, Seyyid transferred his court from Oman to Zanzibar and within a few years the east African coast from Cape Guardafui to Cape Delgado, was an acknowledged dominion of the Sultan, and his dreams of an African empire began to materialize.


From this time, the coast was opened up for trade and British, German, and American merchants established themselves and slave trails were run up through the hinterland to the great lake by the Arabs.


When Seyyid died in 1856, France, Italy and Germany began to show interest in East African colonisation.


King Leopold of the Belgians had his eye on Malindi as the potential starting point of a railway to the Congo, and 3 Egyptian warships sailed down to the coast under McKillop Pasha in the hope of securing a foothold at Mombasa, Malindi, or Lamu.


However, the partition of East Africa began with the arrival of European, mainly British and German, explorers and missionaries.


The Sultancy of Zanzibar was handed over first to Seyyid Majid and then upon his death, to his brother Seyyid Bharghash in 1870.









Lions of the Herald



In 1886, Britain and Germany agreed to the extent of the Zanzibar dominion.


 Tanzania was assigned to Germany, and Kenya and Uganda were assigned to Britain.


Kenya was known as

British East Africa,




Tanzania was known as

German East Africa.


The Sultan of Zanzibar would retain the coast-line to a depth of 10 miles/16kms, but as a British Protectorate. It stayed this way until the Independence of Kenya in 1963 when the Sultan Seyyid Khalifa ceded the territory to the new Kenyan Government.










The Lions of Judea




According to the 17th century poet John Milton, the seaports of Mombasa and Malindi were there soon after the Creation, around 4026BC.


The father of the Old Testament, Noah, after an argument with his son Ham and grandson Canaan, cursed this branch of the Hamites and Canaanites who were subsequently beaten in battle by Joshua and had to leave Palestine for the barren wastes of North Africa.


Later, they were joined by the related tribes of Shem and started a long migration south and east through the Horn of Africa to the coastal hinterland of Kenya.


Solomon and Sheba were later active in the area, with the Queen's domain extending from the Red Sea down to Mozambique, according to the Ethiopian

Book of the Glory of Kings.










The Lions of the Pharoah



The temple of Deir el Bahri at Thebes in Egypt shows a scene of an exploration to a port that looks remarkably like that of Old Mombasa harbour.


According to Egyptologist, Professor Petrie, expeditions were dispatched in 600BC by Nacho, the last of the pharaohs, to the Land of Punt. Punt apparently is pronounced as Pwane which was applied to the Kenyan coast by Arab navigators.









The Lions of the Gods



Diogenes, a Greek trader, landed at Rhaptum (Pangani) and is claimed to have travelled inland to the vicinity of "two great lakes and the snowy range of mountains from which the Nile draws its two sources".


Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) made a map of the east African coast in 130AD, naming it Parvum Litus. Lamu was called Serapion, Malindi was called Essina, and Mombasa was called Tonika.


He also noted the true source of the Nile.




Ptolemy remained the authority on the geography of Africa until the Middle Ages.


His map was not officially recognised by the modern world until the European explorers discovered the source of the Nile for themselves, 17 centuries later.


Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is the log of a Greek ship's captain who sailed out of Egypt in the 1st century AD. It describes in detail the trade between Arabia, India, and Mombasa.









The Lions of Adventure



Among the first Europeans were two German missionaries, Johannes Krapf and Johannes Rebmann, who arrived into the interior in 1846 and reported the sighting of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.


Their reports of snow at the equator were at first disbelieved in Europe. They made maps of the area showing both mountains and a huge lake.



In 1858 Englishman John Hanning Speke reached this lake and named it after Queen Victoria. He concluded that it was the source of the Nile, but the matter was debated by his compatriot Richard Burton (no not the actor who married Elizabeth Taylor).



In 1882 Dr. Gustav Fischer from Germany led a well-armed expeditionary force as far as Lake Naivasha at the territorial border of the Il-Purrko division of the Maasai.



The Maasai were notorious warriors in the area and ambushed Fischer's party in a gorge now called "Hells Gate". The tall obelisk of basalt rock still bears the name Fischer's Tower.


The Maasai's greatest medicine man, Batian, prophecised that by 1890, the Maasai's territory would see three plagues from the north which would virtually annihilate his people.


The horsemen of the Maasai Apocalypse were smallpox, rinderpest, and the white man, beginning with the Scottish explorer Joseph Thomson.




In 1875 Thompson had explored around the Central African lakes and in 1880 he was the only man willing to approach the war-faring Maasai with anything short of an artillery regiment.


Thompson gained a reputation among the Maasai as a great laibon or "wizard" becaused he used tricks to seduce the Maasai which included frothing at the mouth with the help of Eno Fruit Salts, and removing his two false teeth.


Thompson was harassed daily by the Maasai moran whose moods towards him varied from open hostility to taking over his camp and possessions.


Like many who were to follow him, Thomson was in two minds about the Maasai saying that on the one hand they could be monsters but on the other hand they were a fascinating, unique and remarkable race.


He reached Lake Victoria in 1883 and redrew the map of eastern Africa putting in more lakes and water courses than were hitherto known. He also toured Mount Elgon in the northwest and found the great caves in the mountain which Sir Rider Haggard would use later on as the setting in his novel She.


Thompson was gored by a buffalo which he thought he had killed. The "dead" animal got up, drove a horn into his thigh and tossed him several feet in the air.


His adventure in the wilds of Africa fired the Victorian imagination and started the safari business. From then on, there were tours to Kenya for gentlemen and politicians.



In 1885 an Anglican bishop, James Hannington arrived in the area to start a diocese in Uganda. On his way there he found a lake that Thompson had missed, later named after him but today is called Bogoria. He went as far as the Nile, where he was killed.



In 1886 the rich Austro-Hungarian Count, Samuel Teleki von Szek headed a 700-strong expedition through Kikuyu country, in central Kenya, and on to Lake Turkana. He was accompanied by Lt. Ludwig von Hohnel who recorded the journey for posterity.





The Kikuyu were notorious as a war-faring nation, who used poisoned arrows.


Although he received protection under a chief of the Waiyaki clan through Kikuyu country, von Szek had brought with him fascinating trade goods, including fashionable and expensive glass beads from Paris and the House of Filonardi in Italy, and he was able to make trade with both the Maasai and the Kikuyu.



Ludwig von Hohnel made a separate expedition to map the northern Laikipia shoulder of Mount Kenya and followed the Ewaso Ngiro river north into Samburu country.



Three years after von Szek and von Hohnel explored the mountainous volcanic area around Lake Turkana, two Britons ... Ernest Gedge and Frederick Jackson climbed Mount Elgon and traversed its huge crater from north to south.


Von Hohnel was an excellent artist and drew many sketches and pictures of the countryside, the peoples, and the wildlife.



A couple of Americans ... Donaldson-smith and William Chandler surveyed the Tana River and the featureless Commiphora bush of the north east.



The year was now ...




... and the British colonialists arrived to settle the land ...










The Lion from the Forest



From a little place deep in the Vale Royal heartland

which today is a great forest of outstanding beauty, and bears his name,

came a man to the Rift Valley in Kenya in the early 1900s

to seek his fortune.



His name is


Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere, better known as


Lord Delamere


And he is from Cheshire in England.


But he wasn't by any means a poor man.


The Delameres, whose family had lived at Vale Royal for three centuries, moved to live in Kenya.


The first Lord Delamere to go there had gone as an explorer and big game hunter in the time of Queen Victoria and let the hall to a millionaire industrialist.


It was his son who came back to spend a few years at Vale Royal just before WW1. He, with several other Cheshire landowners, moved back to live in Kenya during the war.


The house and estates were put up for sale after the war. During WW1 it had served as a tuberculosis sanatorium.




The portion of the Forest of Delamere, consisting principally of oak trees,  next to the Mersey was called the Forest of Mara or Mere, probably from the large mere or lake which covers a considerable extent of the land in the township and village borough of Oakmere. Hence arose the name Oak-Mere. One of the principal landowners was Lord Delamere. By 1892 Oakmere was included with Delamere.



Nicknamed the "Red Baron" (no not the flying ace Baron von Richthoffen) Lord Delamere settled on a small wee farm of some 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) between Nakuru and Njoro and tried his hand at sheep rearing.


He failed.


The high-grade Australian sheep that he introduced could not survive on the mineral-deficient vegetation and died.


He then ploughed in English clover, and brought in new sheep, but the clover died

as the African bees were unable to pollinate it.


He imported bees from England. It worked.

However, with no winter to keep the crop down and no frost to kill the pests, the clover grew into a giant green jungle and the sheep died of foot rot.


Then he tried his luck with cattle,

mixing good English beef stock looted from the Vale Royal estate with the hump-backed, long-horned Boran cattle of the northern tribes.


They were wiped out by East Coast Fever.


The Maasai took over Lord Delamere's stock management and aided by imported veterinary science, they built up the cattle on sections of the ranch they knew could support the herds.


Delamere was deeply grateful and from then on supported the Maasai, led by Ole Legalishu, in land battles with the British administration.


His next venture was wheat.


It became the favourite meal of every wild plains animal in the Rift Valley. And what they left was destroyed by wheat rust. He defeated the wheat rust by eventually producing the national rust-resistant strain.


He defeated the game by shooting everything in sight.





Delamere demonstrated to every European settler how easy it was to become the ruin of the African landscape as each of his agricultural endeavours ended in disasters ... coffee, flax, sisal ...


But he was more effective in arguing the cause of the white settlers and set about consolidating the Highlands. By 1912 they had the Protectorate paying its way on the basis of a mixed agricultural economy.


The Government's decision to offer estates in the highlands to veterans of the East Africa campaign of World War 1 by the "Soldier Settlement Scheme" advanced their objective of a permanent white man's Kenya.

Dubbed the "Kenya Cowboys", a takeover attempt by the settlers was always a possibility, but there were never enough of them for any open rebellion or for the political fight, which was lost when the administration's power base at Nairobi began a rapid expansion from the mid-1920s.



The Muthaiga Country Club was the settlers' political headquarters in Nairobi, and also the venue for the hunt balls and other party revels which were said to include wife-swapping.



One of the casualties of this period was the first Baroness (Karen) Blixen whose husband went off with another woman and left her to go bankrupt on their Nairobi coffee farm. Her memoir, Out of Africa, gave insights into the country and people, and was also eloquent on the since exaggerated and romanticised high life of Kenya in the 1920s and 1930s.







Political Coalitions And Mergers In Kenyan History


The Life and Death of Lord Erroll 


- The case of Josslyn Hay, the 22nd Earl of Erroll









The Lions of Africa





When the British Crown took over from the British East Africa Company in 1895, the natives were restless and organised guerrilla attacks were being carried out by various tribes.


The British sent out garrisons to control them and persuade them to accept British administration. Only the Maasai, who were having difficulty dealing with the predatory raids of the Kikuyu and Kamba, came into the Protectorate of their own accord.


But by the end of the year the British rated the Maasai "a menace and a force to be reckoned with" after they massacred a caravan in the Kedong section of the Rift Valley.


In 1902 the Land Acquisition Order allowed white settlers to acquire the most fertile land in Kenya and allocated them more and more land. The Legislative Council passed laws that forced Africans to seek employment from the settlers and included a "hut tax" law which most people could not afford. These laws were ruthlessly enforced.


In 1922 the Africans began to protest in earnest, claiming Uhuru, the Swahili word for "freedom". At one demonstration the protestors were fired upon and over 100 were killed. Thereafter there were many arrests to quell unrest. At one of these rallies was a young Kikuyu man called Johnstone Kamau ... later to emerge as



Jomo Kenyatta


 the man who gave his name to Kenya.





British colonialism was continually resented and the Africans formed political groups which were banned by the British administration.


In 1948 the Kikuyus started forming secret societies where new members were sworn in at "oathing" ceremonies, at which loyalty to political objectives were often accompanied by vows to "annihilate" the Europeans and their supporters. Thus began the Mau-Mau Rebellion.



Waves of destruction swept through settler's properties; chiefs, Christian Africans  and other Africans loyal to the government died in the onslaught, including Europeans.


A state of emergency was declared in 1952 and the British sent out troops to put an end to the Rebellion.


The drastic measures the Government used to quell the unrest expanded the rebellion to civil war and a number of pitched battles took place between the Mau Mau fighters and the government troops, after which the rebels were more or less suppressed.


Appeasement came in the 1960s with the release of Jomo Kenyatta from prison and a Constitution which gave the Africans seats in the Legislative Council ... the principle of majority rule and ultimate independence for Kenya as an African, "not a white man's" country was endorsed.





Towards midnight on the eve of 12th December 1963

 the lights in the makeshift "Independence Square" were dimmed ...

when they were turned back on again


The Union Jack was gone.







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