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HISTORY: Man Eating Lion of Tsavo: How Chief Railway engineer offered cash reward to kill the lion in 1900

How in 1900 a trap set by a railway police officer Charles Ryall to shoot the lion fell apart after he fell asleep. The lion emerged from the bush grabbed him by the throat and ate him

Courtesy, Kenya Railways

Charles Ryall, Superintendent of the Railway Police based in Mombasa, and a keen big game hunter heard about the man- eater lion in Kima, which was terrorizing railway workers.

He devised a plan to kill it while travelling by train from Mombasa to Nairobi on official business.

His inspection coach was detached from the Mombasa- Nairobi train on the night of June 6, 1900 and parked on the loop used for the crossings at Kima station.

Ryall’s plan was to attract the lion to the carriage by leaving the doors and window wide open so he would have an easy target when the lion would come.

He settled down to watch in the sleeping compartment. He noticed what he described to the companion as the reflection of “the eyes of a couple of rats playing in the darkness outside their eyes shining like lamps.”

Ryall positioned himself on his bank by the open window, gun in hand. Unfortunately, he fell asleep. The lion entered through the open door grabbed him by the throat and dragged him out of the carriage through the window.

The lion disappeared into darkness, his remains were found the following day few meters from the train, and his body was taken to Nairobi for burial.

F. Rawson, the Acting Chief Engineer of Uganda Railway in a Gazette Notice of June 27, 1900 offered a reward of 100 sterling pounds for the killing of the man-eater.

The man- eater was later captured in a trap that was built by a railway staff. He was kept on view for several days and then shot.

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