The drive to colonize the continent of Africa in the 19th centuries brought the European imperial powers against difficulties which had never been encountered before. One such difficulty is that of the local wildlife in Africa, such as lions or other big game animals. In The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, by Colonel John Patterson, a railway bridge project in East Africa is terrorized by a pair of man-eating lions. This completely true story shows the great difficulty in colonizing Africa by demonstrating the somewhat harsh environment of Africa.
The story begins with Col. John Patterson arriving in Mombassa in March of 1898 on the East African coast. All Patterson knows is that he is supposed to help with the railroad being built across Kenya to Lake Victoria, and eventually Uganda. He quickly receives his orders to proceed to Tsavo, a little over a hundred miles from Mombassa, to help build a bridge over the Tsavo River. Upon his arrival, he realizes the harsh nature of Tsavo, with its thick underbrush and rough terrain. Immediately, Patterson is faced with a number of problems, such as a source for quality stones to help build the bridge and the problem of the lions. The stone problem is quickly solved, but the problem of the lions takes much longer.
The gruesome nature of the attacks by the lions frightens many of the workers when they come across the bloody remains of usually only a head and some bones. It is discovered that there are two lions responsible for the deaths. Patterson, an experienced big game hunter, begins to hunt the lions and thinking that the "Reign of Terror" will end soon. What Patterson doesn't know, is that this hunt for the man eaters won't come to an end for 10 months. Initially, stalking the lions proves the be very difficult in that worker camps cover about a 30 mile stretch of railroad, thus giving the lions a wide territory to hunt and avoid being stalked by Patterson. Bewilderment hits Patterson in that the lions seem to always know where he'll be waiting, and decide to attack a different camp. The man eaters manage to escape every trap set up to kill them.
Some of the workers on the railroad actually manage to escape death in an encounter with the lions.