What Does the word Tsavo Mean?


What Does the word Tsavo Mean? : Tsavo means a region of Kenya located at the crossing of the Uganda Railway over the Tsavo River, close to where it meets the Athi River, it is derived from a Maasai word Sabuk which means a river. The Maasai called the Tsavo river Engare sabuk meaning a big river. Until the British put an end to the slave trade in the 19th century, Tsavo was continually crossed by the caravans of Arab slavers and their captives, many of the victims dropped dead by the wayside and were eaten eaten by lions, in this manner, some lions of Tsavo acquired a taste for human flesh. This might have contributed to the attacks by the two infamous Tsavo man eaters, two national parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo west national parks are nearby.

It is widely known that lions are the kings of the Jungle especially in Tsavo, probably because of their exuberant mane, which resembles the crown of a king, or because of their majestic roar and because they impose themselves on the other species, humans included, to let us know that they are willing to defend their territory the survival of their species. Or it is just the creation of a popular tale forever enrooted in the collective unconscious of mankind. Lions represent strength, bravery and supremacy but however, what if their attack is nothing but an instinct of survival, that is the regardless of the eyes with the story of the events that took place in the town of Tsavo, Kenya in Africa, back in 1898 were one of the most notorious and remembered clashes between the determination of mankind and the instinct of nature.

Back in the 1850’s in Tsavo Kenya, the British resolved to build railways to connect the territories that later would become Kenya and Uganda, at that time, they were under the British Protectorate, such project was one of the most ambitious engineering endeavours of the time and it was called ‘The Uganda Railway ‘because the project ended there, once the work had been started, it was Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson’s job to continue with it, he was the one in charge  of designing and building a bridge over the Tsavo River. Henry Patterson had to shot the lions (a 1996 movie, The Ghost and the Darkness, dramatized the story) and sold their bodies for 5,000 USD to the field museum in Chicago, Patterson had to proceed with the construction work.

What Does the word Tsavo Mean?
What Does the word Tsavo Mean?

Meaning Of Tsavo.

Tsavo is a region of Kenya located at the crossing of the Uganda Railway over the Tsavo River, close to where it meets the Athi-Galana River, the meaning of the word Tsavo is still unclear, but because of tribal conflicts the Kamba people used to refer it to the region as the place of ‘slaughter’. Until the British put an end to the slave trade in the late 19th century, Tsavo was continually crossed by the caravans of trans-Saharan slave traders and their captives.

A curious detail is that- in Kamba language, Tsavo means ‘slaughter land’. May be it was fate, or maybe it was just a simple coincidence, but that is exactly what happened to the workers in the railway construction project. Many of them died, attacked by the two lions that stalked the campsite where they slept every night. According to Patterson’s book, ’The Man-Eaters of Tsavo’’, a hundred and thirty workers were killed. Other sources, based on more recent scientific investigations, revealed that thirty-five people died, but it is said that only one dead worker would have been enough.

The message of the nature was loud and clear, but-despite the deaths that temporarily brought the construction to a halt and caused panic and fearing among the workers, these men decided to carry on. They tried to chase the lions away by fencing the campsite with trees with the sharp leaves where the workers were sleeping and with the hurdles, and with traps, but these animals (belong to a sub species of mane-less lions) managed to dodge them all. Eventually, the lions died, one first, and then the others a few days later, at gunpoint, at the hands of Patterson.

To date, we do not know exactly why these lions attacked the workers of the Uganda Railway. A plausible explanation is that, due to a virus affecting the region, there were few natural preys for the lions during that time forexample like the antelopes, gazelles, buffaloes, zebras and among other animal species. Ghost and Darkness the names given to these lions as, for the Kamba people, they embodied two warriors in their mythology the lions have to find a new prey, and another given explanation was the one of the lions had a condition in one fang, so it became easier to hunt humans. There are various movies and tells the story such as the ‘Bwana Devil’ (1952) and ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ (1996), starring Val akailmer in the role of Patterson, and also Patterson’s book, can unveil this mystery.

An alternative argument indicates that the first lion has a severely damaged tooth that would have comprised its ability to kill natural prey, this theory has been generally disregarded by the general public and Colonel Patterson, who killed the lions, personally disclaimed it, saying that he damaged that tooth with his rifle while the lion charged him one night, promoting it to flee, but though studies indicate that the lions ate humans as a supplement to other food not as a last resort. Eating was probably an alternative to hunting or scavenging caused by dental disease and or a limited number of the prey during that time they attacked the humans.

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