Man-Eating Lions

Did you know that lions are most likely to attack people sometime during the 10 days following a full moon? This is the period of time that puts people and the big cats at the greatest risk of encounter: when humans are out at night and when the lions are the hungriest. Between the years of 1988 and 2009, over 1000 people were attacked in Tanzania and over 700 were killed and either partially or wholly eaten.

Efforts have been taken to protect the people of the country against these brutal attacks. Through research and education, scientists hope to cut down on the number of people ambushed by ravenous lions. According to an article on Sciencemag.org, ‘Man Eating Lions Attack by the Dark of the Moon’, people at the greatest risk are those in rural areas who tend to spend the night in their fields to protect their crops. Bush pigs can wreak havoc on the livelihood of these farmers but the pigs are also a healthy source of food for the lions. As lions stalk the bush pigs, they often stumble upon sleeping farmers who make much easier prey than the wily hogs.

It has been studied and shown that the majority of attacks occur between the hours of 6pm and 9:45pm, with the instance of attack four times greater during the 10 days after the full moon. The reason for this is that, during this period, the moon rises later than normal, leaving these hours darker than any other time of the year. The movie ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ (1996) dramatizes one of these events which took place in 1898. Two lions were reported to have killed about 35 people on a man-eating rampage in Kenya.

While scientists are trying to educate the rural people of Tanzania, it may be difficult. The poverty stricken people are often left with no choice than to protect their crops from destruction. To not do so would through them into near destitution. Researchers also hope that their studies will dispel the myths surrounding the moon, showing people that there is a very real basis for the correlation between the full moon and the time frame of attacks.