CHICAGO (AP) -
Scientists at the Chicago Field Museum say there may have been a mix-up when
researchers identified the remains of two lions suspected of eating about 35
railroad workers in colonial Kenya in the 1890s.
Researchers at the
museum have been using a portable X-ray machine this week to determine the
identities of the animals’ remains, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The
lions’ skulls have been displayed with labels informing visitors which skull
belonged to which stuffed pelt in one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
said one of the lions likely attacked as many as two dozen people, while the
other ate about half that, so a mix-up would misattribute most of the deaths
to one animal instead of the other. The museum acquired the lion pelts in
the 1920s from British colonel and engineer John H. Patterson, who fatally
shot the lions in December 1898, nine months after the animals began their
almost nightly attacks.
“We need to have it
correct for the public and for the historic integrity of the display,” said
Tom Gnoske, the museum’s assistant collections manager.
in 2009 examined the lions’ bone and hair samples. Researchers concluded at
the time that the skulls had been mislabeled and mixed-up, so the labels
were changed. But the decision wasn’t universally accepted.
Gnoske was among
the scientists who believed the original identification was correct.
“When we said, ‘You
shouldn’t switch them,’ we argued about it with one of my bigger bosses,”
Gnoske said Tuesday. “He said, ‘You’ve got to prove it.’”
said it will take detailed analysis by a radiologist to determine if the
labels should again be switched.