on 3 May 1998
Wow! This well-written book covers, in narrative style, with humor, a recent 52-day field research expedition by the author to the Tanzanian Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater to study lions, and to Gombe (of Goodall fame) to study chimps and baboons. In frequent flashbacks he reviews his past field expeditions and what they discovered -- new theories about why lions, chimps and baboons form the type of social structures they do. He also covers the struggles and hopes of the wildlife parks, and the difficulty of trying to reconcile the needs, wants, and contributions of: the researchers, the people living in the area, the government, the tourists, the poachers, and the foreign hunters -- all on the limited funds available.
He throws in a lot of information on the species he studies, and builds this information into a theory about how all species -- perhaps even man -- are motivated to either cooperate or compete with each other. Packer also includes his commentaries and anecdotes about his fellow researchers, camp employees, local residents, local and national government officials, and the history of the area.
Packer does an especially thorough job of analyzing how the species' survival is affected by men, disease, inbreeding, other species, and their own species' behavior patterns.
The liner notes include recommendations of this book from the renowned George Schaller and Cynthia Moss. The reviews here by Booklist and Kirkus are accurate.
That said, I do have some minor quibbles with the book. There is no index, and the table of contents is only chronological according to the "diary" format of the book. If the reader wants to review the material -- however excellent -- on lion infanticide or chimpanzee wars, the reader has to leaf through the entire book to find it.
Likewise, there is no list of suggested further reading or sources, and no glossary. While Packer does define the Swahili terms he uses, he does so ONCE, in text. When one reads that "Tony Sincla! ir is the real mzee" on page 244, one has to remember the definition from page 52 [mzee is literally "old man" -- a term of honor and respect].
Packard also seems to dwell on the negative and random man-on-man violence -- for instance, a lengthy report on the 1975 kidnapping of four researchers from Gombe by Zairian rebels, camp thieves, and assaults on tourists. Grouping these incidents occurring over 20 years in one narrative makes them seem more pervasive than they are.
This is an EXCELLENT book for anyone interested in African wildlife or animal behavior in general.
on 8 January 2014
This book was first published in 1994, has 278 pages in 3 PARTS, 17 chapters, 13 colour pictures and 4 maps. This book is written in the shape of author's diary from 26.10.1991 to 15.12.1991. DR CRAIG PACKER was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1950. He graduated from Stanford University in 1972 with human Biology degree and completed Doctorate of Philosophy at University of Sussex in 1977. He currently lives in Minneapolis and teaches Biology at University of Minnesota. He was sent to Tanzania to study baboons at GOMBE with Jane Goodall. In 1978, he began the Serengeti Lion Project with his wife ANNE PUSEY (also Minnesota Professor). He studied the effect of full Moon on number of lion attacks and man-eating attacks. Packer has 2 children, Jonathan (1984) and Catherine (1987).
On 26.10.1991, Packer leaves Minneapolis for NAIROBI via London and Rome. This was his 16th trip to Africa in 10 years. Arriving at JKIA, they pass through Nairobi, a city that doubles in population every 10 years! After getting supplies they head for NAMANGA, cross the Kenya/Tanzania border and stay over night in ARUSHA. After getting permits to stay and some shopping in dusty town centre, they were glad to get out of the crowds and move towards Mto-Wa-Mbu, Lake MANYARA and climb the rim of NGORONGORO Crater. After 2 punctures, they head for the SIRINGIT (the immense open space). Moving down the crater highlands, the road kills cars by shaking them to bits. Passing SERONERA River, they arrive at 'LION HOUSE' - Serengeti Research Institute (SRI).
They try to track radio collared lions and their prides. Lions are also identified by their whisker spots. They dart a large male lion and take blood samples and check him over. Faecal specimens are collected from lions which contain a lot of parasites and worms. 90% lions are sero-positive for FIV (Feline Immune Deficiency Virus). At night, they follow the lions studying their behaviour. Then in 1987, lion infanticide was filmed. All lions have fathers who have murdered. The biggest danger to lions, is from lions themselves. In the North west Reserves around Serengeti, poachers and trophy hunters take their toll on the wildlife.
Once the pride contains fewer than 3 females, it becomes extinct, exterminated by its neighbours. Lions can count roars. Packer and his team drive around the various Kopjes in the East of Serengeti. On 13.11.1991, packer flies to Dar-es-Salaam on his way to Gombe NP. He had first come here in 1972. Chimps and Baboons are studied here. On 19.5.1975, 4 Wasungu students were kidnapped from Gombe Camp. Packer returns to Dar-es-Salaam on 26.11.1991, ill with stomach pains and bowel problems. They fly to Arusha and then try to drive to Ngorongoro in their run down Suzuki. Staying at the LERAI CABIN on the Crater floor, they use the Red Land Rover to observe the lions. No immigrant lion has come into the Crater and lived, in 25 years. Due to inbreeding, the male lions have high rate of abnormal sperms. The well fed females are producing fewer and fewer cubs. On 4.12.1991, they were back at the Lion House in Serengeti.
Serengeti was their blood, so they kept going back there. Packer and his team drive north to BOLAGONJA, Tanzania Border Post and after 10 miles to Kenyan Border. They cross Maasai Mara and drive to Nairobi and then fly home on 15.12.1991. On 3.2.1994, news comes from Serengeti that the lions were dying of some mysterious infection. The SRI was attacked by Africans demanding dollars.
Through Packer's vivid narration, one can feel the dust and the bumps of Arusha Road and imagine the sights, smells and the glorious beauty of Serengeti Plains. This book goes into great details of the role of male and female lions in the upbringing of the cubs. The nomads and their territories and the formation of male coalitions, is also explained. One also sadly sees that a solitary female lions life is a dead end.
Some other books of interest are:-
(1) Serengeti Shall Not Die, Bernhard Grzimek 1960
(2) Serengeti Lion, George B Schaller 1972
(3) Ngorongoro, The 8th Wonder, H Fosbrooke 1972
(4) Wild Cats of the World, Guggisberg 1975
(5) Golden Shadows-Flying Hooves, George B Schaller 1973
(6) Lions Share, David Bygott 1983
(7) Serengeti National Park, Snelson/Bygott 1986
(8) My Serengeti Years, Myles Turner 1987
(9) Banagi Hill, John Blower 2004
(10)Serengeti Story, Anthony Sinclair 2012
Having born in Kenya, I enjoyed reading this book.