INTO AFRICA by Craig Packer


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 Everything you wanted to know about the social behavior of lions, primates, naked mole rats, and more, in this engrossing East African saga by a noted field biologist. Packer's (Dept. of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution/Univ. of Minnesota) narrative covers a two-and-a-half-month mission to Tanzania's Serengeti and Gombe National Parks and to Ngorongoro Crater. On his 16th trip to Africa, Packer and his crew follow, tag, and test the Serengeti lions for parasites. The author muses on lion sociality. Nomadic males will invade the predominantly female prides and kill all the cubs in order to father their own: ``Every lion in the world has a father who is a murderer.'' Females band together for protection against such raids and to guard against competing prides, resulting in a division of territory that he calls ``the balkanization of the Serengeti.'' Packer revisits Jane Goodall's famous primate research center on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Braving the largest number of poisonous snakes anywhere in East Africa, he slithers through the dense jungle while baboon chasers position themselves to catch stool samples. Then Packer visits the floor of the 2,000-foot-deep Ngorongoro Crater, which teems with wildebeest, zebra, antelope, and their predators. Packer's narrative waxes eloquently about the vastness of the migrating herds across the great spaces of the Serengeti. He includes horrific tales of murderous attacks on tourists by bandits. He laments the population pressures compressing the borders of the parks and the severe depletion of wildlife by poachers. He does not suffer fools gladly, rails against the corruption and inefficiency of local bureaucracies, and quite justifiably complains about the ghastly condition of East African roads. Although he somewhat murkily invokes the spirit of Conrad, his final point is worth noting: Humans, unlike lower forms of life, are capable of improving their society. For both the general science reader and the armchair traveler, an informative and exciting safari. (13 color photos and 4 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-226-64429-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994