Jump to content




See all Safaritalk Special Offers

Message to Guests.

Welcome to Safaritalk where we have been talking Safaris and wildlife conservation since 2006. As a guest you're welcome to read through certain areas of the forum, but to access all the facilities and to contribute your experience, ask questions and get involved, you'll need to be a member - so register here: it's quick, free and easy and I look forward to having you as a Safaritalker soon. Matt.


Photo

Lion Literature : East Africa through the Ages


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Big_Dog

Big_Dog

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 685 posts
  • Local time: 06:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Great Britain
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 07 June 2014 - 09:26 PM

First off perhaps I should mention ‘ages’ is a bit generous. It’s more from the 60’s to the 90’s. But hopefully that won’t mire the thread too much!

The Serengeti Lion: A study of predator-prey relations’ George Schaller - 1967
It’s hard to set down what separates Schaller from other writers of scientific wildlife studies, but Serengeti Lion is one of the best examples. To begin the book is essentially a giant research paper, but perhaps with more anecdotes, descriptions and photographic plates that many papers are often bereft of. It is formally written to avoid patronisation, but isn’t mired with confusing or intimidating (even to a fellow scientist in prep) differential statistics. Despite the formal tone the writing is open, easy to understand and whilst scientific terminology if often used it is not overly complicated stuff. The look into the lion’s life is detailed and intimate, with no stone unturned, though the main meat of the book being social and hunting behaviour. These sections also supplemented with line drawings and tables to help convey masses of information collected over the three years.
Schaller also writes of the other predators; the leopard, cheetah and wild dog (the spotted hyaenas was studied and written about by Hans Kruuk in ‘The Spotted Hyena’, and Schaller worked with Kruuk at the time) and whilst their sections are shorter they are still highly fascinating and every bit as well written. Looking at the predator guild also gives a better understanding of overall ecosystem rather than focusing on a single species.
Further positive press :
"This book conveys not only the fascination of its particular study of lion behavior but the drama and wonder and beauty of the intimate interdependence of all living things." - Saturday Review
"If you have only enough time to read one book about field biology, this is the one I recommend." - Edward O. Wilson, Science
"This is an important book, not just for its valuable information on lions, but for its broad, open, and intelligent approach to problems that cut across the fields of behavior, populations, ecology, wildlife management, evolution, anthropology, and comparative biology." - Richard G. Van Gelder, Bioscience
"By the time the reader has finished this book, the Serengeti, its landscapes, seasons, and wildlife, takes shape in the mind as a complex and epic poem, each part a function of every other part and each part a function of the whole." - George Stade, New York Times Book Review"

Pride of Lions, Brian Bertram - 1978
Schaller’s Serengeti successor, Bertram’s book obviously suffers a bit from having such an excellent predecessor. Bertram still works hard to differentiate the books however. Swiftly he makes it clear his study was focused more in the Lobo area of acacia woodland over the open Seronera area. Also, as with any safari different sightings and observations were made and original tidbits of interesting behaviour or anecdote are here in the book. It is written informally, no doubt as Bertram thought the public wouldn’t be interested in another scientific tome. Unfortunately as Schaller’s is such easy reading it doesn’t feel like a lot of drier monographs, but should anyone find reading it hard work a wealth of information on Serengeti lions can be found here. Overall though, even if you aren’t a hardcore lion aficionado or already own Schaller’s book, Pride of Lions is still interesting and well written enough to deserve a place of the book shelf.

The Lions Share, Jeannette Hanby - 1982
Bertram’s successor, Hanby’s story is just that, a story. Unlike the prior two books which were for formal and gentle education, this is much the more the descriptive story of a Serengeti pride. Terminology is absent, animal nicknames are often used and there is no mention of what the overall study goal is. David Bygott litters the book with numerous, beautiful charcoal illustrations in lieu of plates that compliment the well-written text. The focus is on the Sametu pride, though other animals get occasional pages devoted to them - often wild dogs - and the influence of Goodall’s and Van Lawick’s writing style can be seen as Bygott studied with them in Gombe. The writing and art style remind me of Van Lawick’s book ‘Solo’. A short read that can probably be accomplished in a long afternoon and late evening, it provides another excellent chapter to the Serengeti Lion Research.

Into Africa, Craig Packer - 1996 - And additional thoughts on literature of wildlife.
Into Africa is Craig Packer’s autobiographical journey across East Africa. Starting and ending in the Serengeti with lions, with the middle section on rainforest life and primates at Jane Goodall’s research facility. In this book it could be said that the wildlife plays second fiddle to the author here. Fortunately Packer is an interesting man and a good writer, and it is more his experiences with Africa than writing about himself. The Serengeti sections deal with the trials of research and with studying lions, especially in the day when moving isn’t high on their agenda. The sections of Gombe deals with living in the forest environment. What may stay with the reader are the interesting but stomach turning encounters with illness and parasites, all vividly described. the animals themselves are still written of, the discussion of lion infanticide and it first being filmed are highly interesting.

But something appears across these texts. The progression of scientific monograph, to informal research book, to a study story to a borderline autobiography. Science writing seems to have changed. Perhaps one could say Schaller’s original book was so good it intimidated others of scientific texts for fear of redundancy. Perhaps. But it isn’t just lions. With the occasional exception behavioural monographs from the last 15 years  are now very rare. Another cause could well be the change of study methods used. Packer used a lot of direct observation, but for different goals for Schaller, Bertram or Hygott and also used a lot more modern technology.* Observation of animals is perhaps becoming an endangered species as camera traps, GPS collars, statistics and scat analysis take over in a lot of modern papers. This, I would suggest, could be less interesting to the general public. National Geographic used to have articles written by zoologists like Kruuk, Goodall and Schaller; nowadays it seems to be who can snap the prettiest pictures. Documentaries are now rarely documenting nature with zoological backup as was the days of Alan Root, but seem to be more about HD or 3D and how best to show this off. Is Zoology becoming less personal as technology has a greater influence? And are the public switching off to the scientific side of nature?

 

* In a later book, Tibet Wild, Schaller himself discusses the ‘new age’ of zoological techniques.
 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Further reading from George Schaller

 

Serengeti : Kingdom Of Predators - 1973
The non-scientific condensation of Serengeti Lion, I would still say Kingdom of Predators is excellent reading.For one it goes perhaps into even greater detail on the other predators of the park (after all Panthera Leo bagged top billing in the monograph). Schaller is able to slip the rare opinion and bit of humour into his monograph, but here does he fully let his emotional appreciation of East Africa’s hunters go forth in excellent prose. The book still has enough good information to be considered popular science, and probably enough great colour photographs to be considered a coffee table book, but it is the anecdotes and sightings and encounters, spectacularly written and followed by poignant thoughts that I would say make the book stand out.

Golden Shadows, Flying Hooves - 1973
With 2 other books of the same scientific expedition, one would be forgiven for thinking there is little left to say from Schaller on the Serengeti. But reading Golden Shadows swiftly dispels such myths. As Kingdom of Predators elaborated Serengeti’s carnivores, Golden Shadows elaborates the other wildlife, especially the ubiquitous wildebeest and it’s migration and calving season. Schaller’s pets are also given detailed and endearing biographies; a warthog, a banded mongoose and a lion cub respectively. It also goes into further detail of the Serengeti community at the time and extended research. One chapter is devoted to a week where Schaller and colleagues lived as primitive man may have, testing experiments to see how our earliest ancestors survived in the landscape. Another is in detail of the warden, Myles Turner, and anti-poaching efforts of the time. When all his works from East Africa are read together, Golden Shadows feels like the final, satisfying chapter of a fascinating point of zoological discovery.


Edited by Big_Dog, 07 June 2014 - 09:38 PM.

  • Paolo, Marks, AKR1 and 3 others like this

"What, no hyaena pictures?"


#2 Paolo

Paolo

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 3,899 posts
  • Local time: 07:11 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 07 June 2014 - 09:35 PM

@Big_Dog

Thank you.

I had read bits and pieces of Schaller's and it is indeed a masterpiece.

Could you write the year of publishing of those books, so as to put them in context with their time?

#3 Big_Dog

Big_Dog

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 685 posts
  • Local time: 06:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Great Britain
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 07 June 2014 - 09:40 PM

@Paolo - Thanks! And good point, added them in now.

Would also add the thoughts on modern techniques in zoology are simply my opinion. Feel free to disagree!
Some places still thankfully use a lot of direct observation like Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, I had a friend who worked for a year as a research assistant there and follow the site. Would be interesting to get @egilio 's thoughts on this? :)


"What, no hyaena pictures?"


#4 Marks

Marks

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,585 posts
  • Local time: 01:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:USA
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:Writer

Posted 08 June 2014 - 12:20 AM

Great thread. Hope it leads to some interesting discussion!

 

 

But something appears across these texts. The progression of scientific monograph, to informal research book, to a study story to a borderline autobiography. Science writing seems to have changed. Perhaps one could say Schaller’s original book was so good it intimidated others of scientific texts for fear of redundancy. Perhaps. But it isn’t just lions. With the occasional exception behavioural monographs from the last 15 years  are now very rare. 

 

I've thought about this, as well, and I mostly agree with the fear of redundancy argument. We have already received the "definitive" book about many popular species (by Schaller and Kruuk, as you mention). Therefore writers perceive the ways to break new ground are to 1) Publish smaller findings in academic journals, or 2) inject a book with as much information about the scientist as the science in order to personalize the narrative. The books are naturally what the general reader comes across, rather than the scientific journals, and I also think that these books hope to achieve greater commercial success by appealing to readers of the travel writing genre, as well as by achieving scientific appeal. So you see a lot more personal anecdotes and such.

 

Of course, we only just now received Estes' excellent wildebeest book, so that's something.

 

In any case, you have added even more books to my to-read list!


Edited by Marks, 08 June 2014 - 12:21 AM.

  • Big_Dog likes this

#5 Anita

Anita

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,721 posts
  • Local time: 01:11 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Hong Kong
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 08 June 2014 - 03:14 AM

Great thread and I hadn't heard of Schaller's book so thank you for that. I have read Into Africa.

 

I quite agree with you and to some extent I think its because of what 1.) Commerce or commercialization means today versus decades ago where, today, the RoI of something you are going to print becomes very important and 2.) The marginal value of something "similar" or "different" to the general audience- So producers and publishers try to dissuade the kinds they think will not sell and try to do as much as possible of things that will. And I guess a lot more gets pushed into research than into books with far less or no marketing budget for it. We have gone way beyond our needs in terms of what we have today and hence there is a steep drop on the attention span.

 

Plus if someone were to challenge a long believed behavioral pattern today ( in the age of all technological advances), they would have to show data and hence the need for recordable devices instead of human brain.

 

 

However, while I completely agree with you, the one argument I would give from the other side is that it is actually more difficult to find something new today with the golden age of the big earth shattering new behavioral discoveries being somewhat over while at the same time there are many more people trying to justify their research, their existence and their earnings from research. Imagine when Alan Root first saw how horn bills nested or the termites - he filmed it and all anyone argued was who the credits would go to. Today you would have 4 different schools of thoughts -each refuting and challenging the other ( and trying to stay in business? ) and justifying why further money was needed for collars to understand how much meat per body mass per distance run for food does a wild dog need. :-D


  • Paolo and Big_Dog like this

Ask not what a park/an organization/a country can do for you; ask what you can do for them ;-)


#6 Big_Dog

Big_Dog

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 685 posts
  • Local time: 06:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Great Britain
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 08 June 2014 - 08:02 PM

@Marks - It's quite a shame. Books on animals from other locales greatly different to the Serengeti (for example, Gus Mills' book on Kalahari hyaenas vs Kruuk's) show how different the animal's ecology can be, and it shows in the writing, and how a 'definitive' text isn't quite as definitve as first thought. Yet would the public be interested in another monograph?...

@Anita - Very good points! I believe you are quite right on the publishers and their view of research books. :(
You're also right on the second too. But there is also the beauty of simple observation. No hypothesis or theories, just watching with a notebook can bring about unforseen discoveries and this is Schaller's favoured M.O. Perhaps since zoology became more biology and less natural history things are becoming over-complicated. This article is quite a good read on the justification of natural history :) : http://blog.nature.o...atural-history/


  • Marks likes this

"What, no hyaena pictures?"


#7 Anita

Anita

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,721 posts
  • Local time: 01:11 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Hong Kong
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 08 June 2014 - 11:22 PM

But there is also the beauty of simple observation. No hypothesis or theories, just watching with a notebook can bring about unforseen discoveries and this is Schaller's favoured M.O

 

 Absolutely - because human mind is way more powerful than digital algorithms but we have learnt to dumb it down. After all what good is a researcher if he doesnt post a picture of a lion being darted on his fb page :-)

 

I must admit there are few people who I respect a lot even today - for example Rosemary Groom and what they are relentlessly doing in Zimbabwe without much fanfare or marketing -and there is supposedly some big breakthrough first time ever genetic study on wild dogs that they have collected over 700 samples for. I am a big fan of APN and TNC and few others.  Genetic studies cannot happen without 'intervention' and at some point, if you want to preserve gene diversity, its important to study them. One could argue that if we knew about black rhinos in early 20th century, what we know now, we might have been able to preserve more sub species ( or maybe not ). But the scale of research and personal interests still astounds me.

 

The problem is biology and genetics have taken the place of natural history- whereas we should have created room for both. The financial world is a big example of how useless models themselves are without qualitative judgments.


  • Paolo and Tom Kellie like this

Ask not what a park/an organization/a country can do for you; ask what you can do for them ;-)


#8 Big_Dog

Big_Dog

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 685 posts
  • Local time: 06:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Great Britain
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 09 June 2014 - 11:45 AM

@Anita - Very good overall summary in those last sentances!
I also agree strongly on Rosmary Groom's work. Excellent stuff and I always follow her updates.


  • Anita likes this

"What, no hyaena pictures?"


#9 AKR1

AKR1

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,346 posts
  • Local time: 01:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New York City area, USA
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 10 June 2014 - 01:09 AM

@Big_Dog, thanks for posting this. I have long admired George Schaller, one of the world's preeminent field biologists.

 

For those who have access to the Complete National Geographic on their hard drives, George Schallers iconic article "Life with the King of Beasts", NG April 1969, adapted from his book, has magnificent full color pictures of lions in the Serengeti in the1960s. Some of the pictures are amazing for their times- action with a lioness on top of a buffalo, two lions fighting, a stunning tender picture of a huge male playing with his tiny cub, "lion day care" a spread of a lioness watching 6 cubs all perfectly point for the camera. The Schaller family moved full time in 1966 to Seronera park headquarters.

 

Here is one picture from the dozens in the article:

 

http://vintagenation...age/32272996151

From “Life With the King of Beasts,” National Geographic, April, 1969.

George Schaller's book is available to read on Google books (don't know if the entire book is covered). See here:

Every sense alert to night time’s telltale sounds and scents, a lioness — aptly nicknamed Flopear by the author — poises with another pride lioness at the edge of a kopje. In open areas lions must hunt under cover of darkness to conceal their movements from sharp-eyed prey. At least a quarter of their diet consists of meat scavenged from other predators. At times, packs of hyenas turn the tables on lions — driving them from the kill and snatching their dinner.

 

http://books.google....i lions&f=false

 

http://blog.snapshot...serengeti-lion/

http://onwisconsin.u...the-wilderness/

 

In addition, Schaller also bagged some of the earliest pictures of a snow leopard in the early 1970s in Pakistan at 11,000 feet (NG, Nov., 1971)


Edited by AKR1, 10 June 2014 - 01:25 AM.

  • Marks likes this

#10 Big_Dog

Big_Dog

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 685 posts
  • Local time: 06:11 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Great Britain
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 10 June 2014 - 03:29 PM

Thanks @AKR1 !
Haven't had the chance to read that Nat Geo unfortunatley, but I've read a few old, good ones and own the issue on hyaenas by Hans Kruuk.

Nice articles too. Have got a few other of his books, both scientific and non scientific. Amazing man!


"What, no hyaena pictures?"


#11 Tom Kellie

Tom Kellie

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 6,485 posts
  • Local time: 01:11 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Central CHINA
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 09 May 2015 - 08:19 PM

 

But there is also the beauty of simple observation. No hypothesis or theories, just watching with a notebook can bring about unforseen discoveries and this is Schaller's favoured M.O

 

 Absolutely - because human mind is way more powerful than digital algorithms but we have learnt to dumb it down. After all what good is a researcher if he doesnt post a picture of a lion being darted on his fb page :-)

 

The problem is biology and genetics have taken the place of natural history- whereas we should have created room for both. The financial world is a big example of how useless models themselves are without qualitative judgments.

 

 

~ @Anita:

 

Bingo!

 

Thank you SO MUCH for such an apt remark.

 

As soon as I read your words I smiled in admiration at your insightful comment.

 

Although I teach in the School of Life Sciences of two universities, I 100% wholeheartedly concur with what you've written

 

Many, many thanks for your comment.

 

Tom K.







© 2006 - 2016 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.

Welcome guest to Safaritalk.
Please Register or Login to use the full facilities.