When the Last Lion Roars
SARA EVANS, BLOOMSBURY, £16.99
When a trophy-hunting dentist shot Cecil the lion on the edge of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in 2015, people woke up to the plight of wild lions, who have suffered a 90 per cent population crash in just 30 years. Sara Evans charts this catastrophe in scholarly detail, following the eclipse of this grand species across its shrinking range. She delves back into prehistory to tease out the evolution of the man-lion relationship, then proceeds to an interesting overview of numerous conservation initiatives, many of them current and inspired by Cecil’s demise.
This is a book grounded more in the library than in the field. The biological mechanisms involved in the decline are hardly touched on, but the important role of complex human politics is delineated with admirable impartiality. The future she predicts for the lion is survival in the “captive wild” behind the sometimes invisible fences of national parks. Indeed, the wilderness lion is mostly gone already.
Cecil was being studied by Oxford University biologists when he was shot with a bow and arrow.