When the Last Lion Roars

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - WILD AT HOME - Stephen Mills Author and nat­u­ral­ist

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.

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