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Lions in the balance

October 14, 2015


Conflict between predators and people have existed as long as we have. Most large predators were eradicated from North America and Europe over the past few hundred years. And even as we have cemented ourselves securely atop the global food web we still sometimes find our lives and even our livelihoods at odds with top predators. On September 28, Craig Packer, a preeminent ecologist at the University of Minnesota, travelled to Wake Forest to discuss one such case. Across much of Southeastern Africa, lions and people regularly come into conflict. Livestock and, all too often, people become prey to lions. This conflict has led to extensive culling of lions across the region and has created the very real possibility of a future without lions. Craig Packer has spent the last 4 decades researching the African savannahs, the intricate ecological connections which make them work, and the role that lions play in that system. He has seen firsthand the decline in lion ranges and populations as human populations have expanded and sought to tame the wild. This naturally led him to a growing focus on conservation along with his basic research. The challenges faced, though, are deeply challenging, with corrupt governments, overly idealistic conservationists, and local populations uninterested in conservation all standing in the way. Packer reminds us that facing these challenges and saving lions will not be easy or cheap but it can be done. The only real barrier to conservation is our unwillingness to take meaningful action.