Cover image for The nature of lions : social cats of the savannas
The nature of lions : social cats of the savannas
Grace, Eric S.
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Publication Information:
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
xi, 100 pages : color illustrations, 1 color map ; 25 cm
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Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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QL737.C23 G73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In a remarkable text, Eric Grace sets out to discover the true nature of lions. His lively and informed discussion of these creatures is accompanied by stunning photographs by the world-renowned wildlife photographer Art Wolfe.

From how a lion's physical construction makes it one of nature's greatest hunters, to the conditions that have made lions the only truly social cats, all aspects of lions' biology and behavior are discussed in The Nature of Lions . The book explores the magical and checkered relationship between humans and lions from prehistory to the present, and includes a look at the status of lions today and efforts to preserve them.

Throughout, spectacular photographs show lions chasing a herd of wildebeests, eating their kill on the savanna, caring for their young, or basking in the shade of an acacia tree. Together, the images and text capture the power and majesty of this most social of cats.

Author Notes

Eric Grace is the author of numerous books, including The Nature of Monarch Butterflies: Beauty in Flight and Biotechnology Unzipped . He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Art Wolfe is one of the most celebrated wildlife photographers in the United States. His award-winning photography is featured frequently in periodicals such as National Geographic , Smithsonian and Outdoor Photographer . His many books include Light on the Land, Bears: Their Life and Behavior and The Art of Photgraphing Nature . He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Lions are the embodiment of the term big cat. The male lion in particular, with his luxuriant mane and enormous head, has fascinated humans since both species' debuts on the plains of Africa. Grace, author of numerous books on nature, presents a succinct look at what makes a lion. Expanding on the dictionary definition of "large, roaring cat," the author begins with a quick view of the evolution of lions, a look at their anatomy, and a discussion of basic behavior. A second section covers the lion's world, beginning with mating and the birth of cubs. The interplay of the land, the herbivores (prey), and the lions (predators) fills the rest of the section, with a nice description of the hunt. A final section examines the relationship between lions and humans. The importance of lions's sociality, unique among cats, is woven throughout the text. Wolfe's magnificent photographs bring the book to life and help recommend this nice introduction to all libraries. --Nancy Bent

Library Journal Review

These two additions to the wealth of published information on big cats will appeal to very different audiences. Less than 50 percent text, Grace's book on lions only scratches the surface of the lion's evolution, adaptations, communication mechanisms, and day-to-day existence and survival challenges. The author, a Canadian zoologist and nature writer (The Nature of Monarch Butterflies), provides an additional chapter on mythology and symbolism, contact with humans, man-eaters, and conservation issues. The highlight of this book is the extensive high-quality photography provided by world-renowned wildlife photographer Wolfe, whose award-winning work has been featured in magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian. While it also has exceptional photos, Karanth's book places much more emphasis on content. Born and raised in India, where he has conducted research for over 20 years, Karanth is a conservation zoologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. That he loves his tigers and is passionate about their welfare is obvious. The organization of the text itself is fairly standard. Karanth starts out with conservation concerns and our fascination with big cats, then considers their evolution, ecology, and behavior and ends with recommended readings. He does not provide new information on tigers but instead reaffirms the research of conservationists George Schaller, John Seidensticker, and Fiona Sunquist. Readers who just can't have too many books about big cats will want them both, though Grace's book will appeal primarily to those who are looking for pictorial representations and brief descriptions. Small and mid-sized libraries will do well with just The Way of the Tiger. Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Preface The lion sits sphinxlike in the shade of an acacia tree. Front paws aligned, face serene, he does not acknowledge that a truckload of humans has stopped 20 meters (65 feet) away. The truck's engine is turned off, and the passengers sweat under the late afternoon sun. A fly settles on the broad slope of the lion's nose, then dances up toward the dark, moist corner of one eye. I marvel at its impertinence. Wildebeests grunt behind us. Weaver birds flit overhead and then settle, chattering, among the thorny branches of the acacia tree. There is a low murmur among us humans. The click and whir of cameras irritate me but do not concern the lion. The lion has seduced us. He seems embraceable. He is a giant pussy cat. One of the people in the truck must think so, for he jokingly puts a leg over the side of the truck as if to jump down and stroll over to pet the golden fur. In the 1941 movie version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Spencer Tracy artfully changes his face and body from benign to sinister with the subtlest of maneuvers. Cued by the movement from the truck, the lion (he isn't acting), like Tracy, is transfigured in an instant, with only a very slight turn of his head. Eyes that had been soft and unfocused become hard yellow beacons. Muscles that had yielded to gravity tense into rigid contours. The pussy cat is a predator. No more MGM mascot, he stars in horror flicks featuring tourists dragged from tents in the dark, cold night by unforgiving jaws. What are lions? Surely they are more than my encyclopedias succinct and rather droll introduction to them as "large roaring cats." Yet again, on reflection, these three words assume in my mind the subtle poetry of a haiku. They are accurate. Certain. The lion embodies such a powerful combination of beauty and beast, such dramatic grace, that it has captured the human imagination since prehistoric times. In those days, our ancestors elbowed lions from the caves in which both sought shelter, then etched images of these beasts on the cave walls. People and lions are longtime rivals for space, and our shared and bloody history gives human and cat a mutual sense of respect and fear. Inevitably, we endow these carnivores with attributes of our own, giving them roles in our storybooks and transforming them into symbols. With what eyes must I see lions today, when most people live in cities, our technology dominates the planet, and there are more humans and fewer wild carnivores than at any previous time in our history? In these pages, I set out to discover the nature of lions, knowing at the start that this is an impossible task. There is the tourist's lion, usually asleep, providing photo opportunities on vacations. The circus trainer's lion, with its echoes of the ancient power struggles between our species. The zookeeper's lion, whose snarls at feeding time evoke the atavistic excitement of nights by a campfire on the African plains. The symbolic lion, far more plentiful than real lions and seen throughout the world in statues, paintings, tapestries, stained glass windows, storybooks, flags, coins, advertisements, door knockers, and many other places. There is the hunter's lion, the livestock farmer's lion, the zoologist's lion, and the writer's lion. Lions today seem quintessentially African. They parade before our mind's eye in scenes populated by gazelles and zebras, elephants and giraffes. They loll in the equatorial sun on slides from safaris, hunt wildebeests in TV documentaries, form stylish tableaus against dusk-red horizons in the photo spreads of magazines, and lie with closed eyes in black and white at the feet of hunters posed for posterity inside musty books. Yet these typically African inhabitants were part of the landscape over much wider areas of the world until not so long ago. Chapter 1 of this book traces the evolution of lions and the characteristics that make them unique among cats. Chapter 2 describes their social structure and life history, as well as the web of climate, land, plants, and other animals that shape their lives, The final chapter reviews some historical connections between lions and people and looks at the troubled future facing lions Excerpted from The Nature of Lions: Social Cats of the Savannas by Eric S. Grace All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
I Large Roaring Catsp. 1
II The Lion's Worldp. 29
III Lions and Peoplep. 61
Notesp. 93
For Further Readingp. 95
Acknowledgmentsp. 97
Indexp. 98