The Lion Shirt
SMARTNEWS HISTORY SCIENCE INGENUITY ARTS & CULTURE TRAVEL AT THE SMITHSONIAN PHOTOS VIDEO GAMES SUBSCRIBE SHOP SmithsonianMagazineSUBSCRIBE SMARTNEWS HISTORY SCIENCE INGENUITY ARTS & CULTURE TRAVEL AT THE SMITHSONIAN SHOP AGE OF HUMANS FUTURE OF SPACE EXPLORATION HUMANBEHAVIOR MIND & BODY OUR PLANET SPACE WILDLIFE NEWSLETTER EARTH OPTIMISM SUMMITThe Truth About LionsThe world’s foremost lionexpertreveals the brutal, secret world of the king of beastsTwo male lions in KenyaBiologists long believed that lions band together tohunt prey. But Craig Packer and colleagues have found that’s not the main reason the animals team up. (Anup and Manoj Shah /www.shahimages.com)By Abigail TuckerSMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | SUBSCRIBEJANUARY 201039693Craig Packer was behind the wheel when we came across the massive cat slumped in the shade beneath a spiny tree. It was a dark-maned male, elaborately sprawled, as if it had fallen from a great height. Its sides heaved with shallow pants. Packer, a University of Minnesota ecologist and the world’s leading lion expert, spun the wheel of the Land Rover and drove straight toward the animal. He pointed out the lion’s scraped elbow and a nasty puncture wound on its side. Its mane was full of leaves. From a distance it looked like a deposed lord, grand and pitiable.
RELATED CONTENTMan-Eaters of TsavoThe Most Ferocious Man-Eating LionsSince arriving in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park only that morning, I’d gaped at wildebeests on parade, dawdling baboons, gazelles rocketing by, oxpecker birds hitching rides atop Cape buffaloes, hippos with bubblegum-colored underbellies. The Serengeti usually dazzles first-time visitors, Packer had warned, making us giddy with an abundance of idyllic wildlife straight out of a Disney song-and-dance number.The sublime brute only 15 feet away was my first wild Panthera leo. Male African lions can be ten feet long and weigh 400 pounds or more, and this one appeared to be pushing the limits of its species. I was glad to be inside a truck.Packer, though, opened the door and hopped out. He snatched a stone and tossed it in the big male’s direction.he lion raised its head. Its handsome face was raked with claw marks.Packer threw another stone. Unimpressed, the lion briefly turned its back, showing hindquarters as smooth as cast bronze. The beast yawned and, nestling its tremendous head on its paws, shifted its gaze to us for the first time. Its eyes were yellow and cold like new doubloons.