A much better read than The Serengeti Lion, this book details what the field work was like on a personal level. Schaller describes the difficulties he encountered, from getting vehicles stuck in ruts, to loosing track of animals (radio-tracking was in its infancy). One chapter is about how his family handled living in the bush and their various wild pets (at different times, a warthog, mongoose and lion cub). There’s a chapter about dealing with poachers and examining the significance of that problem, listing man right up there alongside the prominent predators. I enjoyed greatly the chapters on wild hunting dogs, cheetah and leopards, but of course it is mostly about lion prides. It has all the same information as The Serengeti Lion (some of the sentences repeated word-for-word) but with far fewer statistics and more inclusion of personal descriptions and interesting incidents. Especially Schaller’s own feelings and perceptions about the work, the animals’ individualities, and the landscape around him. It’s very palpable through his words how much the author loved the land and admired the animals he studied. Very interesting is a final chapter where he and a companion roamed the landscape to see how many opportunities they would have of scavenging food or finding weak prey they could easily tackle- once he laid hands on a sick zebra foal, another on a blind giraffe calf- in order to estimate how well primitive hominids could have lived in the area. I don’t know how well his assumptions stand up to modern anthropology, though. These words very nicely state his feelings about it all:
Many people seem content with the anonymity of modern life, subverting themselves by restlessly searching for ever more powerful stimuli- louder noises, faster cars- until their inner selves shrivel, their existence looses awareness, while their bodies race on. Others abhor life in the city. They strive to return to the elemental complexity of the wilderness; they seek the touch of earth and wind and rock. I am of the latter type, and throughout my life I have tried to heed the ancient call that demands contact with nature, foregoing security for pleasure. I prefer a life of quiet, of consciousness with beauty around me, a life where my scientific endeavors are enriched by a sense of unity with the animals I study.
Also this sentence near the end really struck me. I think it applies to many things, not just the persecution of hyenas and wild dogs: Man is always quick to condemn, but slow to gather facts, and, if some are available, even slower to accept them.
I highly recommend this book over the prior one. It’s just the kind of work a casual reader like myself can appreciate, enjoy and learn from.