Friday, October 30, 2015

Craig Packer's "Lions in the Balance"

Craig Packer is professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior and director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Lions in the Balance provides a cultural and historical vignette of Tanzania’s traditional capital, Dar es Salaam – the Dwelling of Peace. Dar is located on the shores of the Indian Ocean and has been a cultural melting pot for centuries. This precise scene takes place during an important day in the Muslim calendar, when black-robed Shiites commemorate the martyrdom of Muhammad’s grandson. But the date coincides with a Hindu festival, and Dar’s Indian population is dressed in Nehru suits and brightly colored saris.

More important than the scene’s exoticism is the history that brought these two religions to Africa in the first place. The Arabs transported slaves and ivory to Zanzibar from the mainland for a thousand years; the British brought clerks and shopkeepers from India during the Colonial Era. Despite the abolition of slavery and the country’s independence in the 1960’s, the Arabs and Indians have maintained their economic advantages ever since.

Lions in the Balance covers an eight-year period when I tried to reform the sport hunting industry in Tanzania while maintaining a long-term research project in the Serengeti and attempted to establish a large-scale program to measure the effectiveness of foreign-aid projects within this desperately impoverished country. By this point in the book, I have come to realize how corruption in the hunting industry has undermined the future of most wildlife areas in Tanzania. I have battled the cynicism of the government agencies that are meant to regulate hunting practices, and I have also identified most of the major players who have been enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s lions, leopards and elephants. But whereas I had uncovered a paper trail documenting the business partnerships of most of the European and North American hunting operators, I hadn’t penetrated the tight-knit – and largely mysterious – ethnic communities of businessmen from Arabia, India and Pakistan.

Dar es Salaam is also where my co-investigators and I experience some of our most dangerous physical encounters with quicksand, armed robbers, government officials and wealthy business tycoons. Dar was the launching pad for our scientific studies of man-eating lions and the site of our negotiations with international aid agencies. The climax of the book occurs in Dar es Salaam on page 338, by which time the scene on page 99 will have prepared the reader to expect the unexpected.
Learn more about Lions in the Balance at the University of Chicago website.

My Book, The Movie: Lions in the Balance.

Writers Read: Craig Packer.

--Marshal Zeringue