Meaghan's Reviews > Ghosts of Tsavo: Stalking the Mystery Lions of East Africa

Ghosts of Tsavo by Philip Caputo
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's review
Nov 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: animals, memoirs, read-in-2011, travel
Read from November 25 to 26, 2011

This is a sort of combination science and travel book. Unfortunately the "science" side was much weaker than the "travel" side.

The author writes of his trips to east-central Africa on photographic safari, tracking the lions of Tsavo, and his adventures. Apparently safari vacations, at least in the Tsavo, are not for the faint of heart -- it's close to 100 degrees all the time, you're very far from civilization, there's a real chance of getting mauled and/or eaten by some wild animal, and there are long periods of being bored to death punctuated by short periods of being frightened to death. Caputo had a ball, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to sign up for that trip.

The Tsavo lions are different from the lions further north in that they are larger, their skulls are shaped differently, they are more aggressive and much more likely to attack humans, and their manes are often sparse to non-existent (maybe that's why they're so aggressive: inferiority complex). Caputo wrote about the debate between biologists about this; some of them believe the Tsavo lions could be a different subspecies or species altogether, while others believe the differences aren't significant and can be accounted for by environmental factors. I think it's a very interesting question and would like to know the answer. However, not reaching any conclusions about this, Caputo is finally like, "Who cares, I'd rather it remain a mystery, they're awesome anyway." The affect, to me, was like slamming the door in my face.

I would still recommend this book, but for intrepid armchair travelers rather than armchair zoologists.
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