Lions are among the most intrinsic features of the African landscape. But the King of Beasts needs our help, even in its few remaining strongholds.
Earlier this summer I wrote about the Ethiopian wolf, the world’s most endangered canid with a worldwide population of less than 500 animals. Though a megafaunal predator balanced on the brink of extinction, the kind of critter that typically attracts a lot of attention from academics and conservationists, the remarkable hunting behavior of this wolf is just now beginning to be understood, thanks in part to a recent study.
When we reflect upon our natal continent, our thoughts tend to coalesce around those megafaunal giants that have forever haunted the human imagination.
Africa’s wild dogs are a genuine anomaly among the continent’s large predators. For one thing, they’re canids—a doggy minority in a landscape dominated by large cats and hyenas. They hunt in packs like wolves but aren’t very closely related, being the only species of the genus Lycaon.
The old saw from Looney Tunes and similarly informed sources has it that African elephants—the mightiest land mammals on Earth which historically were unafraid to charge legions of Roman troops at the nod of their Carthaginian handlers—are for some reason deathly afraid of mice.