What do you do if you’re walking in the Serengeti forest and a lion gets between you and your Land Rover?
If you’re me, you scream and run away – classic prey behavior that might end with said lion catching dinner.
Dr. Craig Packer shouted and clapped his hands, running at the lion. Large + noisy + aggressive = predatory behavior, and the lion walked away rather than fight.
Lionesses (Don’t) Prefer Blonds
Does the darkness of a lion’s mane attract the lionesses? Dr. Packer hypothesized that the dark hair indicates vigor, which lionesses find attractive in a mate. The professor actually convinced a Dutch toy company to make a life sized lion with several detachable manes in various shades. Placing the dummy lion near prides in the Serengeti, they played lion calls as a lure.
What happened? The blonder the mane, the less attention the fake lion got. A dark mane attracted more lionesses – but also more challenges from lions.
Win the Battle, Lose the War
Dr. Packer is a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at U Minnesota. He worked in Tanzania, fighting trophy hunters, debating with corrupt politicians, and dealing with death threats. For 35 years, he ran the Serengeti Lion Project, studying lion behavior.
However, the difference between charging fearlessly at a lioness and charging fearlessly at politicians is that the politicians have more options than a physical fight. In 2014, officials withdrew his research permit, because he tarnished the “image of the Government of Tanzania.”
As most of us were taught in kindergarten, good manners will help you get by in life.