Humans and Lions

Conflict, Conservation and Coexistence, 1st Edition

lion book

This book places lion conservation and the relationship between people and lions both in historical context and in the context of the contemporary politics of conservation in Africa. The killing of Cecil the Lion in July 2015 brought such issues to the public’s attention. Were lions threatened in the wild and what was the best form of conservation? How best can lions be saved from extinction in the wild in Africa amid rural poverty, precarious livelihoods for local communities and an expanding human population?

This book traces man’s relationship with lions through history, from hominids, to the Romans, through colonial occupation and independence, to the present day. It concludes with an examination of the current crisis of conservation and the conflict between Western animal welfare concepts and sustainable development, thrown into sharp focus by the killing of Cecil the lion. Through this historical account, Keith Somerville provides a coherent, evidence-based assessment of current human-lion relations, providing context to the present situation.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of environmental and African history, wildlife conservation, environmental management and political ecology, as well as the general reader.


“This is the natural companion to the thoughtful and elegant Ivory: while the themes broadly overlap and compliment there is also plenty of fresh research to form a panorama as wide as the African sky. These books will be debated for years to come and form touchstones for present and future generations.”Jasper Humphrys, Director of External Relations of the Marjan Centre for War and the Non-Human Sphere, King’s College, University of London, UK

“Professor Somerville has written the definitive history of the relationship between lions and humans. This meticulously and exhaustively researched book starts sixty million years ago with the evolutionary origin of Carnivores and ends with developments in lion conservation in late 2018. In between, it examines the long history of conflict between the two apex predators, documenting in agonizing detail the lion’s long spiral toward extinction at the hands of man, and the current efforts of a handful of conservationists to reverse the decline. This will be the standard reference on lion conservation for years to come.”Laurence G. Frank, Living With Lions Project Director and research associate in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, USA

“Keith Somerville eruditely rips the scales from his readers eyes to unveil the interacting blights that have beset lions for millennia – trade, conflict, hunting – pills all bitterly coated in the proliferation of people. Where does that leave lions? In a precarious mess.”David Macdonald, Director of WildCRU, University of Oxford, UK

“As human populations in Africa and India continue to surge into the 21st Century, placing ever increasing demands on land and resources, the future of one of the world’s lions hang in the balance. To meet the challenge of conserving these magnificent but demanding creatures in the wild, we need to grasp the complex history and nature of this issue, meticulously researched and comprehensively presented in this important book.”Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, Oxford Martin Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, University of Oxford, UK


About the Author

Professor Keith Somerville is a Member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, UK, where he teaches at the Centre for Journalism. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, UK