Humans and Lions: Conflict, Conservation and Coexistence, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Humans and Lions

Conflict, Conservation and Coexistence, 1st Edition

By Keith Somerville


234 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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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 lions, one of the world’s most iconic species, hangs 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

Table of Contents

Foreword by David W. Macdonald


1. Lion-human coexistence and competition from the Pleistocene to modern humans

2. Domestication, settlement, and the effects on lions

3. Lions from the 14th century and to colonial occupation

4. Hunting, conservation and the decline of the lion in colonial Africa and India

5. Contemporary coexistence and conflict in Africa

6. The ups and downs of Southern Africa’s lions, and the importance of the trophy hunting debate

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.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Africa / General
NATURE / Ecology
NATURE / Environmental Conservation & Protection
NATURE / Animals / Wildlife
NATURE / Animals / Big Cats
SCIENCE / Environmental Science