As in the works of George Schaller and Cynthia Moss, Packer transports us to life in the field. He is addicted to this land—to the beauty of a male lion striding across the Serengeti plains, to the calls of a baboon troop through the rain forests of Gombe—and to understanding the animals that inhabit it. Through his vivid narration, we feel the dust and the bumps of the Arusha Road, smell the rosemary in the air at lunchtime on a Serengeti verandah, and hear the lyrics of the Grateful Dead playing off bootlegged tapes.
Into Africa also explores the social lives of the animals and the threats to their survival. Packer grapples with questions he has passionately tried to answer for more than two decades. Why do female lions raise their young in crèches? Why do male baboons move from troop to troop while male chimps band together? How can humans and animals continue to coexist in a world of diminishing resources? Immediate demands—logistical nightmares, political upheavals, physical exhaustion—yield to the larger inescapable issues of the interdependence of the land, the animals, and the people who inhabit it.
acacia branch above the road, feeding on a small rodent. It blinks its wide eyes at us a few times, then resumes its feast. Another minor conflict has been resolved. As soon as we arrive home, I open the bonnet and, oh Christ, I was right. A hyrax in unspeakable condition, but at least in one piece. I grab the corpse, yank it out, and fling it into the bushes. Thank heaven I’m surrounded by vegetarians. WEDNESDAY, 6 NOVEMBER This morning Pam is behind the wheel for the first time, and she
metallic-green sunbirds. At the top of the dome, weird succulents and sturdy white vines loop down into a circular pool of water, an unexpected scene straight from the rainforests of Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Scattered everywhere are dried lion and hyena turds. Hyenas eat bones, and their turds are almost pure calcium—they look just like golf balls. Composed of four closely spaced domes, the kopje looks like the print of a lion’s paw when viewed from the air. Looking down from the top, we can see
out from under the tree, but the engine was in gear and the windows were locked. They broke the rear window, and one man, Barnabas, climbed inside. He took it out of gear, but he couldn’t turn the wheel because of the steering-wheel lock. He found a hammer in the tool box and banged at the lock as the flames flew higher and higher. The intense heat blistered and peeled the paint on the side of the car by the fuel tank. Barnabas finally broke the lock and turned the wheel, and the other two men
parking lot at the Kilimanjaro International Airport is almost empty. Escaping the heat, we enter the terminal and wait for our aircraft to arrive from Dar es Salaam. The large, shiny building echoes like a steel-plated barn; the only flights today are on Air Tanzania and Ethiopian Airlines. The snack bar serves warm beer and soda, and the peanuts are wrapped in unmarked plastic bags. Many of the acoustical tiles are missing from the high ceiling, most of the fluorescent lights have burnt out,
relocated to a parental lap. But “Someone Extra’s” father, an Asian businessman from Kigoma, refuses to cooperate. The remaining passengers start grumbling at him, incensed by his behavior and eager to take off for Dar. The old lady turns around, and I finally realize the problem—she wears the veil. She is Muslim, he is a Hindu. The mother loses patience and sweeps “Someone Extra” onto her lap, the old lady sits down, and the father makes a face. The plane takes off once more, and we read a