Meet Dr. Craig Packer
FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE LION CENTER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
DISTINGUISHED MCKNIGHT UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR – ECOLOGY, EVOLUTION AND BEHAVIOR
Considered the world’s foremost expert on African lions, Dr. Craig Packer is a distinguished McKnight professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota. He established the world’s first research center dedicated to the study of lions in 1986. Working with a team of PhD students and dividing his time between Minnesota and Africa, Dr. Packer’s studies of lion behavior have shaped much of what is known about these animals. His book, Into Africa, detailing this research and sharing his experiences, won the John Burroughs Medal in 1995.
Dr. Packer first traveled to Africa in 1972, first working as a field assistant to Dr. Jane Goodall in Gombe National Park and returning to conduct his PhD research on olive baboons in 1974-75. In 1978, he headed the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Lion Project and over the next 35 years sparred with angry trophy hunters, took on corrupt politicians, endured death threats and even survived a home invasion.
Dr. Packer admits his reflex is to “confront danger and go right at it.” In 2014, his boldness led the Tanzanian authorities to bar him from returning to the country, citing his outspoken remarks about pervasive corruption in the government-run trophy hunting industry. His book, Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns, recounts these events, mixing spy-novel intrigue with details of his scientific research.
In addition to his work with lions, Dr. Packer is also the founder of “Savannas Forever,” an NGO measuring the effectiveness of foreign aid projects in rural Africa. In response to the catastrophic decline of Africa’s wildlife, Dr. Packer and his team established “Snapshot Serengeti,” a large-scale citizen science project. This popular initiative evolved into “Snapshot Safari,” encouraging citizen explorers from around the world to study the behavior and movement of animals in the wild, as well as providing invaluable feedback on the management strategies of individual conservancies throughout Africa.
- African Lions on the Brink: A Conversation with Lion Expert Craig Packer | National Geographic
- A Lion Expert Who Isn’t Inclined to Turn Tail | New York Times
- What We Mourned When We Mourned Cecil | New Yorker
- The Hidden Consequences of Hunting Africa’s Lions | Los Angeles Times
Explore Dr. Packer’s research in depth here.
Dr. Packer talks about the Lion Center’s Snapshot Safari camera-trap project.