This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Ghosts of Tsavo: Tracking the Mythic Lions…

Ghosts of Tsavo: Tracking the Mythic Lions of East Africa

by Phillip Caputo

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1515117,611 (3.59)5

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 5 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
Philip Caputo is the author of six novels and two memoirs, but I first encountered him in "The Ghosts of Tsavo" where he plays a substantial role , if not the main character. He is more of a narrator, capable of pulling us fully into the experience of encountering lions in an open, unreliable vehicle, and then sharing his Larium-induced nightmares with us. (It's an anti-malaria medicine) He faces peril frequently in this book, as the lions at Tsavo are not always accustomed to tourists, and react badly. He does whatever is necessary to pursue his story, in this case, uncovering some of the mystery that surrounds the Lions at Tsavo, in Africa. They are often maneless, and the area is famous for man-eating lions that had been hunted down after taking many lives. So he is brave, but he does not pretend that he is not scared, his musings ranging from comical to philosophical, Caputo could not be called boring.
Caputo introduces the reader to, not only the wildlife he encounters but also his traveling companions, all unique in their own right. They are all pioneers of a sort, as they live in inhospitable country in order to pursue as much knowledge as they can, by studying the lions up close. They face disease, violent death if they should let down their guard, and loneliness as they situate themselves in far outposts in an effort to observe lions in their natural habitat.. As fate would have t, I seem to have gathered about me, 3 or 4 books involving South Africa and/or Africa. It is an undiscovered country to me. ( )
  mmignano11 | Nov 23, 2013 |
This is a sort of combination science and travel book. Unfortunately the "science" side was much weaker than the "travel" side.

The author writes of his trips to east-central Africa on photographic safari, tracking the lions of Tsavo, and his adventures. Apparently safari vacations, at least in the Tsavo, are not for the faint of heart -- it's close to 100 degrees all the time, you're very far from civilization, there's a real chance of getting mauled and/or eaten by some wild animal, and there are long periods of being bored to death punctuated by short periods of being frightened to death. Caputo had a ball, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to sign up for that trip.

The Tsavo lions are different from the lions further north in that they are larger, their skulls are shaped differently, they are more aggressive and much more likely to attack humans, and their manes are often sparse to non-existent (maybe that's why they're so aggressive: inferiority complex). Caputo wrote about the debate between biologists about this; some of them believe the Tsavo lions could be a different subspecies or species altogether, while others believe the differences aren't significant and can be accounted for by environmental factors. I think it's a very interesting question and would like to know the answer. However, not reaching any conclusions about this, Caputo is finally like, "Who cares, I'd rather it remain a mystery, they're awesome anyway." The affect, to me, was like slamming the door in my face.
I would still recommend this book, but for intrepid armchair travelers rather than armchair zoologists. ( )
  meggyweg | Nov 26, 2011 |
While the science is enlightening and always well-written, I thought the author could get melodramatic if he wandered too far astray from the science. Still worth the read. ( )
  AngelaB86 | Jul 12, 2011 |
I put off reading Philip Caputo's Ghosts of Tsavo because it begins with a long recounting of Wayne Hosek's killing of the man-eating lions, Ghost and Darkness. Pushing further into the text, I found a wonderful stockpile of first class nature writing, safari lore, scientific examination of what exactly constitutes a species, and philosophizing on the dichotomy between the mysteries of nature and the science that seeks to explain them.

The book centers on the author's quest to learn whether the maneless lions of Tsavo National Park in Kenya are, in fact, a distinct species from their plains-dwelling maned cousins. Philip Caputo makes his first journey to Tsavo with an eccentric English guide and leaves convinced the maneless lions with a taste for human flesh are the direct descendents of Paleolithic cave-dwelling lions. At the Field Museum in Chicago, he digs deeper into the research of a self-taught big cat expert (formally employed as an ornithological specimen preparer). Then he returns to Africa with a scientific research team who take a narrow view of this speculative research. The varying viewpoints, coupled with the author's near-death experience and wild ramblings induced by malaria drugs, make for a compelling story and an atmospheric introduction to East Africa's charismatic cats. ( )
  tracyfox | Feb 9, 2009 |
Squeezing one last one in here. This is a nonfiction book I chose off a list for a school. I've always been fascinated by the Tsavo man-eaters, Ghost and Darkness as they were called, and this seemed the apt choice. It was a very nice little read, kept me entertained and definitely enlightened me a lot about Serengeti lions and Tsavo lions and the research going on to determine their differences and similarities. I've seen Ghost and Darkness at the Field Museum, and this book was just a nice little way to pad my knowledge of the Tsavo "buffalo" lions. I might read Patterson's account of the actual experience with the two man-eaters in the near future. ( )
  cinesnail88 | Dec 24, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0792263626, Hardcover)

1898, Tsavo River Kenya, the British Empire has employed 140 workers to build a railroad bridge. The bridge's construction comes to a violent halt when two maneless lions devour all 140 workers in a savage feeding frenzy that would make headlines›and history—all over the world. Caputo's Ghosts of Tsavo is a new quest for truth about the origins of these near-mythical animals and how they became predators of human flesh.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:54 -0400)

"Tsavo means "place of slaughter." The lions that prowl its plains are known for their abnormally large size, their maneless males, and their historic taste for human prey." "Just over a century ago, in 1898, two legendary rogue lions terrorized the Tsavo area of East Africa, killing an estimated 135 people. The predators' reign of terror lasted nearly nine months, until they were hunted down and shot by John H. Patterson of the British Army. Nearly a century later, in 1991, a California businessman on safari in Zambia matched his wits and courage with another unmaned giant who had already killed six and showed no signs of stopping, proving that man-eating lions are far from a thing of the past." "An adventure travel narrative that tracks four scientists attempting to unlock the secrets of these fierce man-eating lions, Ghosts of Tsavo is filled with face-to-face encounters and narrow escapes and celebrates the beauty, stealthy cunning, and awesome strength of these elusive, magnificent beasts."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.59)
1 2
3 9
3.5 3
4 8
4.5 2
5 4

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,225,170 books! | Top bar: Always visible