REAL SCIENCE: Carnivore Specialist Declares Sport Hunting’s Value…Necessity

Written by Outdoor Beasts Staff on January 12, 2016

This is well worth the read…

And the share.

In Kenya, it seems everyone has a favorite Laurence Frank story.

In his book, A Primate’s Memoir, baboon researcher Robert Sapolsky recalls encountering Frank in the Maasai Mara in southwestern Kenya. Sapolsky describes Frank as “Laurence of the Hyenas,” a wild man who stalks through the bush at night, oblivious to danger, using infrared vision goggles to study large carnivores.

Younger researchers remember forlorn, bug-ridden nights bivouacked with Frank in the bush, with nothing to eat but “bait”—a ripe carcass (cow, or an eland or zebra if one is handy) used to lure lions, hyenas, and leopards so they could be snared, fitted with telemetry collars, and released. “Most of the antelope species have fairly tasty meat,” reminisced Frank of his bait repasts. “They’re all bovidae—cows, basically. In Africa, it’s best to remain flexible.”

Frank, a carnivore biologist of world renown and a researcher affiliated with Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, has spent more than 35 years in Eastern Africa studying Africa’s large predators—particularly hyenas. He has been instrumental in investigating female dominance in hyena social systems, and the role of in utero hormones in the masculinization of females.

Outdoor Beasts REAL SCIENCE: Carnivore Specialist Declares Sport Hunting's Value...Necessity

He also is one of world’s top authorities on lion conservation and was among the first field researchers to sound the alarm about the precipitous decline of Africa’s top predators. Frank observes that the continent’s lion populations have fallen from perhaps a million in the 19th century to 30,000 or fewer today. Much of his current work centers on two programs that integrate tribal people in efforts to save Kenya’s remaining lions.

Frank has a scholar’s mien—large, somewhat world-weary eyes framed by heavy spectacles, with thinning, unkempt hair and a smile that is simultaneously diffident and ironic. But he’s tall and heavily muscled, and his slightly protruding jaw twitches when he’s angry—which is fairly often. Despite his continental Jewish antecedents, Frank is fascinated with Scotland, where he got his master’s degree—he drinks mainly phenolic, single-malt scotches such as Ardbeg, and he enjoys the pipe and drum marches of elite Highland regiments as well as old Celtic songs. He speaks in perfectly parsed sentences almost Victorian in their complexity, yet he casually spices his conversation with curses so scabrous they could peel paint. He is, in short, a man of many layers.

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