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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine August 2013

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
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the truth about lions

I met ecologist Craig Packer in 1988. I was a young photographer on assignment in the Serengeti for the first time, trying to feel my way around the craft of natural history photography. I think his first reaction to me was annoyance. He had good reason. I was green and untested in those days. Craig, who’d been director of the Serengeti lion project since 1978, was the scientist who knew lions. I was just beginning to learn. Craig is not an easy man to work around. He’s seen it all and isn’t reluctant to tell you so. But he is rigorous in the integrity of his science. For Craig it’s all about the data and getting the facts right. This made him and his team the keystone collaborators for this month’s…


De-Extinction Resurrecting extinct species just to see whether it can be done is not only impractical and wasteful but also borderline immoral. Humans continue to reduce the numbers of tigers, elephants, whales—you name it—through poaching and habitat destruction and take more and more of the planet for ourselves and leave less and less for other animals. To bring a species back only to force it to live in a zoo or research laboratory, or to release it to struggle for survival in an environment that can’t support it, is cruel and unnecessary but consistent with our human-centric view of the world. ALLISON MYERS Freeville, New York “What intrigues me is just that it’s really cool.” I wonder how many scientists on the Manhattan Project had similar sentiments. Just saying. RANDALL WEBSTER South Lake Tahoe,…

survival guide

Storm Tossed I was making a census of Pacific butterflies and was on the lookout for new species on the remote Lusancay Islands. there were five of us on a 23-foot dinghy I hired to move between islands— an operator, his two assistants, me, and a local Kawa chief who wanted a lift—when we were hit by a squall. Then the engine stopped. The storm was raging, and we started taking on water. We bailed out using the only thing at hand: coconut husk halves. A dinghy is hard to maneuver. It tends to turn broadside to the waves, making it dangerously unstable. We had only two oars, and the assistants were rowing furiously to keep the bow into the wind, but as soon as they stopped, the dinghy would drift sideways…

your shot

This page features two photographs: one chosen by our editors and one chosen by our readers via online voting. For more information, go to yourshot.nationalgeographic.com. EDITORS’ CHOICE Saori Baba Fukuoka, Japan During a ceremony to bless young children at Japan’s Sumiyoshi Shrine in Fukuoka, Baba, a graduate student, spied this minor assault with an artificial flower. Both brothers later laughed. READERS’ CHOICE Megan Lorenz Etobicoke, Canada On a photo excursion to Costa Rica, Lorenz wanted desperately to photograph red-eyed tree frogs. Just before dusk she got lucky: One approached a branch nearby. Unsteady, it grabbed a stalk of fungus to balance itself, then quickly climbed away.…


What happened when Florida declared open season on pythons? FLORIDA HAS DISCOVERED something the parents of teenage boys have known for in January the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a Burmese python hunting tournament, the 2013 python Challenge, awarding cash prizes to the person who brought in the most dead pythons and the largest. Nearly 1,600 people from 38 states registered in two classes: licensed snake hunter and amateur. Contestants were advised to kill the snakes using a bolt gun, a firearm, or a machete. The contest’s goal, according to Frank Mazzotti, professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida, was to contain the snakes, gain insight into their lives, and bring attention to the invasive species issue. Years: Snakes escape. For decades wholesalers in Florida have imported…

world without words

Ever since the earliest recorded paintings were made on cave walls in northern Spain, humans have used visuals to communicate. Some of these message systems are just lists or calendars. Are any of them truly universal languages—with sentences— or are they just collections of universally understood icons? A language needs grammar. How can an organized arrangement of pictures be precise and subtle enough to convey metaphor? What do you “read” here: Does it say, “At night, a person goes home to bed and dreams of snakes”? Or could it be, “after cutting his (or her) nails, a person goes into a house but can’t get to sleep because the thought of snakes keeps him (or her) awake” One problem (or one pleasure!) with pictures is that we read into them what we want.…