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Health and medicine/Diseases and disorders/Infectious diseases

The public outcry over the killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe's most famous lion, by a Minnesota dentist, has brought new attention to trophy hunting in a time when wildlife is under increased pressure from human population expansion. While not yet classified as endangered, African lion populations have declined by 42 percent over the past 21 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The major causes: habitat loss, poaching and commercial hunting.

University of Minnesota biologist and AAAS member Craig Packer has witnessed firsthand this decline. For more than 30 years he has observed the king of the jungle—in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South Africa. Among his areas of research are infectious diseases, ecosystem processes in African savannahs, and conservation strategies for mitigating human-lion conflicts. His work has discovered why lions have manes, why they live in groups, why they nurse each other's young, why they do (or don't) hunt cooperatively, and what regulates their population size in natural ecosystems.

In his new book, Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns, Packer documents two decades of fieldwork revealing insights into both the lives of one of the most iconic and dangerous animals on earth and the risks of protecting them.

In this podcast, Packer reads two excerpts from his book, published by University of Chicago Press. The first selection details a field trip to document the correlation between lion manes and their color, and the second, a trip to a Maasai village to talk to a young child who survived a lion attack.

On October 26th a short symposium was held by Science's office in Cambridge UK, on the theme of disease prevention. The symposium featured some of the speakers who had contributed to Science special feature on this topic on September 21st. Abstracts of the talks are featured below.

Martin Roland (University of Cambridge)
The global burden of illness is shifting from acute infectious disease to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Healthcare systems are adapting slowly to this change and even the most expensive systems show big gaps between the care that patients should receive and the care they actually get. In this talk, I will review what we know about deficiencies in quality of care (the 'Quality Chasm'), and how health services can be organised to provide better care. I will draw particularly on evidence on the role of incentives in improving quality of care.

Science policy must do more to help dismantle boundaries separating disciplines, regions, and scientists from non-scientists, to produce knowledge in support of a sustainable and just world, said the head of the International Council for Science.
In contrast to previous reports, new findings suggest the Ebola virus is not evolving more rapidly during this outbreak than it has in previous, less extensive Ebola outbreaks.