Craig Packer headshot
Phone Numbers
Office Address

1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States



Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Director - Lion Research Center
Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Craig Packer was born in Texas and received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1972. While still at Stanford, Packer went to Tanzania to study baboons with Jane Goodall at the Gombe Stream Research Centre. He then went to the University of Sussex to complete his Ph.D. research on the Gombe baboons. After a study of Japanese macaques in Hakusan National Park, Packer returned to Tanzania in 1978 to head the Serengeti lion project. He subsequently held a post-doctoral position at the University of Chicago and joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1983, returning to the Serengeti for several months each year. Packer received a J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship in 1990, became a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in 1997, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He is the author of "Into Africa", which won the 1995 John Burroughs medal, and more than 100 scientific articles, most of which are about lions. His research has been supported primarily by grants from the National Science Foundation.

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Research statement

Over a quarter of Africa's people rely on livestock for their livelihoods. But burgeoning human populations have put unsustainable pressures on the biodiversity and productivity of grasslands and savanna habitats in Kenya and Tanzania,. As scientific director of the Mara Predator Conservation Program, I work with colleagues from the Kenya Wildlife Trust, Smithsonian Institution, and various conservation organizations to find ways to promote human-wildlife co-existence while simultaneously reducing overgrazing by pastoralist livestock in the Greater Mara Ecosystem of southern Kenya. At the same time, I work closely with colleagues from the US, Canada, UK and Germany to find the optimal mix of native plant species that can be reseeded in overgrazed pastures of northern Tanzania while at the same time collaborating with local Maasai communities to develop sustainable livestock grazing strategies in newly restored pastures.

Selected publications

Bombieri, G., V. Penteriani, K. Almasieh, H. Ambarli, M.R. Ashrafzadeh, C.S. Das, N. Dharaiya, R. Hoogesteijn, A. Hoogesteijn, D. Ikanda, W. Jędrzejewski, M. Kaboli, A. Kirilyuk, A.K. Jangid, R.K. Sharma, H. Kushnir, B.R. Lamichhane, A. Mohammadi, O. Monroy-Vilchis, J.M. Mukeka, I. Nikolaev, O. Ohrens, C. Packer, P. Pedrini , S. Ratnayeke, I. Seryodkin, T. Sharp, H.S. Palei, T. Smith, A. Subedi, F. Tortato, K. Yamazaki, M.d.M. Delgado. A worldwide perspective on large carnivore attacks on humans. PLoS-Biology. 

Burkhart, J., S. Heilbronner, C. Packer. Oxytocin administration provides a potential solution for conservation management strategies in felids. Frontiers Mammal Science. 

Nicholson, S.K., A. Dickman, A. Hinks, J. Riggio, H. Bauer, A. Loveridge, M. Becker, C. Begg, S Bhalla, D. Burnham, A. Cotterill, S. Dolrenry, E Dröge, P. Funston, L. Hazzah, D. Ikanda, F. Gebresenbet, P. Henschel, R. Mandisodza-Chikerema, M. Mbizah, L. Hunter, K. Jacobson, P. Lindsey, N. Maputla, E. Macdonald, D. Macdonald, R. Duff, C. Packer, C. Sillero-Zubiri, T. Mudumba, P. Strampelli, E. Sogbohossou, P. Tyrrell, A. Jacobson. Ecological and socio-political fragility of threatened, free-ranging African lion populations. Communications Earth & Environment. 4:302 

Packer, C. The Lion: Behavior, Ecology and Conservation of an Iconic Species. Princeton University Press.

Burkhart JC, Gupta S, Borrego N, Heilbronner SR, Packer C. Oxytocin promotes social proximity and decreases vigilance in groups of African lions. iScience 25(4):104049. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104049 

Fryxell, J.M., Mduma, S., Masoy, J., Sinclair, A.R.E., Hopcraft, G.J.C., Packer, C. Stabilizing effects of group formation by Serengeti herbivores on predator-prey dynamics. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 

Heydinger, J., R. Diggle, G. Stuart-Hill, K. Dierkes, & C. Packer. Differentiated payments for ecosystem services based on estimated prey consumption by lions within communal conservancies in northwest Namibia. Ecosystem Services. 53, 101403. 

Heydinger, J., Packer, C. & P. Funston. The historical effects of infrastructure development on the lion population of Etosha National Park, Namibia. Namibian Journal of Environment. 6 A: 22-36. 

Lindsey, P., Anderson, S.H., Dickman, A., Gandiwa, P., Harper, S., Morakinyo, A.B., Nyambe, N., O’Brien-Onyeka, M., Packer, C., Parker, A., Robson, A., Ruhweza, A., Sogbohossou, E.A., Steiner, K., Tumenta, P. Shepherding SubSaharan Africa’s wildlife through peak anthropogenic pressure toward a Green Anthropocene. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 47:91–121. 

Rigoudy, N.L.A., M. Clinchy, M.J.S. Peel, S. Huebner, C. Packer & L.Y Zanette Hierarchy of fear: experimentally testing ungulate reactions to lion, African wild dog and cheetah, Behavioral Ecology, 33, 789-797. arac041, 

Bailey, A., L. Eberly & C. Packer. Contrasting effects of male immigration and rainfall on rank-related patterns of miscarriage in female olive baboons. Scientific Reports 11, 4042. 

Brandell, E.E., Fountain-Jones, N.M., Gilbertson, M.L.J., Cross, P.C., Hudson, P.J. Smith, D.W., Stahler, D.R., Packer, C., & Craft,, M.E. Group density, disease, and season shape territory size and overlap of social carnivores. J. Anim. Ecol. 90, 87-101. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13294 

Chakrabarti, S., Bump, J.K., Jhala, Y.V. & Packer, C. Contrasting levels of social distancing between the sexes in lions, IScience doi: 

Colchero, F., J. M. Aburto, E.A. Archie, C. Boesch, T. Breuer, F.A. Campos, A. Collins, D.A. Conde, M. Cords, C. Crockford, M.E. Thompson, L.M. Fedigan, C. Fichtel, M. Groenenberg, C. Hobaiter, P.M. Kappeler, R.R. Lawler, R.J. Lewis, Z.P. Machanda, M.L. Manguette, M.N. Muller, C. Packer, R.J. Parnell, S. Perry, A.E. Pusey, M.M. Robbins, R.M. Seyfarth, J.B. Silk, J. Staerk, T.S. Stoinski, E.J. Stokes, K.B. Strier, S.C. Strum, J. Tung, F. Villavicencio, R.M. Wittig, R.W. Wrangham, K. Zuberbühler, J.W. Vaupel, S.C. Alberts. The long lives of primates and the ‘invariant rate of aging’ hypothesis. Nature Communications. 12, 3666. 

Di Minin, E., R. Slotow, C. Fink, H. Bauer & C. Packer. A pan-African spatial assessment of human conflicts with lions and elephants. Nature Communications 12:2978. 

Palmer, M.S, S. Huebner, L. Fortson, M. Willi & C. Packer. Citizen science, computing, and conservation: how can “Crowd AI” change the way we tackle large-scale ecological challenges? Human Computation, 8: 54-75. ISSN: 2330-8001, DOI: 10.15346/hc.v8i2.123 

Palmer, M.S. & C. Packer. Reactive anti-predator behavioral strategy shaped by predator characteristics. PLoS-One. E 16(8): e0256147. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256147 

Pardo, Lain E., S. Bombaci, S.E. Huebner, M. Somers, H. Fritz, C. Downs, A. Guthmann, R. Hetem, M. Keith, A. le Roux, N. Mgqatsa, C. Packer, M.S. Palmer, D. Parker, M. Peel, R. Slotow, W. Maartin Strauss, L. Swanepoel, C. Tambling, N. Tsie, M. Vermeulen, M. Willi, D. Jachowski, J.A.Venter. Snapshot Safari: a large-scale collaborative to monitor Africa’s remarkable biodiversity. South African J. of Science 117, 

Thel, L., Chamaillé-Jammes, S., Keurinck, L., Catala, M., Packer, C., Huebner, S.E., Bonenfant, C. Can citizen science analysis of camera trap data be used to study reproduction? Lessons from Snapshot Serengeti. Wildlife Biology: wlb.00833 doi: 10.2981/wlb.00833 

Beaudrot, L., Palmer, M., Anderson, T. & C. Packer. Mixed-species groups of Serengeti grazers: A test of the stress gradient hypothesis. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 101, e03163. 

Miller, S.M., D.J Druce, D.L Dalton, C.K Harper, A. Kotze, C. Packer, R. Slotow & P. Bloomer. Genetic rescue of an isolated African lion population. Conservation Genetics. 21 41-53. 

Weckworth, J., Davis, B., Dubovi, E., Fountain-Jones, N., Packer, C., Cleaveland, S., Craft, M., Eblate, E., Schwartz, M., Mills, L.S., Roelke-Parker, M. Cross-species transmission and evolutionary dynamics of canine distemper virus during a spillover in African lions of Serengeti National Park. Molecular Ecology. 

Weckworth, J., B.W. Davis, M. E. Roelke-Parker, R.P. Wilkes, C. Packer, E. Eblate, M.K. Schwartz, L.S. Mills. Identifying candidate genetic markers of CDV cross-species pathogenicity in African lions. Pathogens 9:872. doi: 10.3390/pathogens9110872. 

Behdenna, A., T. Lembo, S. Cleaveland, J. Halliday, C. Packer, F. Lankester, K. Hampson, M. Craft, O. Calatayud, A. Czupryna, A. Dobson, E. Dubovi, E. Eblate, R. Fyumagwa, G. Hopcraft, C. Mentzel, I. Mzimbiri, D. Sutton, B. Willett, D. Haydon, M. Viana. Transmission ecology of canine parvovirus in a multi-host, multi-pathogen system. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 

Colchero, F., O.R. Jones, D.A. Conde, D. Hodgson, F. Zajitschek, B. R. Schmidt, A.F. Malo, S.C. Alberts, P.H. Becker, S. Bouwhuis, A.M. Bronikowski, K.M. De Vleeschouwer, R.J. Delahay, S. Dummermuth, E. Fernández-Duque, J. Frisenvænge, M. Hesselsøe, S. Larson, J.-F. Lemaître, J. McDonald, D.AW. Miller, C. O'Donnell, C. Packer, B.E. Raboy, C.J. Reading, E Wapstra, H. Weimerskirch, G.M. While, A. Baudisch, T. Flatt, T. Coulson & J.-M. Gaillard. The diversity of population responses to environmental change. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.13195 

Fountain-Jones, Nicholas, C. Packer, M. Jacquot, F.G. Blanchet, K. Terio & M. Craft. Endemic infection can shape exposure to novel pathogens: Pathogen co-occurrence networks in the Serengeti lions. Ecology Letters 

Fountain-Jones, N., Machado, G., Carver, S., Packer, C., Recamonde-Mendoza, M. & Craft, M. How to make more from exposure data? An integrated machine learning pipeline to predict pathogen exposure. Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13076

Heydinger, J., C. Packer & J. Tsaneb. Desert Lions on Communal Land: surveying the costs incurred by, and perspectives of, communal-area livestock owners in northwest Namibia. Biological Conservation 235, 496-506. 

Kraberger, S., Serieys, L., Fountain-Jones, N, Packer, C., Riley, S., Varsani, A. Novel smacoviruses identified in the faeces of two wild felids: North American bobcat and African lion. Archives of Virology  

Kushnir, H. & C. Packer. Perceptions of Risk from Man-eating Lions in Southeastern Tanzania. Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution: Conservation 

McEvoy, O.K., S.M. Miller, T. Bodasing, W. Beets, N. Borrego, A. Burger, S. Ferreira, B. Courtenay, C. Hanekom, M. Hofmeyr, C. Packer, D. Robertson, K. Stratford, R. Slotow & D.M. Parker. The use of contraceptive techniques in managed wild African lion (Panthera leo) populations to mimic open system cub recruitment. Wildlife Research 

Muneza, A., W. Ortiz-Calo, C. Packer, J. Cusack, T. Jones, M. Palmer, A. Swanson, M. Kosmala, A. Dickman, D. Macdonald & R. Montgomery. Quantifying the severity of giraffe skin disease via photogrammetry analysis of camera trap data. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 55(4): 770-781 

Packer, C. African lions: A long history of interdisciplinary research. Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution 7:259. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00259 

Packer, C., S. Shivakumar, M.E. Craft, H. Dhanwatey, P. Dhanwatey, B. Gurung, A. Joshi, H. Kushnir, V. Athreya, J.D.C. Linnell & N.M. Fountain-Jones. Species-specific spatiotemporal patterns of leopard, lion and tiger attacks on humans. J. Applied Ecology 56: 585– 593. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13311

Borrego, N., A. Ozgul, R. Slotow & C. Packer. Lion population dynamics: do nomadic males matter? Behav. Ecol. . doi:10.1093/beheco/ary018 

Norouzzadeh, M.S., A. Nguyen, M. Kosmala, A. Swanson, M. Palmer, C. Packer & J. Clune. Automatically identifying, counting, and describing wild animals in camera-trap images with deep learning. PNAS.

Packer, C. & S. Polasky. Conservation triage: Preserving the last best places or rescuing the basket cases? PLoS Biology 

Palmer, M.S. & C. Packer. Giraffe bed and breakfast: Camera traps reveal Tanzanian yellow-billed oxpeckers roosting on their large mammalian hosts. African Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/aje.12505 

Palmer, M.S., A. Swanson M. Kosmala, T. Arnold & C. Packer. Evaluating relative abundance indices for terrestrial herbivores from large‐scale camera trap surveys. African Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/aje.12566 

Bauer, H., P. Henschel, C. Packer, C. Sillero-Zubiri, B. Chardonnet, E. A. Sogbohossou, H. H. De Iongh, D. W. Macdonald. Lion trophy hunting in West Africa: A response to Bouche´ et al. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0173691. 

Fountain-Jones, N.M., C. Packer, J.L. Troyer, K.L. VanderWaal, S. Robinson, M.E. Craft. Linking behavioural and spatial networks to viral community phylogenetics reveal subtype specific transmission dynamics in African lions. J. Anim. Ecol. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12751 

Palmer, M.S., J. Fieberg, A. Swanson, M. Kosmala, & C. Packer. A “dynamic” landscape of fear: Prey responses to spatiotemporal variations in predation risk across the lunar cycle. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.12832 

Tilman, D., M. Clark, D.R. Williams, K. Kimmel, S. Polasky, C. Packer. Future threats to biodiversity and pathways to their prevention. Nature 546, 73-81. doi:10.1038/nature22900