Wildlife Biologists Life on High
By George B. Schaller
Island Press 29.95 372 pages
George Schaller is a field zoologist with a lifelong passion for large animal studies in Alaska, Africa and Asia, especially Tibet. His travels and copious writings describe his valiant fight globally for animal rights and habitat conservation in the face of rampant encroachment, poaching, animal parts smuggling and pure greed.
Schaller’s Tibet Wild: A Naturalist’s Journey on the Roof of the World is essentially two books, as a scientific study interspersed with autobiography. Mostly it recounts his several decades on Tibet’s remote Chang Tang plateau researching vast herds of chiru (antelope), and wild yak, bear, Marco Polo sheep, snow leopards, and the tiny pika (prairie dog), which plays a critical role in the Tibetan ecosystem. He also describes studies done elsewhere on tigers, pandas and gorillas. Of equal interest, however, are Schaller’s personal ruminations on a career fully pursued in the wild.
Some readers may feel that parts of the book drag with lengthy, detailed observations while on long treks across the Tibetan wilderness. But for readers interested in how field studies are conducted, Schaller is a master at revealing the dedication necessary to understand the natural history of species, threats to survival, and the persistence necessary to protect them.
Reviewed By Don Messerschmidt