A Naturalist and Other Beasts: Tales from a Life
in the Field • by George B Schaller • Sierra Club
Dr George Schaller is renowned for his pioneering
studies on the behavior of charismatic fauna such as
the giant panda, mountain gorilla, tiger, snow leopard,
African lion besides lesser known species like the
Southeast Asian takin, Mongolian gazelle etc. Those in
India are well aware of his pioneering work The Deer
and the Tiger, as well as his studies on the tahr and the
Kashmiri Markhor and the snow leopard.
The world’s best known field biologist is a rare animal
in many ways…amongst Schaller’s many achievements
is that unique ability to combine scientific precision and
knowledge with remarkable wit and an unabashed love
for his subjects in his writing. His is not the scientific
tome, inscrutable to his readers. Schaller’s quest is for
“a deeper understanding, one beyond soulless statistics.”
He is convinced that “an appeal for conservation must
reach the heart, not just the mind.” And this he seeks to
do, with his beautifully sculpted words that touch the
soul and enrich the mind. The book is an interesting
collection of 19 essays that take us through the vast
expanse of his travels to discover new species in
Vietnam, on the trail of the jaguar in Brazil’s Pantanal
Swamps and in the vast expanse of the Hindu Kush in
search of the elusive snow leopard. He despairs for the
tiger, yet he says, “The situation is not wholly bleak, and
tigers can continue to burn bright in the forests if
countries devote willpower and long term commitment
to their survival.”
The writing is engaging, inspiring, evocative…without
getting too effusive, let’s just say, it’s simply brilliant.
Read it.

Prerna Singh Bindra