Wild Man: George Schaller recounts his adventures on the Tibetan Plateau
The renowned field biologist tells of his quest to study the ghost-like snow leopard and the mysterious chiru in his new book.
What kind of a man possesses the will and endurance to venture for months at a time into a trackless wilderness? Schaller himself traces his traits to his early life. In a chapter beguilingly entitled "Feral Naturalist," he recounts his childhood in war-ravaged Nazi Germany. His father was a German diplomat married to an American woman. The boy's schoolmates distrusted him, fearing perhaps that his mother was a spy. When she brought him and his younger brother to America after the war, again he was shunned because of his nationality. "Being forever itinerant, and burdened with the melancholy of an outsider, I became perhaps an internal exile with a detached and reticent character," he writes. "Fieldwork demands stoicism, a tolerance for pounding winds and lashing snows as well as balky porters and vehicles."
The study of animals has defined him, Schaller says, even superseded him as a person. He sees himself less as a practicing scientist confined to a laboratory and more as a man who likes "to ramble over wild typography or sit quietly to watch an animal in its universe so different from mine."