Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation

George Schaller, now eighty years old and as much a poet as a naturalist, has given us his last book, Tibet Wild: A Naturalist's Journey on the Roof of the World. It is an ode to wildlife research and management and a devouring thirst to serve creatures over time.

"I too reflect on my own disappointments." Cliché indeed, our triumphs are temporary, our losses are forever. I hope that George will not be offended by me quoting from his book.

"In the darkness of my soul I nevertheless look for something upon which my heart can rest, something of lasting value, something beyond myself."

"It affords me great pleasure to observe the rich and complex life of another species and to write its biography. After all, the mountain gorilla, tiger, giant panda, and chiru are among the most beautiful expressions of life on earth. I have published interesting and useful scientific information. But all scientific work, unless there is the grand, everlasting insight of Darwin, Einstein or Newton is soon superseded, forgotten, or rated at most a historical reference as others build upon your research. That is how science must proceed."

"I have received accolades for my work.... In the darkness of my soul I look for something upon which my heart can rest, some accomplishment of lasting value, something beyond myself. I promoted the establishment of nature reserves in China, Pakistan, Brazil and other countries. But a reserve is stationary, and no matter how well protected and supported by local communities, it will be subject to climate change, shifting habitat and species, or even elimination because of politics. A reserve may not persist in its present form, if at all, unless it is a carefully managed landscape."

"My wildlife articles and books have inspired some students to seek lives as naturalists. Young local biologists accompany me on most journeys, as on this one to Chang Tang. I believe that my greatest gift to a country is to leave behind trained nationals who will continue the fight to protect nature's beauty. In this way my legacy of knowledge and spirit will flow onward long after I have ceased to be even a memory."

It is a comforting thought.

written by Art Ortenberg
image ©Beth Wald