Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe

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University of Chicago Press, 2000 - Nature - 383 pages
The Chang Tang, the vast, remote Tibetan steppe, is home to a unique assemblage of large mammals, including Tibetan antelope, gazelle, argali sheep, wild ass, wild yak, wolves, snow leopards, and others. Since 1985, George B. Schaller and his Chinese and Tibetan co-workers have surveyed the flora and fauna of the Chang Tang. Their research provides the first detailed look at the natural history of one of the world's least known ecosystems.

The plains ungulates are the main focus of this book—especially the Tibetan antelope, or chiru, whose migrations define this ecosystem much as those of the wildebeest define the Serengeti. Schaller's descriptions of mammal numbers and distribution, behavior, and ecology provide baseline information that may allow wildlife, grasslands, and pastoralists to continue to coexist harmoniously in this region.

This project led to the creation of the 130,000-square-mile Chang Tang Reserve by the Tibetan government in 1993, and Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe should help promote future studies as well as conservation and management efforts.

"Schaller makes significant contributions to an understanding of the origins and ecology of Tibetan wildlife that will thrill specialists. . . . Schaller's book is much more than an ecological synthesis. It is a quest for conservation, a case history by a very brave and capable man, driven by no small passion to prevent the tragedy of extinction that looms over Tibet's fauna. His book touches not only the mind but also the heart, and in the context of conservation and the future it raises questions to torture the soul. . . . Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe will long remain a unique, important source of biological, but also sociological, insights and challenges. I found it well written and difficult to put down."—Valerius Geist, Nature

"The topics in Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe are at least as diverse as the topography; they range from geology and paleoecology to descriptions of ungulates and carnivores unknown to most of the non-Chinese speaking world. Individual chapters focus on kiangs, Bactrian camels, yaks, chirus, blue sheep, and Tibetan argalis and gazelles. Not only is much of the biological information new, but subsumed within these chapters are current and past estimates of population sizes both in the Chang Tang Reserve and in protected and nonprotected areas of 'the' plateau. Insights are provided into social structure, and speculations about the evolution and adaptive bases of behavior are carefully offered. Subsequent chapters involve discussions of carnivore communities and interactions between people and wildlife, including the localized but devastating effects of poachers. . . . This book has something for all audiences. . . . [A]n exciting testimony to the past and present status of a biologically spectacular region."—Joel Berger, Conservation Biology

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Wildlife of the Tibetan steppe

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For the past 12 years, Schaller, noted mammalogist and author of numerous books on Asian and African wildlife (The Last Panda, LJ 3/1/93), has surveyed the flora and fauna of the remote northern ... Read full review


Introduction Travel and Research in China s Highlands
The Tibetan Plateau
Chiru Tibetan Antelope
Tibetan Argali
Blue Sheep
Tibetan Gazelle
Wild Yak
Whitelipped Deer
Phylogeny of Tibetan Steppe Bovids Morphological and Molecular Comparisons
Phylogeny of Tibetan Steppe Bovids Behavioral Comparisons
Nomads Livestock and Wildlife Conservation of the Chang Tang Reserve
Guidelines for Conservation Action in the Chang Tang Reserve
Common and Scientific Names of Wild Mammal Species Mentioned in Text
Bird and Reptile Species Observed in the Chang Tang Reserve

Wild Bactrian Camel
Kiang Tibetan Wild Ass
The Carnivores
Feeding Ecology of Ungulates
Author Index
Subject Index

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About the author (2000)

Zoologist George B. Schaller was born in 1933. He is the science director of international programs for the New York Zoological Society's Center for Field Biology and Conservation. After studying wildlife in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Schaller wrote The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations, which won the 1972 National Book Award. After studying the panda in China, Schaller wrote The Last Panda, a book detailing his discoveries.

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