STONES OF SILENCE: Journeys in the Himalaya by George B. Schaller
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STONES OF SILENCE: Journeys in the Himalaya

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Poets may praise the deer and nightingale; I celebrate the wild goat,"" Schaller affirms in this compelling tour of the Himalaya. Over a six-year period (1969-75), the eminent field biologist passed through parts of Nepal, northern Pakistan, and India--through villages of butter lamps and ""forgotten polo fields""--conducting wildlife surveys and seeking sites for national parks. Here, he studies the ecology and behavior of the wild sheep and goats, and the evolutionary links between them; he stalks the elusive snow leopard, a private quest previously rendered by Peter Matthiessen; and he remarks on the precarious balance of plant and animal food supplies. He also shares the daily routine--sneaky porters, snowed-over trails, distrustful border officials. Although the landscape seems untouched--Schaller calls the silence ""medieval""--the wilderness is threatened, and the few conservation measures undertaken are inadequate: to survive, a badly underpaid forest department warden had to cut and sell the trees he was hired to protect. Hillsides are overgrazed, wildlife populations depleted, and in many places traditional village life is dying out: one local ruler's son is a drummer in a Lahore rock band. Schaller masterfully varies the pace of these treks, taking note of inch-long horseflies or massive formations, perilous jeep rides and tatty roadside bazaars, and taking time to reflect on the turbulent histories of the regions he traverses. ""Mountains and deserts, with their spare life at the limit of existence, make one restless and disconsolate; one becomes an explorer in an intellectual realm as well as in a physical one."" Written with an unerring sense of place, this is an eloquent, richly textured exposition.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1980
Publisher: Viking