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Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe

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

383 pages | 91 halftones, 26 maps, 12 line drawings, 59 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Conservation

Table of Contents

1: Introduction: Travel and Research in China’s Highlands
2: The Tibetan Plateau
3: Chiru (Tibetan Antelope)
4: Tibetan Argali
5: Blue Sheep
6: Tibetan Gazelle
7: Wild Yak
8: White-lipped Deer
9: Wild Bactrian Camel
10: Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass)
11: The Carnivores
12: Feeding Ecology of Ungulates
13: Phylogeny of Tibetan Steppe Bovids: Morphological and Molecular Comparisons, George Amato
14: Phylogeny of Tibetan Steppe Bovids: Behavioral Comparisons
15: Nomads, Livestock, and Wildlife: Conservation of the Chang Tang Reserve
Guidelines for Conservation Action in the Chang Tang Reserve
App. A: Common and Scientific Names of Wild Mammal Species Mentioned in Text
App. B: Bird and Reptile Species Observed in the Chang Tang Reserve
Author Index
Subject Index

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