George SchallerGeorge Schaller watches snow falling in an Afghan shepherd's yurt in 2004. He has spent much of his life in the field, studying animals and hoping to preserve the wild places where they live.
At 73, George Schaller is one of the world's preeminent field biologists. He has just returned from two weeks in Iran, monitoring the fate of the last of the Asian cheetahs, when we meet at his home in the wooded hills of western Connecticut. In a couple of weeks, he'll be off to the remote edge of Alaska to retrace a trek he took half a century ago. In addition to making his expeditions, he serves as vice president for science and exploration at the Bronx-based Wildlife Conservation Society. Over the decades, the modest, soft-spoken Schaller has been a force in helping establish wildlife sanctuaries and reserves throughout the world—though he is quick to say that he is "only one of many" trying to save natural lands. Born in Berlin, Schaller immigrated with his family to the United States in 1947. He is the author of 15 books, including The Serengeti Lion, which won a National Book Award in 1973, and hundreds of articles and papers published over the course of his 54 years afield. A small, spare cabin, separate from the comfortable house he shares with his wife, Kay, serves as his office. There is no computer or telephone here (electronic devices are confined to the house). This, he says, is a place for contemplation.