With a New Afterword. In 1980, George Schaller was invited by the World Wildlife Fund and the Chinese Government to Sichuan Province, to study the giant panda, a mammal so rare that there are only an estimated 1000 individuals left. For four and a half years, he and his wife studied the pandas. This book is the story of these studies, and gives much insight into the behaviour and ecology of this fascinating species. It is also a frank and disturbing account of what has gone wrong in the attempt to protect the pandas, how bureaucratic bungling, and economic and political pressures, have misdirected conservation efforts. Schaller concludes that the panda can, and must, survive.
1: "Every Journey Begins with the First Step"
2: Winter Days
3: Panda Politics
4: A Footnote to History
5: A Mountain of Treasure
6: In the Hollow of a Fir
7: Wei-Wei's World
8: Death in the Choushuigou
9: Travels in Panda Country
10: Zhen-Zhen Eats Bitterness
13: Prisoners of Fate
14: Rent-a-Panda Epilogue
App. A In Search of the Kylin: The Endangered Wildlife of China
App. B The Panda Is a Panda
App. C Winter Birds Observed at Wuyipeng
App. D Excerpts from the 1989 Panda Management Plan
App. E Excerpts from Position Statements on Exhibition Loans of Giant Pandas
Index of Names
Index of Species and Subjects
"Vintage Schaller this: an adventure to be relived, a lesson learned."
- E O Wilson.
"No scientist is better at letting the rest of us in on just how the natural world works; no poet sees the world with greater clarity or writes about it with more grace [...] Anyone who genuinely cares for wildlife cannot help being grateful to Schaller – both for his efforts to understand the panda and for the candor with which he reports what has gone so badly wrong in the struggle to save it from extinction."
– Geoffrey C. Ward, New York Times Book Review
"Schaller's book is a unique mix of natural history and the politics of conservation, and it makes for compelling reading [...] Having been in giant panda country myself, I found some of the descriptions of the animals and habitats breathtaking. Schaller describes the daily routines and personalities of the giant pandas he studied (as well as their fates thereafter) as though they were his blood relatives [...] Schaller's brilliant presentation of the complexities of conservation makes his book a milestone for the conservation movement."
– Devra G. Kleiman, Washington Post Book World
"George Schaller's most soulful work, written in journal style with many asides about a creature who evolved only two to three million years ago (about the same time as humans) [...] Here, conservation biology confronts an evil that grinds against hope and shatters the planet's diversity. Written with hope."
– Whole Earth Catalog
"A nicely crafted blend of wildlife observation and political-cultural analysis [...] The Last Panda is a sad chronicle of our failure, so far, to stem the decline of the animal that may be the most beloved on the planet."
– Donald Dale Jackson, Smithsonian