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The Last Panda Paperback – November 1, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226736296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226736297
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Only George Schaller, the intrepid and clear-eyed biologist and author, could have written this book. In 1980 Schaller became the first foreigner allowed to study the panda in its native habitat, in China's Sichuan Province. Five years later he emerged shaken and angered by what he saw as mismanagement leading to the panda's decline. Schaller is unafraid to criticize the Chinese government, the U.S. government, even the World Wildlife Fund, which uses the panda as its logo. This beautiful, passionate book shows that, sadly, even a species as well-known and well-loved as the panda faces a grim future in modern Asia.

From Publishers Weekly

From 1980 to 1985 Schaller ( The Mountain Gorilla ) was engaged in field research on the giant panda, in a joint project of the Chinese government and the World Wildlife Fund. He gives a riveting account of his experiences on two levels: observing pandas in their natural and dwindling habitat while simultaneously coping with bureaucratic obduracy, mismanagement, carelessness and lack of commitment among most of the Chinese scientific team. From a rugged camp at the Wolong panda reserve in Sichuan province, Schaller and his wife, Kay, monitored pandas, documenting their travels, courtships, births and deaths. They also tracked red pandas, golden monkeys and takins (relatives of the musk-ox). The project revealed the fragmented habitat of the pandas, which exist in isolated populations threatened by local poaching and depredation of the bamboo forests. Today, fewer than 1000 giant pandas live in the wild. Schaller discusses the "rent-a-panda" scheme, whereby Western zoos pay huge sums to China to "borrow" pandas for exhibit. In 1989 the WWF published a conservation strategy for the panda; it has yet to be implemented. Schaller's account offers a striking example of the conflict between politics and conservation. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In this book, George Schaller depicts the giant panda of China not only as a "cute" and lovable creature, but that it is also in a struggle to overcome extinction. I enjoyed reading this book because George Schaller writes down his most inner thoughts and feelings regarding the panda project in China. He does not hold anything back from the reader. From reading this book, I learned about the plight of the panda that other books have failed to mention.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Angell on August 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book left me with a feeling one has after seeing a very moving film--sad, but reflective and motivated. I'll think about this book and any global conservation partnership differently now. The Last Panda gives equal time to the ecology and lives of wild pandas, but also to the difficulties of forging an international conservation project between Western and Eastern cultures, in this case the WWF and the Chinese government. Bureacratic apathy, even malfeasance, differing ideas of what constitutes "research" and even sad grasps at publicity using pandas as pawns disrupt and ultimately damage the precious few pandas in the study. Schaller's droll voice lends a small bit of humor to what must have been an extreme challenge in self-control when dealing with the friction between involved parties. This is not an uplifting success story, but almost rather a story of candid warning of the realities of forging global partnerships in any realm. Ultimately, concerned citizens, researchers, NGOs and governments have to remember why we're all involved: not for personal glory or public relations, but to save the endangered animal.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on July 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Despite his universal appeal, the panda is an insult to both good design and truth in advertising. Is he a black bear with white patches, an aberrant raccoon or something unique?
Whatever, he isn't a as cuddly and friendly as he looks.
And considering that he has an inefficient digestive system melded to a diet of unnourishing bamboo, it's rather a surprise that he has beaten the evolution game thus far. (And he doesn't even chew the bamboo thoroughly.)
He isn't likely to keep beating the odds, according to George Schaller, one of our best-known literary zoologists.
Schaller spent some time with the World Wildlife Fund in the early '80s trying to set up a joint Chinese-international research program into the mysterious panda. They learned a lot, duly reported in specialist publications.
Only a decade later did Schaller get around to writing a popular account of his panda experience, similar to his earlier books about tigers, lions etc. Yet not so similar, either.
While Schaller has always been interested in preservation of large mammals, "The Last Panda" is more alarmist and packs more of an emotional wallop.
That is, once you get past (or skip) the first 50 pages, which recount his tiresome interactions with the sclerotic Chinese bureaucracy. This is neither new nor interesting nor surprising, though it is of vast importance, whether you are a panda or a peasant.
But especially if you are a panda.
Schaller always writes with both grace and precision, and here also with passion and frustration. "Too often treatises on endangered species seem to be mere memorials," he writes, though he went into the project determined to have an impact on the beast's future.
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