George Schaller, Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation

TITLE: Advisory Board Member

FUNDING AREAS: Animals and Wildlife

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: George Schaller serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation. His bio shares:

George B. Schaller, PhD, is known for being one of the most prolific conservation biologists of all time, having studied wildlife throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. He has conducted research on a variety of animals, including the mountain gorillas, giant pandas, tigers, lions, and wild sheep and goats of the Himalayas.

Schaller was born in Germany but came to the United States when he was a teenager. He received his bachelor's in science from the University of Alaska in 1955 and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1962. He went on to become a fellow at the behavioral sciences department of Stanford University and later served as a research associate for Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, and the New York Zoological Society.

When Schaller was just 26 years old, he made the journey to central Africa on a mission to study and live with the elusive mountain gorillas of the Virunga Volcanoes. Very little was known about this species at the time, but Schaller soon changed that with the publication of his book The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior, which demonstrated to a wide public audience the gentle and intelligent nature of gorillas. 

Several years later, Schaller and his wife ventured to Tanzania, where Schaller conducted a revolutionary study on the social behavior of big cats. He followed this adventure with a voyage to the remote Himalayas to study the Himalayan blue sheep and attempt to view the snow leopard in its natural habitat—a feat that only he and his traveling companion, Peter Matthiessen, were able to accomplish between 1950 and 1978. Following their return, Matthiessen wrote The Snow Leopard, an account of the pair's research and travels that won the National Book Award.

Schaller's later expeditions included one to Brazil to study the jaguar, capybara, alligator, and others; one to China's Chang Tang region, where he conducted studies proving that giant panda die-offs were being caused by human exploitation rather than food shortages; another to Laos, where he studied the rare forest-dwelling bovine known as the saola and rediscovered the warty pig, an animal that was thought to be extinct at the time; and one to Central Asia, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China, where he worked with local governments to establish a 20,000-square-mile range of habitat for the world's largest sheep species, the Marco Polo sheep.

As a direct result of Schaller's continued conservation efforts, large protected areas have been established in the Amazon, the Hindu Kush mountains, and forests in southeast Asia. Schaller's influence has also led to the formation of more than 20 wildlife parks worldwide, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Shey-Phoksundo National Park in Nepal, and the Chang Tang Nature Reserve in China, which is three times larger than any wildlife refuge in the United States.

Schaller is the author of more than 15 books and hundreds of magazine and scientific articles. He has received numerous prestigious awards during the course of his career, including National Geographic's Lifetime Achievement Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the World Wildlife Fund's Gold Medal for contributions to the understanding and conservation of endangered species, the International Cosmos Prize, and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

At 81, Schaller continues to make contributions to the field of conservation, and his many current titles include vice president at Panthera, senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, as well as his position as an advisory board member at the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation.