George Beals Schaller

Schaller, George Beals (1933-), is a German-born American zoologist, a scientist who studies animals. He has observed and photographed animals, especially large mammals, in many parts of the world. Schaller's studies of animals in their natural habitats have provided valuable information on the conditions needed for the survival of endangered species. This information can be used in planning programs to protect the animals' environment.

Schaller was born on May 26, 1933, in Berlin, Germany. His parents were Georg Schaller, a businessman, and Bettina Byrd (Beals) Schaller. He moved to the United States when he was a teen-ager.


In 1955, Schaller received a B.S. degree in zoology and a B.A. degree in anthropology, both from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. In 1956, he joined an expedition that conducted a biological survey of the Brooks Range in northeastern Alaska (now the Arctic Wildlife Range). In 1957, Schaller received an M.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin.

In 1959, Schaller and his wife went to Africa to study mountain gorillas in what was then the Belgian Congo—now Congo (Kinshasa)—and Uganda. Schaller learned about the gorillas' behavior by quietly watching them every day in their natural environment. Although many people at the time believed that gorillas were fierce creatures, Schaller found them to be generally peaceful, cooperative animals. He later published his findings in the books The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior (1963) and The Year of the Gorilla (1964).

Schaller received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1962. From 1962 to 1963, he was a research fellow at Stanford University in California. From 1963 to 1966, he served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, rising through the academic ranks from research associate to assistant professor.

In 1963, Schaller went to India. For more than a year, he lived in the wild and studied tigers, watching them hunt, eat, and care for their young. He later described this experience in the books The Deer and the Tiger: A Study of Wildlife in India (1967), written for adults, and in collaboration with Millicent E. Selsam, The Tiger: Its Life in the Wild (1969), written for children.

Schaller became a research associate for the New York Zoological Society in 1966. He also was appointed adjunct associate professor at Rockefeller University in New York. From June 1966 to September 1969, Schaller and his wife and young sons lived in Tanzania, where Schaller studied lions in the wild in Serengeti National Park. He presented his findings in The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations, published in 1972. This book won the 1973 National Book Award.

Schaller became a research zoologist and coordinator of the New York Zoological Society's Center for Biology and Conservation in 1972, but he also continued his fieldwork. In 1969 through the mid-1970's, Schaller studied the wild sheep, goats, and snow leopards of the Himalaya. He published this field research in the books Mountain Monarchs: Wild Sheep and Goats of the Himalaya (1977) and Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalaya (1980). In the late 1970's, Schaller observed jaguars in the forests and swamps of southwestern Brazil. Schaller never brought a gun with him during fieldwork because he did not want to alarm the animals.

In 1979, Schaller became director of Wildlife Conservation International of the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society). Schaller received the gold medal of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1980 for his work in promoting the importance of preserving endangered species. Also that year, the WWF sponsored Schaller's establishment of a joint American-Chinese panda research program at the Wolong Reserve in China. Schaller spent almost two years observing pandas there and later published his findings in the books The Giant Pandas of Wolong (with coauthors; 1985) and The Last Panda (1993). He was named director for science at Wildlife Conservation Society in 1988.

Schaller spent much of his time during the late 1980's and the 1990's in northern Tibet, studying the antelope, wild yak, and other animals of northern Tibet. He published two books concerning these studies: Tibet's Hidden Wilderness (1997) and Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe (1998). Schaller received the International Cosmos Prize from Japan in 1996 and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1997.