9780300076097 / 0300076096

Gobi: Tracking the Desert


Publisher:Yale University Press



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About the book:

It's better to travel to Mongolia in summer than in winter. In summer the temperatures can hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but that's easier to survive than the -40 of January. Both are preferable to spring, though, when, John Man writes in this vivid story of wilderness adventure, "brutal cold gives way to sand-blasting gales that can flay exposed skin and strip the paint from a car."

Man has seen these Mongolian weathers up close, wandering around this vast country in search of its peculiar wildlife--a menagerie that includes rare wild camels and horses, mountain sheep, wolves, desert bears, and the elusive snow leopard. With the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, Man writes, Mongolia's economy had collapsed. Mongolians had responded, as always in times of stress, by leaving their cities and returning to the countryside to live off the land. In the late 1990s, with the economy improving, Mongolians were going back to their offices and shops, but with a new determination to protect the backcountry from the excesses of development that had ravaged neighboring China and Russia. As a result, the Mongolian government had taken an unusual step: not only would it encourage preservation by creating huge national parks and wilderness preserves, but it would also declare the entire, vast nation a special biosphere reserve, attracting both ecotourism and funding from international wildlife organizations.

The plan worked. And, Man is happy to report, Mongolia's wildlife seems to be thriving in a time when wild nature is in decline around the world. Armchair travelers and conservationists alike will find his book to be inspiring reading. --Gregory McNamee

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