Vanishing Tracks: Four Years Among the Snow Leopards of Nepal
At thirty-two, Darla Hillard was working as a secretary, satisfying her love of the outdoors only during vacations. She had no scientific training or obvious qualifications to become a member of the Snow Leopard Project—except for her determination and faith in Rodney Jackson, the wildlife biologist with whom she fell in love. Darla helped Rodney prepare a proposal for the study. It won one of five Rolex Awards for Enterprise, providing the project with its first significant research grant. Darla quit her job to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
In four field seasons in the dramatic Langu Gorge, Darla, Rodney, and their team endured the snows of the worst winter in western Nepal’s living memory, monsoon rains that sent landslides and boulders tumbling through their study area, and the isolation and danger of being a two-week hike away from the nearest airstrip. They overcame the natural obstacles of the Langu Gorge’s precipitous terrain; Rodney himself suffered a snow leopard bite that postponed the study for a month.
But out of these hardships and frustrations comes the reader’s shared euphoria of each successive capturing and collaring of five cats, producing a landmark study that helped unlock many of the secrets to this imperiled creature’s survival in the wild, and a lasting affection for the hardy mountain people with whom the team lived.
This E-book edition includes an update by Rodney Jackson on his work since the first edition was published in 1989, and on the activities of the Snow Leopard Conservancy that he and Darla founded in 2000.
- Darla Hillard, December 2011
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