Mountain Ghosts

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition among Snow Leopards in Mongolia
By Sy Montgomery
Photographs by Nic Bishop
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Paperback Edition 2012, New York, $7.99)

 

Field biology is especially challenging when your quarry is one of the most elusive mammals on the planet. In Saving the Ghost of the Mountain, Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop accompany snow leopard researcher Tom McCarthy on an expedition in Montgolia. Although not strictly a biography, the book, part of The Scientists in the Field series, includes biographical information about McCarthy and his colleagues and frankly describes the challenges, frustrations, and joys of fieldwork. Some chapters and textboxes focus on the animals, both domestic and wild, who share the snow leopard’s territory; others on the region’s culture. Montgomery’s account is lively and engaging, and Bishop’s photos capture the splendor of the mountains and the Gobi Desert as well as the warmth of the land’s people. But the most engrossing passages describe McCarthy’s fleeting encounters with the mountain ghost itself. Here, readers understand why McCarthy persists in his quest to uncover the snow leopard’s mysteries despite blazing heat, freezing cold, and arduous mountain hikes – and why saving the endangered cat is so compelling.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

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