Dr Bob Fleming ’54


2008 Dr Bob Fleming ’54


Bob Fleming Jr is recognised in his field as a pre-eminent Himalayan naturalist and natural history educator. His lifetime has been spent studying, understanding and spreading an appreciation for nature. His deep love for the natural world is rooted in his upbringing in Nepal and India, and the wild places of the Himalayan Mountain System and the broader South Asian region, along with the cultures developed through complex interactions with their natural world, have inspired his professional life. After finishing his PhD at Michigan State University, Bob worked for the Smithsonian Institute, Office of Ecology, surveying universities in India for a collaborative research programme site. In 1974 he founded Nature Himalayas, a company that sponsors natural history travel around the world. Through his company he has led natural history trips in many different parts of the planet, exploring the 3,500-kilometre-long Himalayan Mountain System, as well as most of the biologically distinct regions of Asia. Bob has also studied the biodiversity of ten eastern and southern African countries and thirteen Pacific and Indian Ocean island groups.


Starting from his profound knowledge of the Himalayan System, Bob has developed expertise in the flora, fauna and cultures of many different parts of the world. By helping others learn to respect and value these worlds, he has influenced the conservation of numerous wild places. For over thirty years, he has inculcated an appreciation of nature and of the dynamic relationship between different cultures and the natural world in the many people he has worked with as a professional naturalist, most recently as a professor in the Future Generations Graduate School Master’s programme in Community Change and Conservation, a programme founded, in part, by Woodstock alumni.


Bob’s publications include: Across the Tibetan Plateau: Ecosystems, Wildlife and Conservation (2007, with Dorji Tsering and Lu Wulin, and Foreword by Jimmy Carter); Kathmandu Valley (1987, with Linda Fleming);Birds of Nepal (1976, with Robert Fleming Sr and Lain Singh Bangdel); The General Ecology, Flora, and Fauna of Midland Nepal (1973).


Daniel Taylor, President of Future Generations, describes Bob’s recent work in and on Tibet as follows:


“Bobby has gone beyond what any of the rest of us would ever hope to know. For those who cannot immediately share a walk with him, actually you can. You can travel all over Tibet, visiting places you never expected to see. Read his Across the Tibetan Plateau, a vibrant magnum opus he wrote that ties together the magical natural history of the plateau as has never been done before and probably will never be done again. We all know who did 99% of the writing. But characteristically, Fleming shares the authorship equally with Chinese and Tibetan. His knowledge may be all-encompassing, but his acceptance of those around him as equals (when we are far from that) is even more encompassing.”


At a recent launch for Across the Tibetan Plateau, another who has shared many a trek with Bob commented, “You know if there was any way to do it, the taxonomists who keep track of rare and endangered species should add a new species to their famous Red Book, Flemingensis, probably the rarest and most treasured species in the Himalaya.” There was a slight pause, and then from another Fleming aficionado standing nearby came the reply, “No.. not the Himalaya; this guy’s a one-of-a-kind rare and treasured species for the world.”