A Boy And A Jaguar: Autobiography Of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
Jennifer Scarlott introduces you to Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and his wonderful autobiography, A Boy and a Jaguar.
Dear Cub kids,
At long last, in May of this year, a book was published telling the story of a boy named Alan and his love for animals.
The book is for young kids, though people of any age will be moved and inspired by it. It is called A Boy and a Jaguar and is an autobiography by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, a man who loves and protects wildlife all over the world.
Born on a snowy day in New York City in 1953, Alan faced a nearly insurmountable challenge as a child – he stuttered uncontrollably. Teachers, doctors, and speech experts tried and failed to help Alan unlock his voice. At school, he was put in classes for children with learning disabilities. By the age of seven, Alan gave up on speaking altogether.
But there was a small ray of light in Alan’s young life – though he could not speak to people, when he was alone in the presence of animals, his words came out fluently. He grew up with pets… small green turtles, chameleons. Home from school each day, he would gently scoop an animal out of its tank, withdraw into the darkness and safety of his closet, cradle the pet in his arms, and pour out his frustrations and fears, anger and longing. From a young age, Alan felt a deep bond with animals. They were voiceless too. Pets like his own, the tigers and jaguars he visited in stark, concrete cages at the Bronx Zoo, were at the mercy of unfeeling people, as he was. In the dark, his pets heard Alan’s promise: if he ever found his voice, he would speak for them and for all animals.
Years passed. It wasn’t until Alan finished his first year in college that his mother found a speech clinic that gave Alan the tools he needed to unlock his voice. And then he took charge of his life.
Always a brilliant student, Alan enrolled in the University of Tennessee to pursue a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology. Roaming the Great Smoky Mountain wilderness, he studied bears and raccoons and learned the ways of the field biologist. One day, close to the end of his studies, he was asked to share his knowledge of the Tennessee mountains with a visiting wildlife conservationist. That visitor turned out to be Dr. George Schaller, globally renowned for fighting on behalf of tigers, gorillas, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and countless other wild species and lands.
In young Alan Rabinowitz, Dr. Schaller recognised a ferocious talent. Upon graduation, Dr. Rabinowitz began a 30-year career with the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the same Bronx Zoo where so many years before, young and voiceless Alan had stood in despair before the iron bars of the big cat cages. In the green tropics of Belize, Alan studied the elusive jaguar, eventually persuading the Belizean government to establish the world’s first jaguar preserve. Today, Alan presides over a wild cat conservation organisation called Panthera, and works to create and protect wilderness in Myanmar, Thailand, India, a necklace of jaguar habitats throughout Latin America… there is no limit to Alan’s ambitions to protect the world’s wild species. And though he loves wild cats, his focus on them is strategic: he knows that protecting the land of the tiger, the leopard, the lion, and the jaguar means protecting every creature that walks, flies, and crawls in their domains.
Photo: Kris Krüg/Wikimedia Commons.
Today, on a bear- and raccoon-studded mountain in upstate New York, Alan and his scientist wife raise a young son and daughter. He mentors young scientists. He cajoles governments to protect wildlife. And he serves as a spokesperson for the National Stuttering Foundation.
The promise is kept: Alan Rabinowitz speaks for animals. Thank you, Alan, for your courage, and your advocacy for the voiceless, both human and animal.
P.S. Here is a lovely website (http://hmhbooks.com/boyandajaguar/) about Alan’s new book.
Author: Jennifer Scarlott, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, July, 2014.