"I was looking into the face of the animal I had sought for so long. I heard nothing but my heartbeat. I felt naked and alone, as I confronted wild, untouchable beauty.
Those eyes were watching me with no trace of fear or anger, but with thoughts I’d never know, and listening to voices I’d never hear."
Jaguar is a fascinating first-hand account of a young wildlife ecologist's expedition into the thick rainforests of Belize to create a preserve for the most powerful land predator in Central and South America. In the early 1980s, Alan Rabinowitz set out to survey the country of Belize, in Central America for jaguars. He proceeded to set up a long-term research project that culminated in a decision by the government to create the world's first preserve for jaguars, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Rabinowitz describes his work and his interaction with the mixed population of Creoles, Jamaicans, Guatemalans and Maya Indians who were initially sceptical about his mission but gradually became friends. With the help of local Maya Indians, he captured jaguars after tranquillising them, checked them for parasites and wounds and released them with radio collars. He then tracked and documented the behaviour and home range of the third largest cat in the world. He also writes about his fears and personal doubts on how his research would impact the lives of these cats. The book describes his varied jungle encounters with howler monkeys, tapirs, foxes and rattlesnakes. While the book is chiefly about the jaguar, it is also about the Maya Indians, some of whom even gave up their homes for the jaguars. This sensitive story could hold a lesson for other countries, scientists and conservationists.
By Alan Rabinowitz, Published by: Island Press, Paperback; Price: $16.95