An influential scientist, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz passed away earlier this month. I was sad to hear of his passing and wanted to write a quick post in memory of his legacy.
“His contribution to the conservation of the world’s wild cats and other threatened species has been nothing short of monumental, and his extraordinary legacy of advocacy will live on in the throngs of scientists and other admirers whose lives he has touched.” writes Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, his friend and colleague at Panthera, the wild cat conservation organization that the two co-founded.
I have enjoyed Dr. Rabinowitz’s books about his adventures in wildlife conservation. My favorite is Beyond the Last Village: A Journey of Discovery in Asia’s Forbidden Wilderness about conducting wildlife surveys and advocating for the creation of a national park in Myanmar. I love books by scientists written for a popular audience, which often provide unique insight into what fieldwork and on-the-ground conservation work is really like. Dr. Rabinowitz wrote with honesty and humility about his struggles and failures in addition to sharing about his many successful expeditions and scientific discoveries. I learned a lot from his books, and especially appreciate his belief that, “Animals and conservation can do more to bring together disparate cultures, ideologies, and social classes than any political oratory, pounding of fists, or aggressive actions by individuals or between nations.”
Dr. Rabinowitz’s picture book, A Boy and A Jaguar, retells the story of his life from a childhood during which he suffered a debilitating stutter, to his promise to give animals a voice, to one of his greatest career achievements, the establishment of the world’s first Jaguar preserve in Belize. The illustrations by Cátia Chien are beautiful. I am a real sucker for inspirational images that show children and animals in positive, mutually beneficial relationships, and this book is full of them. It would be a great story to read with children before or after visiting a zoo, to inspire a discussion about our human connections with other animals.
I will end with another one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Rabinowitz: “Lunacy is a crucial component of real-world conservation. Only those who set goals beyond what is obviously achievable make a real difference in this world.”
Thank you, Dr. Rabinowitz, for your many contributions to wildlife science and conservation, and for sharing written accounts of your work that will continue to inspire readers of all ages.