An Indomitable Beast
6 x 9
One 8-page color insert, 28 photos and illustrations
6 x 9
One 8-page color insert, 28 photos and illustrations
The jaguar is one of the most mysterious and least-known big cats of the world. The largest cat in the Americas, it has survived an onslaught of environmental and human threats partly because of an evolutionary history unique among wild felines, but also because of a power and indomitable spirit so strong, the jaguar has shaped indigenous cultures and the beliefs of early civilizations on two continents.
In An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar, big-cat expert Alan Rabinowitz shares his own personal journey to conserve a species that, despite its past resilience, is now on a slide toward extinction if something is not done to preserve the pathways it prowls through an ever-changing, ever-shifting landscape dominated by humans. Rabinowitz reveals how he learned from newly available genetic data that the jaguar was a single species connected genetically throughout its entire range from Mexico to Argentina, making it unique among all other large carnivores in the world. In a mix of personal discovery and scientific inquiry, he sweeps his readers deep into the realm of the jaguar, offering fascinating accounts from the field. Enhanced with maps, tables, and color plates, An Indomitable Beast brings important new research to life for scientists, anthropologists, and animal lovers alike.
This book is not only about jaguars, but also about tenacity and survival. From the jaguar we can learn better strategies for saving other species and also how to save ourselves when faced with immediate and long-term catastrophic changes to our environment.
"In An Indomitable Beast, Mr. Rabinowitz, the author of several books on his conservation work and travels, revisits the first big cats of his career. Questions of "jaguarness"—how jaguars think and the unique anatomical and behavioral features that affect their prospects for long-term survival—still intrigue him after three decades, and this book is a welcome retrospective of what he and others have learned about jaguars so far, and what's being done for them now."
Wall Street Journal
"This book does so many things well. It is full of adventure and cool biology and human history, but it also succeeds as a scientific memoir and journey of intellectual growth…I read everything Rabinowitz writes—he is a gifted storyteller and accomplished researcher. I recommend all his books. This is his best. It's hard to read this book and not reach the conclusion that the jaguar is flat-out one of the coolest animals to walk this planet. And there’s no one better to tell its story than Alan Rabinowitz."
The Nature Conservancy's Cool Green Science blog
"Combines his account of field research on jaguars in the wilds of Belize and Brazil and advocacy for conservation strategies with anthropology, zoology, and paleontology to tell the tale of an endangered species that has persisted despite very long odds."
"Rabinowitz is the world’s leading authority on the jaguar... He now presents a fascinating book that explores the human-jaguar link...The modern-day interaction of these two corridors will absorb all lovers of the wild."
"...An Indomitable Beast is an extraordinary examination of these dangerous yet magnificent creatures. A bibliography, an index, and a handful of color plates enhance this absolute "must-read" for fans of big cats in general, and jaguars in particular. Highly recommended!"
Midwest Book Review
"A riveting tale of environmental success...An Indomitable Beast begins with an exhaustively researched natural history of the jaguar from palaeo to present. And in telling the cat's story, Rabinowitz takes the reader on a personal quest, from ancient Mayan ruins to London Zoo, as he seeks to uncover the unique 'jaguarness' of the animal he seeks to protect."
"The book stands at the intersection between biology, ecology, politics, social science, and economics. Its author has been one of a small group of people who have fought tirelessly for jaguars and other big cats. Naturalists, aspiring conservationists, students, seasoned scientists and conservation professionals should read this book, along with anyone who cares about wildlife in general and jaguars in particular."
"For decades, Alan Rabinowitz has been a passionate voice for jaguars. His studies have illuminated the mysterious existence of the reclusive and magnificent cat, and his efforts to save its forests in one grand sweep from Mexico to Argentina have changed concepts in conservation. This book is not only a profound testament to the life of 'an indomitable beast,' but also a superb contribution to the literature on a species."
George B. Schaller, Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society
"I have a deep respect for Alan . . . and all the brilliant scientist-advocates of Panthera. We had nothing to do with the miracle of the jaguar's creation, but have everything to do with its survival. The world needs the jaguar's majesty and mystery. We are better because the jaguar exists."
Glenn Close, actress, Panthera Conservation Council Member
"Alan Rabinowitz has been a leader in the effort to conserve jaguars for decades, and his work has inspired my own and that of many other colleagues. This book, drawing on a wide array of technical sources along with personal reflections, should be of broad interest to scientists and conservationists, as well as to the general public."
Eduardo Eizirik, Professor of Genetics, PUCRS and Pro-Carnívoros Institute, Brazil
"The jaguar has been on Earth for millions of years, but how it will survive human domination of our planet is the subject of this remarkable book. Alan Rabinowitz elevates current thinking on conservation with his clear solutions for protection of this indomitable cat along the corridors they roam in Central and South America. In a time of change and even despair, this beautifully written book offers hope."
Jane Alexander, actress, author, and conservationist
"Rabinowitz displays an impressive dedication to and love for this animal, which he demonstrates through scientific research, action, and advocacy."
"The jaguar could have no better spokesperson than Rabinowtiz, who clearly not only understands his subject scientifically, historically, and emotionally, but who also can make the plea passionately for the survival of this endangered species."
The Explorer's Journal
Chapter 1. In the Beginning . . .
Chapter 2. The Pleistocene Jaguar Corridor
Chapter 3. The First People of the Jaguar
Chapter 4. When Jaguars Talked to Man
Chapter 5. Conquest of Jaguar Land
Chapter 6. The Killing Grounds
Chapter 7. Into the Jaguar's World
Chapter 8. Unraveling the Mystery
Chapter 9. Thinking to Scale
Chapter 10. The Underground Railway of the Jaguar
Chapter 11. Do Jaguars Live Here Anymore?
Chapter 12. In Search of Jaguarness
Chapter 13. Survival in a Changing World
Chapter 14. The Reluctant Warrior Epilogue
Recently I was informed by my publisher, Island Press, of a report stating that 2015 was deadliest year on record for environmental activists. Given that over the last three decades I have worked on protected areas and corridors for jaguars and tigers in 11 of the top 15 countries listed in the report, I was asked if I would like to comment on the issue. My first thought was that there was no proper response to such an egregious fact. That anyone should be martyred trying to protect the environment through non-violent means seems a blatant travesty. But then I found myself reflecting on my own career in conservation, recalling dozens of incidences when violence or potential violence threatened my life or well-being simply because I was trying to study and protect wildlife.
In all my years in the jungles of the world, it was never the forest or the wildlife that scared me – never the poisonous snakes with their quick acting toxins, the elephants protecting their young, the hair raising roar of a tiger at night, or the groups of peccaries clacking their long tusks warning me to back off. There was potential danger in the forest, to be sure, but it was always the people that worried me the most – people who feared I was trying to change their way of life or had no understanding of why I was there, soldiers and rangers who didn’t want me to see their abuses of power, drug growers, and wildlife poachers.
I had my first taste of the less “congenial” side of the conservation world while majoring in wildlife ecology in graduate school. After writing an op-ed in the local paper about how the construction of a controversial dam might cause the extinction of a tiny fish, I received a letter threatening my life along with an obscene caricature depicting myself with the fish. Not long afterwards, while surveying a river for an endangered bat species as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment for another dam project, I was physically attacked by a local farmer who was certain I was out to stop the dam.
In the years that followed, as I traveled to more distant and exotic places to pursue research and conservation, some of my encounters became stranger and more violent than anything I imagined I might experience. While surveying rhinos in the forests of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, I was charged by a local villager wielding a machete because he thought I was there to remove him from his land. While studying jaguars in Belize, I was cursed by an Obeah man (a form of sorcery), threatened at gunpoint by a hunter from Belize City, and nearly shot while tracking a collared jaguar into a marijuana field. Years later in Thailand, while researching tigers, I had to wrestle and shoot crossbows with indigenous Karen villagers along the Burmese border if I wanted to traverse their lands.
In another part of the protected area I was working, while driving a trailbike to check my tiger traps, I landed in a pit trap filled with punji sticks (sharpened bamboo stakes) set by poachers. My left foot was pierced through, fortunately resulting in only minor nerve damage after surgery at a Bangkok hospital. In Myanmar, while setting up what was to become the world’s largest tiger reserve, I narrowly avoided a shotgun trap set along an opium plantation that I didn’t know was there. In Columbia, while putting cameras out to photograph jaguar movements, my team had to consult maps of known minefields that had been placed by FARC rebels.
Suffice it to say, it didn’t take long in the field to learn that the world of wildlife conservation was not the calm, joyous escape from human life that I once imagined it would be. And with the ensuing years of my career, as I continued to preserve large wild landscapes with intact populations of apex predators (such as big cats), conservation became harder rather than easier. Loss of habitat and illegal poaching became more rampart and poachers were often more sophisticated and outfitted with better weapons than the forest guards charged with protecting wildlife. Finding lands to protect became more difficult, certain animal parts increased in value, and human rights seemed to always trump any right animals might have to even a tiny piece of the earth. I could see the world becoming more difficult and more dangerous for those who tried to protect what was left.
But despite these stories, the violence I encountered were outliers, while the norm was meeting and living with good people who simply wanted better lives for themselves and their children. From these people, I learned an important lesson: To have a truly wild world as part of the heritage we wish to pass to future generations, wildlife and people have to find ways of living together, both inside and outside the forest. Just as the human world does not stop at the forest edge, neither does the animal world for large, wide-ranging carnivores. These animals need not only inviolate protected areas as their homes, but they need to share the landscape with humans via wildlife corridors. Human behavior is not simply the problem, but also part of the solution. And in the end it is the humans that will determine the fate of most of the other species on earth.
Alan Rabinowitz, one of the world’s leading experts on big cats, is CEO of Panthera, a nonprofit organization devoted to saving wild cat species. He is the author of An Indomitable Beast, among many other books and papers.
This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below.
For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:
Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.
Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.
What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.
Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!
For the HEALTH NUT in your life:
Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.
For the ADVOCATE in your life:
Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.
Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.
For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:
An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.
For the GARDENER in your life:
Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!
For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:
Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.
Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett
For the HISTORY BUFF in your life:
The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.
For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:
Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
Island Press agrees with National Geographic: big cats are cool. In honor of the last day of Nat Geo's #BigCatWeek, we'd like to help celebrate by highlighting one of the most mysterious big cats in the world: the jaguar. The largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar has survived an onslaught of environmental and human threats partly because of a unique evolutionary history, and partly becuase of an indomitable spirit so strong the jaguar has shaped indigenous cultures and the beliefs of early civilizations on two continents.
In An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar, big-cat expert Alan Rabinowitz shares his own personal journey to conserve a species that, despite its past resilience, is now on a slide toward extinction if something is not done to preserve the pathways it prowls. In a mix of personal discovery and scientific inquiry, he sweeps his readers deep into the realm of the jaguar, offering fascinating accounts from the field. Enhanced with maps, tables, and color plates, An Indomitable Beast brings important new research to life for scientists, anthropologists, and animal lovers alike. This book is not only about jaguars, but also about tenacity and survival. Check out the prologue from the book below.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
The environment is facing tough times in a Trump presidency. Within an hour of his inaguration, all mentions of climate change were removed from the White House website. Since then, key environmental regulations have been slashed, and a bill has been introduced calling for the abolishment of the EPA. So what's an environmentalist to do? Below, Island Press authors share their advice for agitating for action on climate change and continuing to push an environmental agenda forward in the face of an unsupportive administration.
Don't freak out. OK, maybe freaking out is in order. But do it judiciously. There are many gaps between administration pronouncements and actual policy. Do not react to every executive order, press release, or tweet. Find the connections between administration statements and real policies. For whatever issue you care about, there's a group - environmental, immigrants rights, etc. - that's been working on it for years. Find them, look to them for guidance, volunteer or give them money. Get involved.
-John Fleck, Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West
The threats facing big cats and their landscapes remain unchanged in light of the recent U.S. presidential election, but the urgency with which we need to protect them remains. There are many meaningful ways to take action on this front, whether it’s by supporting nonprofits like Panthera or purchasing goods from companies committed to using resources sustainably. Everyone should follow organizations whose missions speak to them and whose actions are in sync with their words. Share their work and start conversations about why and how animals and their landscapes are so important to the health of our planet and ultimately ourselves as well.
-Alan Rabinowitz, An Indomitable Beast and CEO of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization
In my book, I describe how food waste contributes dramatically to climate change, noting that food waste is the world’s third-leading contributor of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which trails only two whole countries—China and the United States—in that category. I also describe how government regulations promote food waste and, hence, climate change. The USDA's National School Lunch Program and food-grading standards both promote massive amounts of food waste, and should be overhauled and/or eliminated. Even if our unhinged president does nothing about either of these issues, regular people can vote with their forks by, for example, purchasing ungraded produce at farmers markets and packing a school lunch for their child (and a second lunch for a student in need).
-Baylen Linnekin, Biting the Hands that Feed Us
One would think the great coniferous forests of the Northwest could withstand just about anything nature had to throw at them. In truth, however, these forests have been drastically changed by human activities. Increasingly unusual temperature and rainfall patterns are ratcheting up the threat level. A person would surely be excused for thinking that a one degree Celsius rise in average temperature would have no effect on these magnificent trees and the animals they harbor, but consider that such a small temperature increase would raise the lower edge of the snowpack by about 500 feet. That’s a lot of water no longer contributing to spring and summer runoff when plants and animals are most thirsty. Such a temperature increase would also cause the vegetation to transpire a lot more water, drying out the soils and shrinking the creeks and waterways. Forests that have dried out too much are more susceptible to widespread pest and disease infestations as well as to fire.
All is not lost, however; there are ways to deal with climate effects. Probably the most straightforward of these is to maintain a diverse forest with a variety of tree species, tree ages, and vegetation layers. Openings in the forest canopy can help to support a healthy shrub layer. Vegetation around streams helps to cool them so they can support cold-water fish, such as salmon. Forest restoration efforts following fires or other disturbances can help. Planting diverse native species and perhaps using seed or stock from an area where temperatures are more similar to those predicted over next several decades can help these forests to be resilient to climate change and other disturbances that come with changing climate. Replacing small culverts with larger ones that are carefully set can accommodate spring floods while helping fish to navigate upstream when water flows are reduced.
People concerned about the future of these forests can get involved in local forest planning. Speaking up for the forests, and providing a voice for their future and that of the communities that rely on them, is a great way to roll up your sleeves and make a difference.
-Bea Van Horne, People, Forests, and Change
1.) Get involved locally. There are environment, climate change issues that are impacting your community. Get involved on the local, grassroots level.
2.) Don’t get discouraged. Get informed, know the facts (and yes, there is such a thing as factual information) and don’t lose your resolve.
-Alan Kolok, Modern Poisons
There are ample opportunities for everyone to get involved with local planning to address climate change. Tools you can use to make your communities or natural areas more resilient and resistant to climate change include: 1) retaining and restoring moist areas – such as by keeping downed wood and ephemeral wetlands, installing riparian buffer zones, and paying attention to shading including hill-shading which naturally increases moisture potential; and 2) a mixed approach to natural-area management can increase both habitat heterogeneity at larger spatial scales and consequently species diversity, and then think about linking those habitats together across larger areas with corridors to reduce fragmentation.
-Dede Olson, People, Forests and Change
As the federal government proceeds to put its head further into the sand on climate change, the action will increasingly shift to local policy. Cities can’t solve the problem through regulation—their jurisdictions are too limited. But they can help through purchasing policies, utility pricing and transportation planning. Think globally/act locally suddenly takes on more significance than ever.
-Grady Gammage, The Future of the Suburban City
You can’t stop human-caused climate change on your own, but you can slow it down a bit. And you can do it with a president in the White House who’s working to uncork new gushers of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
Slowing climate change begins with personal behavior, since all human beings contribute heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. For those thinking about having children, it’s worth pondering that managing greenhouse gas emissions will be a challenge for as long as we’re on the planet. That’s a good argument for having a small family—or foregoing childbearing if ambivalent about becoming a parent. A smaller world population will have an easier time keeping emissions low and adapting to the massive changes on the way. In our own lives, without withdrawing from the world, we can walk our talk in eschewing emissions-intensive actions that are inefficient, frivolous, or do little or nothing for anyone’s joy or quality of life.
Without major policy change, behavior change falls way short of game change, and it’s game changing that the world desperately needs. For that, nothing short of expressing our views as often as we can manage—in letters to legislators and newspapers, in petition signatures, in responses to pollsters, in marching in protests, even in organizing communities—is likely to make enough difference to notice. A rising tax on carbon is essential, and while we can differ on the details of how to do that (ideally returning most or all revenue generated to citizens), nothing we attempt will turn the corner on climate change until the price of fossil fuels rises.
We can think about connections, too—climate change relates to the food we eat, the appliances we use, the electricity and water we pay for. Policies that are local and statewide as well as national can make a difference with these.
Finally, we can support women’s reproductive rights—the theme of the marches that went global on the second day of Trump’s presidency. Unintended pregnancy undermines women’s capacity to contribute productively to society, including to slowing climate change, and it takes us further from a future of sustainable human populations more likely to manage emissions and climate change safely.
-Robert Engelman, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want
What can we do to ensure that sound science continues to inform how we address climate change? We can urge the president to hire a national science advisor and other scientists with appropriate credentials in ecology and engineering to fill key posts in his administration. As members of a democratic society, we can support freedom of scientific inquiry and diversity in science. Specifically, we can comment publicly on proposed policies that affect the environment and vote accordingly. On a personal level, we can get directly involved in supporting science that informs climate policy by participating in science via citizen science. A variety of organizations enable public participation in science such as Earthwatch Institute. Whatever our approach, putting science into action represents our best hope to address climate change.
-Cristina Eisenberg, The Carnivore Way
1) Do that which only you can do and at least some of what everyone must do.
2) Don’t compete: Discern ways that your actions complement others’ actions toward the goods of health and justice.
3) Resist tyranny. Speak out, especially when someone tells you not to.
4) Have each others’ backs.
5) Recognize that not all hopes are equally worthy, and that skillful love requires intimate knowledge.
-Julianne Warren, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.