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
"A powerful blend of science and personal disclosure, An Indomitable Beast is an excellent introduction to this species...This is a must read for anyone even the slightest bit interested in big cats."
The Jaguar and Its Allies
"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.