Life in the Valley of Death
6 x 9
One 16-page color insert, 3 illustrations
6 x 9
One 16-page color insert, 3 illustrations
Dubbed the Indiana Jones of wildlife science by The New York Times, Alan Rabinowitz has devoted—and risked—his life to protect nature’s great endangered mammals. He has journeyed to the remote corners of the earth in search of wild things, weathering treacherous terrain, plane crashes, and hostile governments. Life in the Valley of Death recounts his most ambitious and dangerous adventure yet: the creation of the world’s largest tiger preserve.
The tale is set in the lush Hukaung Valley of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. An escape route for refugees fleeing the Japanese army during World War II, this rugged stretch of land claimed the lives of thousands of children, women, and soldiers. Today it is home to one of the largest tiger populations outside of India—a population threatened by rampant poaching and the recent encroachment of gold prospectors.
To save the remaining tigers, Rabinowitz must navigate not only an unforgiving landscape, but the tangled web of politics in Myanmar. Faced with a military dictatorship, an insurgent army, tribes once infamous for taking the heads of their enemies, and villagers living on less than one U.S. dollar per day, the scientist and adventurer most comfortable with animals is thrust into a diplomatic minefield. As he works to balance the interests of disparate factions and endangered wildlife, his own life is threatened by an incurable disease.
The resulting story is one of destruction and loss, but also renewal. In forests reviled as the valley of death, Rabinowitz finds new life for himself, for communities haunted by poverty and violence, and for the tigers he vowed to protect.
"As a general rule, books by saints are best avoided... The exception to this rule: Alan Rabinowitz. ... Suffice it to say that the guy's halo is green, bright and fully deserved. But he's also a hell of a good writer, which is why Life in the Valley of Death is anything but another desperate dispatch from a shrinking corner of the wild."
"Life in the Valley of Death is not your typical chronicle of rescuing wildlife. Rather it's a clear-eyed rendering of conservation's unruly, dangerous, and chaotic side."
"Rabinowitz deserves credit for a political courage no less real than his physical bravery, for being willing to sit down with the devil, occasionally, to save a tiger."
"Life in the Valley of Death is the triumphant story of his toughest job to date...Rabinowitz had to gain the cooperation of the ruling military junta and navigate an elaborate bureaucracy. That he succeeded testifies to his modesty, patience, and ability to persuade powerful people of the importance of saving tigers."
National Geographic Adventure
"For 20 years, he has traveled the world, imploring the power elite of democracies and dictatorships to dedicate large parcels as reserves for these imperiled felines."
New York Times
"By engaging Myanmar's ruthless military dictatorship, Alan Rabinowitz has pulled off extraordinary feats for tiger conservation. His is a story of drawing lines—geographic, political, and moral."
"The story of how this lofty goal is accomplished makes for absorbing reading; this very personal account of the nuts and bolts of international conservation will resonate with lovers of the earth's last wild places."
"Engaging. . . [Rabinowitz] is a man on a mission and we are not really surprised when that mission ultimately proves successful."
"In an inspiring, personal book, Rabinowitz recounts his struggles to protect the tiger population in Myanmar, formerly Burma. . .Ultimately, his book is about challenges, possibilities, and hope."
"Alan Rabinowitz is a hero of mine. He combines the courage and initiative of nineteenth-century explorer with the knowledge of a modern wildlife scientist, thereby achieving solid conservation in some of the most remote and critical parts of the world. Life in the Valley of Death represents a high point in a remarkable life."
Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
"I could not put down this remarkable book. Alan Rabinowitz's personal journey is every bit as moving and inspiring as is his passionate and courageous battle to save the world's most endangered great cats. We need the mystery and majesty of wild things and wild places. I am convinced that the efforts of Alan and his colleagues will have a profound effect on our collective soul."
Glenn Close, actress
"Move over Indiana Jones—Alan 'Burma' Rabinowitz is a great man with a great vision. His dramatic story of hope and heroism facing tangled jungles, political intrigue, and a personal battle with cancer will have you on the edge of your seat, cheering for both him and the tigers."
Sy Montgomery, author of "Spell of the Tiger" and "The Good Good Pig"
"By turns sad and uplifting, Life in the Valley of Death tells the amazing tale of Alan Rabinowitz's courageous and spirited efforts to protect Burma's (Myanmar's) remaining tigers and establish the Hukawng Valley Reserve. It is hard to imagine a more passionate or exciting account of today's conservation challenges, or a more thoughtful rendering of life, death, and politics in Burma's most remote corners."
Thant Myint-U, author of "The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma"
Chapter 1. Road to Nowhere
Chapter 2. Paradise Lost
Chapter 3. The Valley of Death
Chapter 4. Into the Naga Hills
Chapter 5. Rolling the Dice
Chapter 6. Into the Darkness
Chapter 7. Letting Go
Chapter 8. Hungry Ghosts
Chapter 9. Where There Be Tigers
Chapter 10. Conservation Warfare
Chapter 11. Jungle Politics
Chapter 12. Shaping a Miracle
Chapter 13. A Question of Balance
Chapter 14. Burning Bright
Chapter 15. Return to the Naga Hills
Chapter 16. Spots of Time
Chapter 17. Reaching Mt. Analogue
Island Press grieves the loss of Alan Rabinowitz, Island Press author and dedicated wild cat scientist. Alan was a fierce conservationist who left an indelible mark on our world. His impact lives on through Island Press and his many contributions to the environmental community. We join Panthera in honoring Alan's memory. From Panthera:
The Board and staff of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, mourn the loss of our co-founder and one of the world’s most visionary and widely admired wild cat scientists, Dr. Alan Robert Rabinowitz, who died today after a journey with cancer.
Panthera CEO and President, Dr. Fred Launay, stated, “The conservation community has lost a legend. Alan was a fearless and outspoken champion for the conservation of our planet’s iconic wild cats and wild places. As a lifelong voice for the voiceless, he changed the fate of tigers, jaguars and other at-risk species by placing their protection on the agendas of world leaders from Asia to Latin America for the very first time.”
Launay continued, “Inspiring a generation of young scientists, the boldness and passion with which Alan approached conservation was captivating and contagious. While we are devastated by his passing, we are comforted by the fact that his extraordinary legacy of advocacy for the most vulnerable creatures will live on in his legion of students and followers.”
Among a lengthy seminal list, some of his crowning conservation achievements are the conceptualization and implementation of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative, an unprecedented effort to connect and protect jaguars from Mexico to Argentina, and the establishment of the world's first jaguar sanctuary in Belize. Forever in awe of the magnificence of the tiger – the world’s largest cat – Dr. Rabinowitz achieved victory after victory for the species, including the creation of the largest tiger reserve, the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, in northern Myanmar.
Read more about the career of Alan Rabinowitz.
To share Alan's ideas and further his legacy, we offer 50% off the print and e-versions of all Alan's Island Press books:
We also offer a free excerpt from Alan's most recent book, An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.