For wildlife lovers, the decision to venture to South America on a dedicated Jaguar watching tour is often the culmination of a lifelong dream. Of all the big cats, this is the one ethologists know the least about, as the magnificent animal is as private as it is powerful. But for those embarking on a Jaguar watching adventure, understanding a little about its habitat and behaviour can provide a valuable contextual framework from which to experience this once in a lifetime wildlife opportunity. |
While there is plenty of generic information available, for a first-hand account from the world's leading specialist, Alan Rabinowitz's Jaguar: An Indomitable Beast is an insightful and intriguing account of a lifetime of study, observation and conservation. From his early days as a shy, introverted child, Rabinowitz went on to become a respected wildlife authority, establish the world's first Jaguar sanctuary, and spearhead the high profile 'corridor' conservation projects in South and Central America. The book is highly recommended reading for anyone intending to undertake a Jaguar watching tour. A Life Less Ordinary
Rabinowitz's book opens with a raw and honest account of his debilitating childhood stutter, the effects of which saw him withdraw into his own lonely, private world. But his father recognised the young boy's affinity with animals, and regular trips to the New York Bronx Zoo set him on a path that would define the rest of his life.
Rabinowitz formed an extraordinarily empathetic bond with the solitary Jaguar of the zoo, with whose aloofness and 'apartness' from the world he was able to strongly identify – both trapped in a cage not of their own making. He would spend hours sitting outside the animal's cage, confiding his hopes and dreams for his own life (incredibly, as he recounts, without the stutter). He made a promise that if ever he were able to find his own 'voice', he would become a voice in the world for the enigmatic big cats.
An Encounter in the Wild
Rabinowitz's book details his years of research in the jungles of Belize, which culminated in the setting up of the world's first and only preserve for the big cats, and an astounding, life-changing encounter in which he came face to face with a wild Jaguar. Without him realising, the animal had been stalking him through the jungle – not as prey, but seemingly out of curiosity. In his terror, Rabinowitz cowered on the jungle floor trying to make himself as small and non threatening as possible and, amazingly, the big cat did the same, simply observing him for several minutes before retreating into the jungle with a long backwards glance.
A Man With a Plan
That encounter caused a shift in thinking for Rabinowitz, and he realised that in order to protect the creatures, instead of focusing on conservation efforts that would separate them from humans, in fact they needed to work on methods of co-existence. When Rabinowitz and his colleagues discovered the existence of a 'corridor' through South and Central America – when DNA from faeces revealed that the big cats were travelling extensively through a human landscape as well as their own jungle habitat - they had found a way in which to do it.
A Life's Work Continues
In his book, Rabinowitz speaks of the 'Jaguar-ness': the indefinable aloofness that makes it so different from all other animals, even other big cats. He admits that, while it's been his life's work, he doesn't and indeed never expects to comprehend it, and just accepts that it 'is'.
Jaguar: An Indomitable Beast is a compelling account of a life's work well done and, as such an indomitable ally, Rabinowitz certainly has fulfilled his promise to be the voice of these magnificent creatures.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you’re looking for Jaguar watching tours, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to Jaguar watching tours in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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