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Chasing the Dragon's Tail: The Struggle to Save Thailand's Wild Cats Paperback – July 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987 the author, a research zoologist with Wildlife Conservation International, was invited by the Thai government to study endangered animals in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. For two years he tracked leopards, tigers and other big cats in the 1000-square-mile area, capturing and collaring them in order to monitor their movements by radio. Rabinowitz seems to crave risk and adventure, and the story of his hazardous years "chasing the dragon's tail" in the Thai forest--which includes encounters with angry poachers, a narrow escape from his own leopard trap, the aftermath of his participation in an opium council--makes engrossing reading. He also reveals much about Thai life and its contradictions, especially the Buddhist philosophy that reveres wild animals and at the same time justifies killing them. His assessment of the prospects for saving the Thai forest and its wildlife is disheartening. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Rabinowitz is a field biologist and the author of Jaguar ( LJ 12/86), an account of his effort to set up a jaguar preserve in Belize. In 1987, he agreed to survey the wild cats in Thailand's Huai Kha Haeng valley. During his study of leopards, leopard cats, and civets, he befriended monks, forest workers, and other Thais in an effort to understand why practicing Buddhists frequently abused animals and ransacked the forest. He found that Western attitudes about the beauty and value of wildlife ultimately clash with a pragmatic view of nature as commodity in countries where poverty and human suffering is widespread. Walking away with a bleak view of the future for Thailand's forests, Rabinowitz records here the beauty of another natural paradise that may soon be lost. Recommended for general collections in public and academic libraries.
- Beth Clewis, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond, Va.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press / Shearwater Books; First Printing edition (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559639806
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559639804
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David B. Bunch on January 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the true story of a biologist with a dark past heading to a small Asian country to study leopards. Though the story is about animal conservation, the human interactions are what make the bulk of it. The author is an emotional person, and the conveyance of his feelings and thoughts in his writing make this story very entertaining. He is also very candid about some of the things he did in Thailand.

I have to say one more thing about his writing style. As I was reading the book, I could picture myself hiking along the trails of the forest reserve, or talking to the forest monks. I cringed and felt helpless as I read of the daily cases of skinning and cooking animals alive. And I felt the sense of helplessness and frustration of trying to stop an entire nation from devouring every bit of wildlife left.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book describes the day-to-day life and frustrations of renowned conservationist Alan Rabinowitz in Thailand. While the large mammal biodiversity of the country is amazing, it is being severely depleted. The large mammals are victims of a local culture that seems to think of wildlife as free wealth to be plundered for subsistence or luxury.

While he is primarily a conservationist, Dr. Rabinowitz sometimes assumes the role of animal rights advocate as he describes acts of heartless cruelty by the locals towards animals. Examples: a python which is skinned alive by some of his servants (it is easier to remove the skin when the animal is alive), and a magnificent gaur (the largest wild cattle species in the world) which had died a slow death from starvation after its jaw had been shattered by a bullet.

A distinctive feature of Dr. Rabinowitz's passionate first-person narrative is that he cares for wild animals as individuals apart from his desire to save them as species. His study animals are given Thai names and not numbers. He is emotionally involved with their well-being and does not maintain the cold detachment towards them that one might expect from a scientist. He also does not hesitate to give vent to his anger and anguish when one of the animals he has grown familiar with dies a horrible death at the hands of poachers. His view of the local culture is heavily influenced by how they treat animals and is understandably negative. This has been described as "cultural imperialism" by a reviewer but it is hard not to be moved by the sufferings of animals which are skinned alive and left to die in agony. Readers would have to judge for themselves on this point. In my opinion, Dr.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
"Like his first book, Jaguar, Rabinowitz's Chasing The Dragon's Tail is a telling testimony to the difficulties emarked upon in the attempt at large predator conservation. Rabinowitz's books are a must read for anyone interested in habitat preservation and conservation."
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