In the early 1980s, working at the behest of the noted biologist George Schaller, Alan Rabinowitz traveled to the newly independent Central American nation of Belize to study jaguars, once extensive throughout the Americas, in a remote, densely forested part of that country. ("If the world had any ends, [Belize] would surely be one of them" Aldous Huxley once wrote.) There, deep within mountainous jungle, Rabinowitz conducted a thorough study of the jaguar's natural history, studying its diet (made up, he writes, of a surprising quantity of armadillos), movements, and territories, and learning the ways of the much-feared cat. He also learned a little something about himself--discovering, he writes, that "once I had overcome my initial fears of this dense, dark green world, I started to enjoy it."
Over his two-year stay, Rabinowitz developed plans to establish a forest sanctuary that would be free of the jaguar's principal enemies--not deadly fer-de-lance snakes or other large predators, but loggers, poachers, and cattle ranchers, all of whom had their reasons for wanting to see jaguars disappear from the region. Although he was successful in convincing the Belizean government to authorize the Cockscomb preserve, Rabinowitz writes in the afterword to this revised edition of Jaguar (first published in 1986), the jaguar haven came at a cost to Mayan people who lived in the area and were forced to relocate. His memoir will be of great interest not only to admirers of the jaguar, a magnificent animal by any measure, but also to students of international ecological issues. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Rabinowitz, a zoologist, describes two years of triumph and tragedy in the rain forests of Belize, where he lived among Mayan Indians while researching the jaguar population; he was instrumental in having the Cockscomb Basin there declared a National Forest Reserve. Photos. (Nov.)no PW
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