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Life in the Valley of Death: The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed 1st Edition

60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1597261296
ISBN-10: 1597261297
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Editorial Reviews


"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."
(The 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."
(Explorer's Journal)

"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."
(Library Journal)

"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)

"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."
(Men's Journal)

About the Author

Alan Rabinowitz is President and CEO of Panthera, the world's largest wild cat conservation organization. He has authored dozens of scientific and popular articles and six books, including Jaguar, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail, and Beyond the Last Village. Dr. Rabinowitz has been profiled in The New York Times, Scientific American, Audubon, and National Geographic Adventure, and was the subject of a highly praised PBS/National Geographic television special, “In Search of the Jaguar.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597261297
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597261296
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While there has been a lot of criticism of Alan Rabinowitz's efforts in Myanmar, this book should put them to rest. Rabinowitz makes clear his desire to incorporate local stakeholders in the Hukawng Tiger Reserve and give them a surprisingly open voice in an otherwise closed society. Moreover, he makes a good argument that the reserve will bring aid and funds directly to villagers in northern Burma that otherwise might have been neglected.

Some of the highlights in the book include Rabinowitz's meetings with high level Burmese officials, including former prime minister Khin Nyunt, and senior leaders of the KIO. I appreciate the fact that he wrote so openly of his relations with these officials, especially as some of them (particularly Khin Nyunt) are no longer in power and whose association could brand WCS with a stigma within Burma. Of course, the central story of the book, setting up the reserve, is full of adventure.

I am also impressed by how intimately Rabinowitz shares his emotions and thoughts with the reader (and not always in a light that makes him look good). While I can't claim to know him well, he seems honest and straightforward in his account (a relief after reading so many political autobiographies).

In short, this is a great book if you want to go beyond the very important headlines about Burma and see what it's really like to travel, work, and do conservation in this challenging but fascinating country (for those looking for books on Burma's politics, I highly recommend the books by David Steinberg and Thant Myint-U).
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on March 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came to the "Valley of Death" after having read Rabinowitz's prior account of working in Burma. I'd also read and enjoyed his book about Thailand. I have fairly deep ties to SE Asia, esp. Thailand. I had the experience of seeing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi give one of her last public talks and was deeply touched by my travel in Burma during the 90s.

Rabinowitz's book works well on a number of different levels. He describes the process of doing field research in a way that communicates the technical issues, the human relations issues, and the political considerations, and does it in a way that is matter of fact and accessible, while making the details interesting and vital. Rabinowitz's main concern is the protection of wildlife and their habitat, but he never loses sight of the people who have to share the environment with the tigers and other animals that he wishes to protect. He has a truly broad understanding of ecology, development, and conservation that is often missing when policies for environmental issues are discussed.

Rabinowitz brings his personal life into the story, and describes his experience as a person with leukemia and as a man who is never far from the the things that brought him to nature and complicated his early life. He relates all this without evoking self-pity or letting his own story get in the way of protecting the tigers of northern Burma. Rabinowitz provides a useful overview of Burmese politics and provides a rather candid-sounding account of his dealings with a secretive totalitarian government. Some people will be put off by his willingness to deal with the Burmese regime, but he lays out his case as well as anyone could and I admire his ability to make things happen under the circumstances.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Donald E. Gilliland on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very odd that one reviewer would call this a "terrible" book. Either they had a short attention span or are not capable of feeling complex human emotions. And this book is brimming with emotion. Ostensibly, "Life in the Valley of Death" is about the efforts to save the tigers and other wildlife in that region. But this is also a book about Rabinowitz's acceptance of, and struggles with, a disease he has been diagnosed with. He also opens up and give the reader insights into his marriage (to a Thai woman) and being a father. An additional dynamic is the way he interacts with the local people, particularly the bureaucrats and officials in Myanmar, a "necessary evil" since they are the ones who can grant him permission, not only to visit the country, but to make this wildlife sanctuary a reality. I love the way that Rabinowitz combines these many threads to weave a compelling narrative. You don't need to have an interest in saving wildlife to enjoy this book. This is just good human drama. That said, I found this to be a notch below his other book, "Beyond the Last Village." That previous book (also about establishing wildlife parks in Myanmar) was so moving and so compelling, I thought it would be hard to top it. And it was. But "Life in the Valley of Death" is a still a very engrossing read, and an important book. Clearly, Rabinowitz loves not only wildlife, but also the people of Myanmar. He does an excellent job of conveying that passion to the reader.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Patricia D. Brownlie on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is about the fight to save a valley in Myanmar (Burma) as a sanctuary for tigers. It was ultimately, at least partially, successful though it took a great deal of effort to get there. It was interesting that, as I started the book, I found myself thinking of whether the work that the author did in Myanmar should have been done. Myanmar is such an ugly country, but then it seemed to me that the tigers should not have been held hostage to a miserable dictatorship. And it also takes some thinking as we go further along as to whether our Western diplomats should be dealing with such governments in the way that we do. Perhaps other approaches, such as some of the ways that Rabinowitz learned to work with the Myanmar government, may also be possible.
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