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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
The Jaguar's Shadow: Searching for a Mythic Cat
Format: Hardcover|Change
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"You cannot plan to see a jaguar," the author writes, "any more than you can plan to have a religious experience or meet the love of your life." But throughout this comprehensive guide to jaguar history, mythology and species survival, Mahler is infused with an irrational passion to connect with Jaguars, to study and understand them, to penetrate into the mystique of this huge cat, and to see one.

He's convinced that no creature in our hemisphere "has meant so much to so many for so long as the jaguar." It is, he says, "one of Earth's most superbly designed creatures," and its existence has been embraced and celebrated by many earlier people, including the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Olmecs and Incas, as well as dozens of smaller tribes, especially in the Amazon Basin. The author's research into the mythology of the jaguar is consistently fascinating, and illuminates our own culture's apparent disdain for the big cats. Their territory is constantly being squeezed by rising human populations, road traffic, illegal hunting and loss of the game--armadillos, deer, agouti and others--- that jaguars need to survive.

I can't say that I thought much about jaguars before picking up this book. But the author's enthusiasm, his deep obsession with these gorgeous cats, lifted me up constantly. I love this in a book: a thorough immersion into someone's passion. By the time Mahler enters, near the end of the book, into the mind of a young male jaguar about to swim the Panama Canal, with all its dangers, on a damp night of musty smells, the animal pricking up his black-lined ivory ears--I have been won over entirely. I want to know what even Richard Mahler can't know: did the jaguar survive the swim? Does he enter into new territory? Will he mate? Will his species survive as we humans continue our own rough tramp over nature? The author has convinced me that more than I had ever dreamed depends on it.
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on November 22, 2009
I am boggled by all the 5-star reviews, although the book is so new I suspect all the reviewers are friends of the author who were asked to submit opinions. The book will be thoroughly enjoyable only if you have a deep interest in ancient Maya and Inca cultures. That is because roughly the first one third of the book, close to one hundred pages, relates in excruciating detail trips to see every single jaguar carving, cliff painting and totem in Latin America. If you are primarily interested in reading about the living jaguar, as I am, will you find this drawn-out section incredibly boring. If I had not been on an international flight with nothing else to read, I probably would have given up on the book entirely.

But I plowed on, and the second half of the book is quite interesting. This is where we (finally) search for the real thing, going on nature hikes and visiting a couple of Latin American zoos with rescued jags. We also meet a wide variety of researchers, conservationists, and ordinary folks throughout the region. If you are a big cat lover (as I am), you will enjoy most of the book, but I would recommend skipping chapters 6,7,9 entirely, and possibly skim-reading some of the preceding chapters.
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on December 20, 2009
The Jaguar's Shadow is a must read for any lover of nature, big cats, and especially jaguar's. Finding book's dedicated to the life of the jaguar are rare because this animal is elusive and difficult to study. But at last, there is a new contemporary book on the subject. Richard Mahler has done a splendid job telling the story of the most impressive feline of the America's. The book is not written by a scientist or archaeologist, but rather from a talented journalist with a passion for this impressive cat. The book covers much information about the jaguar, including its natural history, habitat, feeding habits, occurrence in the United States, and importance in Mayan and Incan cultures, but it does so in an easy to read way intended for a general audience. Mahler has certainly done his research and has given us the ultimate overall guide to the life of the jaguar.

Being a huge fan of the jaguar and having gone to Central and South America myself in search of this phantom of the jungle, I can totally relate to the desire of wanting to find a jaguar in it's natural habitat, and to all the passion and drive that made this book a reality. Richard Mahler has done his homework and I am so happy to have this book on my shelf.
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on September 20, 2009
With infinite grace, deft, informative prose and an engagingly insightful narrative, Richard Mahler takes the reader along on his quest to see a jaguar in the wild. "For me, Panthera onca embodied the transcendent quality of Earth's deepest mysteries, of all in the natural world that is still pure, wild, and unmolested. " His helpless attraction to the big cat, coupled with all the hitches and glitches of his quest, provides the reader with adventure and an unexpectedly satisfying reward. This is a beautiful love letter to an animal that may soon inhabit our memories and dreams rather than our earth.
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on November 14, 2009
This book is packed with solid information plus intense personal insight into the nature of this beautiful and elusive beast. Told with a gentle wit, The Jaguar's Shadow also takes us deep into the life of a writer fascinated by his non-human subject, encouraging us on every page to follow in his shadow as well. I love hearing from the many other people who have some connection with jaguars, and getting to know the cultures that have learned to co-habitate with the big cat. Kudos to Mr. Mahler for this important work!
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on June 29, 2015
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on September 17, 2009
I consider myself to be a respecter and lover of animals along with sound conservation in my own work as a veterinary naturopath, and yet I didn't know much if anything about jaguars until I read Richard Mahler's new book, The Jaguar's Shadow. I was immediately intrigued by his passion for this elusive cat, and quite frankly drawn in by it. His writing is so descriptive without being superfluous. Because the author is also a tour guide he takes us along on his journey as our guide as though we are right there with him where he shares the wonder of all he is seeing. Mahler is so effective at sharing his passion and quest for the jaguar that it's almost impossible to find a place to put down the book. There is a sense throughout that the jaguar is lurking in the shadows, taunting you by staying hidden, always one step ahead of the humans seeking it. You journey throughout foreign lands that include hot high deserts in wide open spaces to hot, dark, humid, steamy jungles. From deity to despised, the constant battle between jaguar and human is ever present and evident. The ending of the book leaves you inside the mind of the jaguar and on the edge of your set, rooting for him, hoping he'll survive. The genius of it all is that Mahler leaves us hanging with the ultimate cliff hanger - because it really does all depend on us and the choices we'll make. The journey is about the interwoven dependency we have on our animal world and the delicate balance it is left hanging in if we humans don't wake up and smell the jaguar, the carnivore...the primary and pivotal role they all play on earth. As Mahler says (and it was one of my favorite quotes of his in this book) "By saving the top-of-the-food-chain animals such as big cats, so the conservation message goes, we save what sustains them." At the expense of sounding cliche I have to say this book is a MUST read! I greatly respect how Mahler presents all viewpoints in this book without judgment while making his own passion and feelings evident throughout the book.
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on August 20, 2009
Richard Mahler has written a fascinating tale of his search for the fabled jaguar. From Arizona to Panama, Mahler takes us along with him and provides plenty of information on the jaguar's biology, conservation and future. Of course fans of the big cats will eat this book up but I'd also recommend it for those who enjoy tales of adventure, endangered species and environmental issues. First rate.
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