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I Love This in A Book
on August 23, 2009
"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.