Tuesday, September 2, 2014


An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the JaguarAn Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Indomitable Beast

Alan Rabinowitz' new book showcases not only his lifetime of work, but the magnificent animal that inspired it. As a boy, Rabinowitz stuttered terribly in the presence of humans, but could speak his heart to animals. One day, struck by the mystery of wilderness and otherness in the eyes of a young jaguar, he vowed to speak for the voiceless animals when he grew older. He has spent his lifetime helping to study and conserve wild animals and their habitat and now concentrates on the big cats through the organization Panthera. The jaguar remains close to his heart not only as the embodied voice of the wild, but as a potential success in survival.

An Indomitable Beast tells the story of the jaguar as we know it, from its beginning as a species, its presence around the world, to its precarious success in the face of human expansion across the globe and into its territory. In telling Rabinowitz' story, too, from that life-changing moment, through years of schooling, the thrill of a young man's success, the humbling of life and work, the book gives us a glimpse at the growth of the conservation and ecology movements. In the cascade of habitat loss and extinction, it's hard to remember sometimes that we haven't been trying to undo the consequences of humanity for very long compared to how long we've been around.

The jaguar is the epitome of adaptation in the big cat world, changing its diet to match the available food sources, sticking to the shadows and byways, always choosing to avoid humans rather than confront them, a reluctant and wounded warrior. Perhaps it is the perfect animal to help us realize that when we destroy other top predators, our competition, our environment, we destroy ourselves. Although pictures were not included in the e-galley provided to this reviewer, one could imagine a picture book for adults made from the impassioned last section of the book, which is both a paean to the jaguar's beauty and tenacity, and a plea for its future, twined with our own. Recommended.

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