Tribute to Big Cat Hero: Alan Rabinowitz

by Inga Yandell

To discover a passion that gives you purpose, is a gift immeasurable to the riches of life—some people simply inspire this as part of their nature.

I was first introduced to the work of Panthera watching a segment on 60 Minutes where this indomitable character spoke with such insight and urgency about their conservation strategies. It was of course Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, a man who fits the description of Indiana Jones so well that people had begun calling him: The Indiana Jones of Wildlife. Adventurous, dedicated and truly interested in native people and wildlife, Dr. Rabinowitz was a hero to those most in need (the voiceless).

This Instagram message summaries Rabinowitz’s approach to conservation:

“Each new year we need to remember all the innocents of the world who have nothing or no one to defend them, people and animals. People often ask me how can they help in what I do? Just give back and make it about other lives, not yours. People and animals.”

Panthera is the legacy which Rabinowitz leaves behind, both his persona and hands on approach helped expand the Foundations global presence. Mentoring communities and young scientists to support autonomy and accountability for the well-being of people and wildlife.

On behalf of his family, and all those touched by his generosity and passion—may we carry your memory and mission in our hearts and through our actions.

His life in words from the people who knew him best….

The Board and staff of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, mourn the loss of our co-founder and one of the world’s most visionary and widely admired wild cat scientists, Dr. Alan Robert Rabinowitz, 64, who died August 6 (2018) after a journey with cancer.

Panthera CEO and President, Dr. Fred Launay:

“The conservation community has lost a legend. Alan was a fearless and outspoken champion for the conservation of our planet’s iconic wild cats and wild places. As a lifelong voice for the voiceless, he changed the fate of tigers, jaguars and other at-risk species by placing their protection on the agendas of world leaders from Asia to Latin America for the very first time.”

Launay continued, “Inspiring a generation of young scientists, the boldness and passion with which Alan approached conservation was captivating and contagious. While we are devastated by his passing, we are comforted by the fact that his extraordinary legacy of advocacy for the most vulnerable creatures will live on in his legion of students and followers.”

“Our thoughts are with Alan’s wife Salisa and their children, Alexander and Alana, for whom Alan was a real-life superhero.”

Panthera Chairman and Co-Founder, Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan:

“For those who became part of his astonishing and inspiring journey to save the big cats and their ecosystems, the impact of experiencing the intellectual and animal spirits that defined Alan Rabinowitz was, not unlike the moment one sees a big cat in the wild, simply unforgettable.”

“Through the young people whose talents he galvanized and mentored, standing upon Alan’s broad shoulders and implementing his vision, the trajectory of cat conservation that Panthera has succeeded in changing for the good will endure and indeed thrive.”

“My wife Daphne and I express our supreme gratitude for the life-changing partnership and camaraderie that he brought to our lives, and pledge to keep the abiding faith that he never lost and always inspired.”

In a career spanning more than three decades, Dr. Rabinowitz was, above all, a protector and global advocate for wild cats and other threatened wildlife, the diminishing lands in which they roam, and the often impoverished people living near these cats and other wildlife.

Among a lengthy seminal list, some of his crowning conservation achievements are the conceptualization and implementation of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative, an unprecedented effort to connect and protect jaguars from Mexico to Argentina, and the establishment of the world’s first jaguar sanctuary in Belize. Forever in awe of the magnificence of the tiger – the world’s largest cat – Dr. Rabinowitz achieved victory after victory for the species, including the creation of the largest tiger reserve, the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, in northern Myanmar.

Panthera Jaguar Program Executive Director, Dr. Howard Quigley:

“Alan lived such an impactful life, for everyone who met him, and for the wildlife he cared so passionately about. For all of us who were inspired by him, our mission now is to honor Alan’s legacy by securing the future for all wild cats.”

Panthera Science Council Vice Chair, Dr. George Schaller:

“I have collaborated with Alan on projects for nearly four decades, and his knowledge, vision, determination, and passionate voice on behalf of the big cats and other wildlife has inspired me and many others to be advocates for protecting nature’s beauty.”

Panthera Conservation Council Co-Chair, Jane Alexander:

“Alan Rabinowitz came into my life in the early ’80s when he, a young scientist studying jaguars in Belize, and I, an actress with a screenplay about jaguars, took me out at night to track their whereabouts in the jungle. We became life-long friends. He inspired me to become the conservationist I am today, as he has inspired thousands of people the world over with his courage, commitment and perseverance. There was no finer man, the toughest, yet deeply kind.”

Read more about the career of Alan Rabinowitz.

Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts, and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards, and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org.

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
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