Known as the "Indiana Jones of wildlife protection," zoologist Alan Rabinowitz was a tireless force in protecting endangered animals and their ecosystems – particularly big cats. Rabinowitz, who died this week at the age of 64, saved the lives of countless tigers, jaguars and other at-risk species by getting their protection onto the agendas of leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
"Like Indiana Jones he went places that other people didn't go. He tried to make discoveries that other people weren't going to make because he had the energy and he had the wherewithal to not sit at his desk and just be writing about biology but to do biology," said Dr. Howard Quigley, a jaguar expert and a lifelong friend of Rabinowitz.
Born in Brooklyn, Rabinowitz had a stutter so severe he was unable to communicate with peers and teachers. But he found he could relate to animals. He would spend endless hours at the Bronx Zoo's lion house, where he considered the cats to be his kindred spirits in their isolation and silence. It was there that he vowed to become the voice of the voiceless.
In the following years, Rabinowitz overcame his stutter and fulfilled that pledge. Among his life's achievements are creating the Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the world's largest tiger reserve in Myanmar, as well as the Jaguar Corridor, a series of protected areas that run from to Mexico to Argentina. He also founded the Panthera Group, an organization dedicated to saving wild cats around the globe.
Rabinowitz is also credited with discovering four new species of mammals including the tiny leaf deer, the most primitive deer species in the world.
The personable and often funny Rabinowitz also wrote books, made documentaries and mentored thousands of young scientists.
"To put his legacy in a nutshell I guess it would be that he made a difference. He kept his focus on the conservation of the animals that he loved so much," Quigley said.