Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Voice for the Big Cats

Alan Rabinowitz is a naturalist who, as a child who stuttered so severely that he couldn't speak at all, made a pledge to an aging jaguar at the Bronx Zoo to become a voice for all the world's big cats.

With no professional help available for his stuttering, he discovered he could talk to animals, and he would sequester himself in his bedroom closet with apartment-compatible pets, and talk to them. "The animals didn't judge me. The animals had no expectations. The animals just let me be who I was." And their inability to talk to him made him feel closer to them. "They didn't have a voice, either."

At the zoo, Rabinowitz gravitated to the big cats. He remembers a tiger, locked in a cage the way he felt locked in his own head. And an old female jaguar who looked sad and broken, the way he felt.

"I swore to the animals that if I could ever find my voice, I would be their voice." he recalled. He reasoned that if animals could make themselves understood, people would treat them a whole lot better than they do.

Rabinowitz did learn to conquer his stutter, and he did remember his promise.

He is now president and CEO of Panthera, an organization active in preserving all wild cats. Rabinowitz takes an extremely wise, long-range approach to preservation: seeking ways for humans and big cats to co-exist in the same areas.

Rabinowitz tells his story and more in this interview with professional smart-ass Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert Report
Alan Rabinowitz

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