Dr Rabinowitz. Courtesy of Panthera.
Dr Rabinowitz. Courtesy of Panthera.

World mourns passing of leading wild cat expert and conservationist Alan Rabinowitz, age 64

ASEAN+ August 07, 2018 20:35

By The Nation

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The world’s top wildlife conservation experts and organisations, as well as those in Thailand, have jointly mourned the loss of one of the world’s foremost experts on wild cats, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.



His more than three decades of conservation work have also helped contribute to improve wildlife conservation here in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

His passing was announced early this week by his co-founded organisation, Panthera, set up in 2006 to dedicate to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. 

He died of cancer at the age of 64.

According to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), whose Thailand programme is active in supporting wildlife conservation and management here, Rabinowitz helped to establish protected areas in Thailand.

In Myanmar, he also helped to inform the creation of a number of protected areas, including the world’s largest tiger reserve in the Hukaung Valley, in addition to discoveries of several unknown species and biodiversity there.

Rabinowitz also wrote a number of books about wild cats and conservation in Thailand, to boost knowledge about the country’s conservation among the public. 

Among them is the wildlife field research and conservation training manual, the “Tigers, the King of Hunters” book, and among others.

“Dr Rabinowitz worked tirelessly to save wildlife through decades of field research, science, and international diplomacy,” the WCS executive vice president, John G Robinson, said in the released statement.

Rabinowitz began his conservation career in the early 1980s, focusing on jaguars in Belize, where his efforts led to a new understanding of the ecological needs of these big cats in the wild and helped to establish the world’s first jaguar sanctuary.

It was his years-long efforts to push forward Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative to connect and protect jaguars from Mexico to Argentina that have won the highest praise, being among his crowning conservation achievements.

In addition to his work with jaguars, Rabinowitz studied a wide range of other species around the world, including tigers, clouded leopards, leopard cats, and Sumatran rhinos, the WCS noted.

Fearless and outspoken 

“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,” Panthera CEO and President Dr Fred Launay said in the statement.

His co-founder and Panthera chairman, Dr Thomas S Kaplan, also said 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”.

The Thailand Tiger Project has posted its condolence along with Panthera’s tribute statement on its Facebook page for “a pioneer of “big hunters’ conservation”.

Petch Manopawitr, a conservationist and a former deputy of IUCN SE Asia who worked with Rabinowitz on a number of occasions, posted on his Facebook that his work had left young conservationists with “loads of inspiration”.

“Dr Rabinowitz was a pioneer researcher on big cats and left many legacies for conservation in Asia. He was a talented writer, blending scientific exploration with conservation and personal quest. 

“He has inspired many young conservationists and was a role model for field conservationists around the world. His writing is full of adventures and human touches that prompt readers to go back and read them once and again. They ignite hopes,” Petch said.

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