Alan Rabinowitz: Big Cat Preservationist and Stutterer
- Category: Personal Stories
- Published: Sunday, 22 May 2011 12:02
- Written by Lisa Wilder
Stuttering and Big Cats DVD
The title of this DVD, Stuttering and the Big Cats, might make you think it is the field notes of some imaginative researcher who believes he has found a pride of lions with "roaring impetiments". However, that is not what it is about at all.
Dr. Alan Rabinowitz is an American zoologist, conservationist, and field biologist. His passion is preserving jaguars, tigers, leopards, and other big cats in their natural habitats, a formidable task as they are all on the endangered species list. But his approach has revolutionized wildlife conservation, and has made a huge difference in the preservation of these animals. The DVD, about him and his work, was released April 2011 with an event commemorating it's release in New York City.
So where does stuttering fit in? Alan Rabinowitz happens to be a life-long person who stutters. He had an agonizing childhood where he was put in remedial classes and struggled with the alienation and low self-esteem experienced by many children who stutter. It was on a trip to the Bronx Zoo with his father, when, seeing a jaguar in a cage, he empathized with the animal's entrapment, and vowed that one day he would provide a voice for wild cats, and would protect and help them. Like many people who stutter, he was able to talk to animals fluently. When he was nineteen, speech therapy helped him to control his stuttering enough that he gained the confidence to speak in public, and today he gives many speeches in support of his cause.
In his books and speeches about his conservation efforts with big cats, Alan always mentions his stuttering. In one interview, he tells the story of a life-changing event when he was a young man. While ordering something at a cashier, he stuttered badly, and it took him so long to say what he wanted that a long line formed behind him. The cashier addressed the other people in the line, asking them to be patient as she was "serving a retarded man." After this exchange he felt ashamed, not because of his stuttering, but because he had let people think he was mentally challenged rather than identify as a stutterer. He promised himself he would not be ashamed of his stuttering any longer, or try to hide it or avoid it. In fact, today he looks at it as a gift that helped him relate to animals and resulted in his chosen field, zoology, and led him on a path to work he loves and finds meaningful.
Alan Rabinowitz co-founded the conservation organization Panthera, dedicated to protecting the world's remaining population of big cats and their habitats. He is the president and CEO. You can purchase the DVD, Stuttering and the Big Cats, here.
The Dr. Alan Rabinowitz story (video)