26 Mar

Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Delivers a Powerful Message about Saving the Tiger at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo


During his keynote speech at the Woodland Park Zoo’s annual Thrive fundraiser in Seattle, Washington last week, Panthera’s CEO and tiger expert, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, shared inspiring stories from a lifetime of work dedicated to saving the world’s wild cats and their habitats, and stressed that the time is now to save the world’s largest, most iconic and most endangered big cat – the tiger. At the close of this speech, Dr. Rabinowitz received a standing ovation from the more than 700 fundraiser attendees.

Read a blog post about Dr. Rabinowitz’s moving speech by Seattle City Council Member, Jean Godden:

“Blown away.” Those were the words I heard echoing through the banquet hall at the Sheraton Thursday following “Thrive,” the aptly named Woodland Park Zoo breakfast. The roomful, 700 strong, had just heard an address by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, hailed as the “Indiana Jones of Wildlife Conservation.”

Dr. Rabinowitz, a fit, tightly wound, graying zoologist, had taken the podium first quietly and then by storm. He told of his early childhood, marked by such severe stuttering that he was dismissed as developmentally disabled and sent to special education classes. The misfortune of having virtually no voice in his youth led him to become the voice of the endangered animals he learned to know at the Bronx Zoo during his inarticulate childhood.

As the Sheraton’s giant screens showed films of wild tigers – each animal with unique stripes, like a fingerprint, Dr. Rabinowitz mapped the plight of the tiger, decimated nearly to the point of extinction. He estimates there are 3,200 — or maybe only 2,500 — wild tigers left in the world, less than the total found in zoos. These magnificent beasts have been hunted almost to death for their parts, prized as an aphrodisiac by herbal medicine dealers. The wild tigers have lost 50 percent of their genome. Today they are different creatures and have lost more than 99 percent of their habitat.

It is this pathetic, not-quite 1 percent of the tigers’ territory that Dr. Rabinowitz is trying to save through the work of Panthera, an organization that he serves as CEO. He not only believes he can save the tiger – he says “it’s not rocket science” – but he has dedicated his life to that goal. He works in places of extreme danger, in jungles where there are well-armed poachers and in countries that may not have the will to preserve the world’s last wild places.

Dr. Rabinowitz is in a hurry to do what needs to be done. He has been diagnosed with leukemia and may not have long. But he is resolved to give the task all he has in the time remaining. That much was evident from his speech, tremendously articulate with just the occasional stutter-like slip to remind the audience of the years when he didn’t have a voice. Now he has a compelling message, easily the most stirring speech that we may ever hear on behalf of vanishing wild life.

Thrive guests picked up their favors, tiger ornaments left at each breakfast setting, a reminder that Woodland Park Zoo is partnering with Panthera and not so coincidentally haslaunched a campaign to develop an Asian Tropical Forest, a $21 million naturalistic habitat for the tiger and the sloth bear.

One of the morning’s guests, truly blown away, said, “It made me want to write a bigger check, chuck everything and go off and save the tiger.”

Read the full post at http://jeangodden.com/notebook/2012/03/save-the-tiger/

Visit the Woodland Park Zoo's website.