This illustration of Alan Rabinowitz has been floating around in my head for the past couple of months, and with this week’s Illustration Friday theme of “vocal,” I figured what better time to actually put pen to paper for this one.
Rabinowitz, one of the world’s leading wildlife conservationists, was born with a debilitating stutter that dictated every aspect of his life through his childhood to his early adulthood. The New York City school system placed him in special classes through the sixth grade, deeming him handicapped; he didn’t fluently speak a complete sentence to other people until he was nineteen (that’s right, not for nineteen years!). But like other severe stutterers, for psychological reasons, he was able to speak to animals all the while.
The Bronx Zoo in New York was a refuge for Rabinowitz growing up. In interviews he tells a story about one particular visit, watching a jaguar pace in the Big Cat House at the zoo, and empathizing with its silent frustration. He whispered a promise to the jaguar: “I’ll find a place for us.”
Through therapy, Rabinowitz was eventually able to find his voice, and as promised, became that voice for animals — and especially for big cats. I won’t attempt to summarize the profound and wide-spread impact Dr. Rabinowitz’s work has had on big cat populations throughout the world, but to any and all reading this, I highly encourage you read (and listen) on elsewhere!: