courtesy of "Nationaal Archief"
As a boy, little Alan spent much of his youth alone in his bedroom closet conversing with his pets. In the presence of peers, parents, and teachers, words became too slippery for him to clutch. But in the company of animals, Alan’s grip strengthened, as did his grasp of language.
When he wasn’t talking to his pets, he was speaking through the bars of cages to the inhabitants of the Bronx Zoo. His favorites were the large cats, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars. Though Alan found solace in their company, the relationships he formed were less than ideal: He was a visitor, and they, inmates.
In his teenage years, he came to the realization that such a world was in need of change. One day at the zoo, overcome by the somber look of his confined friend jaguar, Alan made a promise. With commanding words, he said, “I will find a place for us.”
Alan's pact became the focal point of his life. As his stutter and his pain began to recede, a passage within him emerged making way for empathy. The cries of the voiceless would impart to Alan both the grace of compassion and the power of speach. But he felt his words were not his alone.
Alan began speaking fluently for animals.
He got a Ph.D. in Ecology at the University of Tennessee, convinced a dictator to create the first ever jaguar preserve in Belize, and thanks to a Time Magazine article, became known as “The Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection.”