As a child, Alan would whisper to jaguars at the zoo… because with his severe stutter, he couldn’t talk to people at all. He swore to them that if he ever overcame his handicap, he would become their voice among humans.
Alan not only learned to speak, but became a powerful and moving advocate for these animals and all wildlife. As a young scientist, he drove from New York to Latin America to track and study jaguars in the wild for the first time. But Alan’s voyage was not just about finding a cause he believed in; it was about overcoming anger and a sense of broken-ness through love, hard work, and an honest acceptance of who he really was. In the course of advocating for wild cats, he discovered how to grow and adapt as a human being.
“By the time I was a senior in college, I had never been out on a date with a girl, I had never kissed a girl– except for my mother– and I had never spoken a completely fluent sentence out loud to another human being… [but] I learned that I was a stutterer and I was always going to be a stutterer. There was no magic pill, and I was not going to wake up one morning– as I always dreamt– and be a fluent speaker. But if I worked hard, I could be a completely fluent stutterer.”
Alan has since traveled to dozens of countries to track wild cats and speak out for their protection. In Belize, he convinced the government to set up the world’s first dedicated jaguar preserve. In Burma, he traveled beyond the farthest road in search of the Snow Leopard. And today, he is the CEO of Panthera— a wildlife nonprofit dedicated to protecting jaguars and all of the world’s 37 wild cat species.
He is also an all-time favorite at The Moth, a storytelling project based in New York City which asks people to stand up in front of an audience and tell their story live — perhaps a fitting end for the young man who once had never spoken a fluent sentence.
• Hear Alan tell how he searched for jaguars and overcame his stutter at The Moth (“Man and Beast”), or the lesson he learned from the last of the Taron.
• Read more about wild cats on Alan’s website or watch the BBC documentary “Lost Land of the Tiger” which features Alan searching for tigers in Bhutan.
• Donate via Alan’s website to help wild cats survive around the world.