Beyond the Last Village: A Journey of Discovery in Asia's Forbidden Wilderness / Edition 1

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<p>"A fascinating account of inner and outer exploration and discovery in one of the last remote regions of the world - sharp-eyed, insightful, candid, and well written. "Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopar.<p>In 1993, Alan Rabinowitz, called "the Indiana Jones" of wildlife science by The New York Times, arrived for the first time in the country of Myanmar, known until 1989 as Burma, uncertain of what to expect. Working under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society, his goal was to establish a wildlife research and conservation program and to survey the country's wildlife. He succeeded beyond all expectations, not only discovering a species of primitive deer completely new to science but also playing a vital role in the creation of Hkakabo Razi National Park, now one of Southeast Asia's largest protected areas.<p>Beyond the Last Village takes the reader on a journey of exploration, danger, and discovery in this remote corner of the planet at the southeast edge of the Himalayas where tropical rain forest and snow-covered mountains meet. As we travel through this "lost world"-a mysterious and forbidding region isolated by ancient geologic forces-we meet the Rawang, a former slave group, the Taron, a solitary enclave of the world's only pygmies of Asian ancestry, and Myanmar Tibetans living in the furthest reaches of the mountains. We enter the territories of strange, majestic-looking beasts that few people have ever heard of and fewer have ever seen-golden takin, red goral, blue sheep, black barking deer. The survival of these ancient species is now threatened, not by natural forces but by hunters with snares and crossbows, trading body parts for basic household necessities.<p>The powerful landscape and unique people the author befriends help him come to grips with the traumas and difficulties of his past and emerge a man ready to embrace the world anew. Interwoven with his scientific expedition in Myanmar, and helping to inform his understanding of the people he met and the situations he encountered, is this more personal journey of discovery.
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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian
"It feels like Conrad's Heart of Darkness in reverse, as he escapes the 'civilisation' of a brutal military regime to find peace and light in the farthest lands."
The New York Times Book Review
"...often reads like a dispatch not just from a distant place but from a distant time, a letter home from the Age of Discovery that was somehow delayed in transit for a couple of centuries."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559638005
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,362,156
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Rabinowitz is Director of the Science and Exploration Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society based in the Bronx, New York. He is a frequent contributor to Natural History and is the author of two previous books: Jaguar (Island Press, 2000) and Chasing the Dragon's Tail (Doubleday, 1991).

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Read an Excerpt

Beyond the Last Village

A Journey of Discovery in Asia's Forbidden Wilderness
By Alan Rabinowitz

Island Press

Copyright ©2003 Alan Rabinowitz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1559638001


As soon as I entered the hut, the man sitting by the fire turned away from me. He had known I was coming. Two Taron women, his older and younger sisters, stood beside him. As Khaing worked with the translator to ask the women questions, I sat down beside the man, sipping tea and looking into the fire. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him cast furtive glances toward me. I waited.

I reached for the teapot sitting in the fire, forgetting that my hands were not as work-hardened as those of the villagers whom I'd watched do this many times. "Yow!" I hollered, dropping the pot, spilling the tea, and spraying myself with hot ashes. "Damn," I said, pounding out the smoking embers that were burning holes in my clothes. Suddenly, I heard the strangest sound and turned. The Taron man was now facing me, rocking back and forth, cackling with high-pitched laughter. Unwittingly, I had broken the ice between us.

His name was Dawi and, at 39, this stocky, impish-looking man was the youngest of the surviving Taron in Myanmar. He and his two sisters were the only pure Taron family left. The other eight Taron were part of Htalu families. As he poured the tea for me, I took outmy last remaining PowerBar, which I'd been saving for an emergency, and gave it to him. He sat facing me now. He was wearing a coarse, dirty blanket thrown over his shoulder, light cloth pants tied at the knees, and cloth leggings that ended at black, hardened feet that had never seen shoes. He was one of the few who still wore remnants of the Taron traditional dress. I asked him several questions that went unanswered. He nibbled around the edges of the PowerBar, smiling and speaking to his sisters in the Taron dialect; suddenly, the whole bar was gone in a gulp.

After many cups of tea and a long hard look at me, Dawi began to speak, straining to put into words thoughts he'd perhaps never voiced before. He'd remembered everything I had asked him, and the intensity of his gaze hinted at an intelligence that had probably been long suppressed.

"For many years the Taron only marry each other," Dawi started, almost in a whisper. "But when we have babies, the babies have small brains and small bodies. It was no good." He turned his eyes away for a moment and then looked back at me.

"We don't want Taron babies anymore," Dawi continued. "Long ago, the Taron decided not to have babies with each other. Only with Htalu. Some Htalu marry Taron, many do not want to. If Htalu won't marry Taron, then we die alone."

His voice became almost defiant. "There are few Taron left. Many die alone."

Dawi shifted his body away from me again and faced the fire. It must have taken a lot for him to tell me what he did, to face images of a past that was gone and future that would never be. Kingdon Ward called the Taron "one of nature's unsuccessful experiments." I think Dawi might have agreed. I didn't need to ask him what he thought of his own future. He was among the last. And he was dying alone.


Excerpted from Beyond the Last Village by Alan Rabinowitz Copyright ©2003 by Alan Rabinowitz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note XIII
Prologue XV
Chapter 1 Yangon, 1993 1
Chapter 2 Tarnished Golden Land 5
Chapter 3 Of Rhinos and Sea-Gypsies 13
Chapter 4 Gateway to the North 25
Chapter 5 Last Prayers at Shwedagon 43
Chapter 6 Into the Triangle 61
Chapter 7 Savage Land 71
Chapter 8 For the Love of Salt 89
Chapter 9 In the Shadow of Hkakabo Razi 101
Chapter 10 Lost Tribes of Tibet 123
Chapter 11 Pygmies of the Adung Wang Valley 135
Chapter 12 The Last Village 147
Chapter 13 Touching the Snow 165
Chapter 14 Child of Beyond 179
Chapter 15 Back into the World 187
Chapter 16 Genetic Fingerprints 203
Chapter 17 The Mysterious Leaf Deer 213
Chapter 18 The Ghost Valley 231
Chapter 19 Through the Looking Glass 247
Chapter 20 The Return 259
Epilogue 273
Acknowledgments 279
Selected Bibliography 283
Index 291
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