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Beyond the Last Village
A Mountainous Journey of Personal Discovery

listen Listen to Alex Chadwick's interview with Dr. Alan Rabinowitz.

listen Web Exclusive: Hear an extended interview segment about the Taron people.

audioView a photo gallery of Alan Rabinowitz's Myanmar journey.

Oct. 17, 2001 -- In 1993, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz led the first scientific expedition in decades into the mountains of Myanmar. His goal was to explore and preserve large areas of the northern wilderness of the country formerly known as Burma.

While the mountains held promise of incredible biodiversity, they were also surrounded by an air of danger and mystery. Even residents of the most northern village called Putao were afraid of the mountains, believing they were inhabited by cannibals and large snakes.

In a conversation with NPR's Alex Chadwick, the science and exploration director at the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society describes his journey into the mountainous wilderness of northern Myanmar. Wednesday on Morning Edition.

Alan Rabinowitz crosses rope bridge

Alan Rabinowitz crosses a rope bridge in northern Myanmar.
Photo: Steve Winter
View a photo gallery.

For almost 20 years, Rabinowitz has traveled to some of the world's most isolated places to track and study large predators.

But it was when he reached a tiny village beyond where he had planned to go that Rabinowitz says he found "some of the answers I was seeking."

"It didn't come right away," he tells Chadwick. "It came through a small fatherless child who ended up taking me on as his adopted father. It came through a mother who ended up giving up her baby so that the baby would live and asked if we would take it back with us. It came through a Buddhist monk who was up there in the last village with us. Those answers had never come before. Deep inside me there was a piece of jumbled up broken pieces which just, had never come together. And they finally did come together in that last village."

Rabinowitz's expedition was very lucrative in other ways: It led to the discovery of three new species for Myanmar and a completely new species for science, called the leaf deer. The journey also enabled Rabinowitz to work with the country's National Park Service, resulting in the establishment of a series of conservation plans, as well as the creation of the Hkakabo Razi National Park, Myanmar's largest wildlife sanctuary.

Rabinowitz's new book, Beyond the Last Village documents his travels in Myanmar, as he pressed on to explore the land past Putao. He describes his experiences with the mountain residents, as he enters their world -- a land of hunting and barter systems, a land that's frozen in time.

Other Resources

Read an excerpt from Beyond the Last Village: A Journey of Discovery in Asia's Forbidden Wilderness by Alan Rabinowitz.

Visit the Wildlife Conservation Society Web site, and read an article on a wildlife sanctuary in Myanmar.

See a map of Myanmar.