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  Field Notes From
Valley of Death

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From Author

Alan Rabinowitz

Valley of Death On Assignment

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From Photographer

Steve Winter

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Steve Winter


Valley of Death

Field Notes From Author
Alan Rabinowitz

Best Worst Quirkiest
    One of the most memorable things was talking with Ah Puh, one of the top Lisu hunters in the Hukawng Valley. Before we started gathering wildlife data, we did interviews to find out who the best hunters were and what they were killing. This guy's name popped up all over the place. He has probably been responsible for killing more tigers than all the other people in the valley put together.
    When I was sitting with him in his hut, he looked at his trophy wall of skulls and almost went into his own world. He knew how little wildlife there was in the jungle compared to years before, and he realized that if he wanted to help save these animals that had sustained him in the past, it was time to start.
    This gave me hope because you can never change people's minds by telling them what to do. He worked with our tiger team, and hopefully he will be working with the park staff in the future.

    When I was in the valley in 2000, there was little accessibility other than by walking and there was hardly anyone there. When I returned a couple of years later, a gold rush had started and people were pouring in. After having surveyed this incredible pristine forest and helping to set up a wildlife sanctuary inside it, to come back and see a new road and bridges built and to witness this huge gold boom was a great disappointment for me.
    It wasn't so much the opening of the roads per se. It was that all of it was happening so fast. In my long-term management strategy for that area I would have recommended building the road and the bridges to help the local people, but in a slower, more controlled manner. This massive gold rush created a cowboy town mentality, a lot of people coming in looking for fast money. Seeing this was a low point for me, and there were moments when I thought it was all lost.

    During one of my early trips into the valley, I had a severe bout of diarrhea that none of my Western medicines seemed to stem. A local person gave me a powder made from a group of Himalayan plants that was famous in the region. He said it would cure my ills, but he didn't give me any dosage directions. The powder worked when I added some of it to my morning coffee. But the medicine worked a little too well; I was constipated for the next five days.


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