Award-winning actress will discuss new book, conservation work

Jane Alexander, an award-winning actress known for her roles in movies like The Cider House Rules and shows like The Blacklist, will visit Wilton Library on Tuesday, Nov. 15, to discuss her other passion — conservation.

From 7 to 8:30 p.m., Alexander will discuss her new book — Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth — and share her experiences traveling to some of the world’s most exotic places and spending time with endangered species.

In her book, Alexander provides a personal look at the vastly changing world of wildlife, as well as the crucial work of animal and bird preservation being done by scientists, field biologists, zoologists, environmentalists, and conservationists.

Alexander got into conservation work in the early 1980s, when she met and befriended American zoologist and world-leading big cat expert Alan Rabinowitz in Belize. After that, she began traveling with other field biologists to different parts of the world.

“Once I began to travel with field biologists, it became clear to me that they weren’t just doing pure research science anymore — they were doing protection of the animals and the habitats as well,” Alexander told The Bulletin.

“They had moved from pure science to conservation, which seems to be what all scientists feel they have to do today in field biology.”

Alexander said many zoos have also changed their missions from “not just collection and education, but conservation as well.

“When I saw how diligently they were trying to protect these species — many of which were moving toward extinction like the tigers in the wild — I felt I needed to put my hat in the ring and work as hard as I could for the protection of species as well,” she said.

Alexander said it was Rabinowitz who helped get her involved with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. She joined the society in the 1980s and became a trustee.

“The best way to really help scientists in the field save the animals is through the organizations that support them or the institutions that are supporting them,” said Alexander.

Alexander said she tells people looking to help wildlife to “join any organization that [they] feel a strong affinity for.”

“If it’s elephants, join Save the Elephants or Wildlife Conservation Society — any organization that is helping to protect those animals and save them from poaching right now on the ground,” she said, “and sign all the petitions that the organization sends you, because they’re really, really important to get to our legislators.”

Alexander said she is particularly passionate about birds in general and she served as a board member of the American Bird Conservancy, as well as a park commissioner for the New York state parks. She is currently on the board of the National Audubon Society.

“I think if you’re either a member at large or a board member of these organizations, you really begin to see how your money can go strategically to one area or another,” she said.

The book

Alexander said there are three main parts to her book, which focuses on her travels with field biologists.

“The first part of it is about my meeting with Alan Rabinowitz in Belize, tracking jaguars with him and then visiting him in other places in the world where he had study sites,” she said.

Alexander said the first part also looks at Rabinowitz’s “arc of protecting the great cats of the world.” Rabinowitz is CEO of Panthera, a nonprofit conservation organization devoted to protecting the world’s 37 wild cat species.

“The second part of the book is called Wildlife Woman, and that’s about me coming of age as a conservationist and doing what I can and learning about species in different places,” she said.

The third part of the book — The Body of the Earth — is about “the miracles of life on Earth,” said Alexander, as well as “bad practices, the crises that animals are facing and then good practices, best practices, and how we can turn this around.”

By reading her book, Alexander said, she hopes people gain an understanding of “the interconnectedness of we, as the top mammal species in the world, between all living creatures.

“We don’t fully understand it because the web of connection is so complex,” she said, “but every single living thing — as the pope said in his encyclical on climate change last year — is important.

“He said even the smallest creatures in the soil are important … and everything in our lives as human beings depends on everything else in the world,” said Alexander. “We get everything we have from natural resources, so we can’t afford to destroy it.”

Wildlife crisis

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Living Planet Index , global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles have declined 58% since 1970.

“We are in a very critical state right now,” said Alexander, citing a recent WWF study that found that more than two-thirds of the world's wildlife could be gone by 2020.

“We really are in a critical state to try to coexist and live with them, and there is hope to do so,” she said.

“This is not the hardest thing in the world to take care of — it just means we all have to jump in together and do it.”

Alexander said she believes the best way to do that is to “support organizations that are supporting the people on the ground” working to protect wildlife.

“Whether it’s trying to stop poachers in Africa or Asia, or trying to plant the best kinds of vegetables in the Unites States,” she said.

“We’re all in it together and there are organization helping everybody accomplish the best practices.”

Alexander said she looks forward to her talk at Wilton Library, which is co-sponsored by Woodcock Nature Center and the library.

A Q&A period will follow her talk and copies of her book will be available for purchase and signing, courtesy of Elm Street Books. The program is free, but registration is highly recommended.

Information and registration:, 203-762-6334.