On Thursday night, actress Jane Alexander appeared at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y in conversation with her fellow actor and longtime friend Sam Waterston about Alexander’s new book, “Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth,” which has just come out from Alfred A. Knopf. One of the observations Alexander made was that, at present, only 15 percent of the planet is set aside for wildlife preserves. She said that she would like to see 25 to 30 percent set aside; “if we have the will to do it.”
Waterston, who appeared for 16 years in the role of Jack McCoy on the “Law & Order” television series, which was directed for much of that period by Alexander’s husband Ed Sherin, asked questions about the book, and she answered them. Near the end of their talk, she also responded to several queries posed by members of the audience.
Alexander is a dedicated conservationist, something that began for her with an enthusiasm for birding, a hobby she took up early in her acting career since she could easily do it while on location for films. Her involvement accelerated when she met and became close friends with Alan Rabinowitz, known as the Tiger Man, a field biologist, zoologist and conservationist who is an activist on behalf of big cats. He has spearheaded the creation of a “jaguar corridor” of untouched land throughout Central and South America so that the animals can have enough territory to roam undisturbed.
Many large mammals are now in danger of extinction, because of habitat loss and, in the case of elephants and rhinos, rampant poaching. “I’ve just said, ‘I’m not going to let this happen on my watch,’” Alexander noted. “We have to go on faith that everything is connected to everything else.”
As for what the average person can do to help, Alexander recommends researching and choosing three charities which speak to them.
“I’m always alert when I am outside,” said the actress/conservationist, whose book details her travels with noted scientists, which often involve a considerable amount of roughing it. She recalled a time out tracking cats in the jungle with Rabinowitz, who at one point told her to keep moving because a jaguar was about three feet away. As she pointed out, though, jaguars are not aggressive with humans.
“I never feel bored when I’m outside,” she said. “I just find the panoply of the Creator’s imagination incredible.”
Waterston is involved in the organization Oceana, which he said he was drawn to because, growing up in coastal Maryland, he had believed the shoals of cod on the Grand Banks were inexhaustible and then suddenly, the population collapsed. He said, “You think that the jig is up, but it’s never up. It’s up to us.”