Thursday, September 1, 2011
Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captivity
I read a review of this book in The Manhattan Mercury and checked it out from the public library. I've always had mixed feelings about zoos. Certainly in their current incarnation, most zoos are designed for maximum space and stimulation for the animals and the majority of the animals in zoos were bred in captivity rather than being captured in the wild. And accredited zoos (like our own Sunset Zoo) are active participants in conservation education and breeding programs to help maintain genetic diversity for endangered animals. However, I have always felt sad for the animals kept in captivity and on display.
Thomas French is a reporter in Florida who wrote a series of articles on the Tampa Zoo, which he used to write this book. His in-depth look at the animals in the zoo (including their life histories) along with the humans who choose to work daily with these animals is fascinating. The politics of zoos is also examined, particularly through the lens of the overambitious director of the Tampa zoo.
This book made me cry more than once for the animals and their keepers. If you love animals and nature, this book is well worth your time.