Posted by: terrytek | August 4, 2011

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French

Year published: 2010

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Pros:

  1. Balanced view of a controversial subject
  2. Anecdotal stories are captivating

Cons:

  1. I found the part of the book dealing with the zoo’s director less compelling than the animal and keeper stories that make up the majority of the book.

Warning: following discussion contains spoilers

Zoo Story is a very readable story about the evolution of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The author does a great job of portraying the contradiction inherent in any zoo’s mission: balancing conservation efforts against running an entertainment venue. The central story at the beginning of the book is illustrative. Two nature reserves in Swaziland have too many elephants. Their population density in the parks is causing massive deforestation. Is it better that they be “culled” (i.e. killed), or sold to American zoos? How humane is it to expose intelligent elephants to experiences they have no hope of understanding such as a trans-Atlantic flight? The elephants’ story is just one aspect of the animal tales in this book. I felt like reading the stories of these animals gave me an insight into their day-to-day living in captivity like nothing I had ever read before.

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