Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

Author:  Thomas French

Genre:  Non-Fiction (2010)

About:  Behind the scenes look at a zoo and the animals who live there.

Descriptive Words:  Thought-provoking, politics, animal attacks, animal behavior

Interesting Tidbit:  The author was inspired to write Zoo Story after reading Life of Pi, in which the main character's family owns a zoo.

Thoughts:   My first thought...a non-fiction book about zoos and animals with no pictures?!  That really irked me. 

The main focus of this book was the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, and I didn't care for the whole behind the scenes/political aspect. It was very negative. I realize Zoo Story is the title of the book, not Zoo Animals, but the hirings and firings and disagreements and staff turnovers turned me off.  I also didn't like that the author focused so much on only one zoo. Is this how all zoos are?  Do they all have CEOs with volatile management styles like Lex Salisbury, whose nickname is El Diablo Blanco (The White Devil) and who cares more about his status in society than the care of the animals?  Lord, I hope not.

What I did like was getting to know some of the animals in depth, i.e., tigers Eric and Enshalla, and a chimp named Herman.  Herman was rescued and raised as a baby by a family, who, when he grew and became more difficult to handle, gave him to the zoo, where he lived for 16 years.  The story about his life and tragic death there was sad.  I also enjoyed the different stories about animal attacks on zookeepers and zoo patrons. 

I'm still on the fence about zoos in general. Their dedication to continuing the species of rare and endangered animals is praiseworthy, and zookeepers do their best to care for the animals.  But have you ever seen a tiger rhythmically pacing back and forth in his enclosure hour after hour? That breaks me heart.

Source:  Library

Why I Chose:  The cover / I love animals / I was curious to see how the author would portray zoos

Recommend?  Yes if you want to know the inside (and mostly negative) scoop about the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa; otherwise, no.  But I did enjoy the in-depth emotional stories about the animals.

Rating:  3.5 / 5  


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