Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Review -- Zoo Story

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

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

My rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars ««« ½

Book source:  Public library

For the sensitive reader:  OK


For someone who isn’t much of an animal lover, I have quite an affinity for animal/zoo-genre books. Some of my favorites:

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Life of Pi
Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo
The Lady and the Panda

My latest venture into the world of wild animals is Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, by Thomas French. Mr. French follows the daily grind of zookeepers, management, patrons, and primarily the animals, at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

We are introduced to Herman, an alpha Chimp, who was the first Lowry Park inhabitant; Enshalla, a Sumatran tiger whose beauty and ferocity is both feared and prized; and 4 African elephants that Lowry Park has had directly shipped to Florida from a reserve in Swaziland. Overseeing this menagerie is Lex Salisbury, the executive director, who is trying to marry three converging efforts: Conservation, increased animal population and a non-profit status.

There was nothing particularly extraordinary about this book. It did a nice job of exploring the day to day activities that zookeepers face when caring for a collection of animals. It also intimately tells the stories of how many of these keepers develop a direct love for those animals that are in their care. Particularly poignant are the stories of Herman and Enshalla.

The least liked part of the book was the political drama set forth by Lex Salisbury’s actions. A powerful animal advocate, Lex’s day to day administration of the Zoo leads to disaster, for both animal and human alike.

Ultimately, this book gives an objective look at the life of zoos. We as humans are decimating many animals’ natural habitat, making zoos necessary. Zoos are also leading the way to rehabilitating certain species for their release back into the “wild.” In the end I suppose, we all wish zoos weren’t necessary, but if current conditions continue, they may be the last place we see many of the earth’s current species.

From the publisher: