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Publisher's Summary

Welcome to the savage and surprising world of Zoo Story, an unprecedented account of the secret life of a zoo and its inhabitants, both animal and human. Based on six years of research, the book follows a handful of unforgettable characters at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo: an alpha chimp with a weakness for blondes, a ferocious tiger who revels in Obsession perfume, and a brilliant but tyrannical CEO known as El Diablo Blanco.

Zoo Story crackles with issues of global urgency: the shadow of extinction, humanity's role in the destruction or survival of other species. More than anything else, though, it's a dramatic and moving true story of seduction and betrayal, exile and loss, and the limits of freedom on an overcrowded planet - all framed inside one zoo reinventing itself for the 21st century.

Thomas French, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, chronicles the action with vivid power: Wild elephants soaring above the Atlantic on their way to captivity. Predators circling each other in a lethal mating dance. Primates plotting the overthrow of their king. The sweeping narrative takes the listener from the African savannah to the forests of Panama and deep into the inner workings of a place some describe as a sanctuary and others condemn as a prison.

All of it comes to life in the book's four-legged characters. Zoo Story shows us how these remarkable individuals live, how some die, and what their experiences reveal about the human desire to both exalt and control nature.

©2010 Thomas French (P)2010 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The book captures the fascination humans have with animals, and vice versa, and raises questions about the purpose and management of zoos." (Kirkus)
"A thoughtful and moving but unsentimental portrait of life in captivity and a broad introduction to some of its most salient—and intractable—dilemmas." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Story
  • Katherine
  • Boise, ID, United States
  • 09-02-10

Excellent!

This is one of my favorite audible books, ever. The author offers a balanced, well researched point of view, written with great style and affection for the subject. The reader is superb as well, showing feeling for the subject.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Good Story - Bad Narrator

This is an interesting story of a zoo and it's inhabitants spanning several decades and continents. I wish I would have bought the hard copy and read it - it was a struggle to listen to this narrator for so many hours. His narration was monotone and sing-song (a contradiction, I know) - this made what could have been an excellent book barely acceptable. After the first 10 minutes I seriously considered contacting customer service to ask for my credit back. But I did persevere and the story was worth it in the end. It was heartbreaking at the end so be forewarned.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Sharon
  • GLEN ELLEN, CA, United States
  • 04-14-12

Mixed feelings about zoos did not change

As someone who works with wildlife, I have had mixed feelings about zoos for a long time, so I thought this book would appeal to me - and it did. There are many stories about animals, but it was also the stories about the people who work with them that made this interesting. I thought John Allen Nelson was a good narrator for this story.

The story of the elephants that were captured in the wild in Africa and brought to the zoo in Florida was fascinating. It really turned me off at first, but then these elephants would have been culled if they had stayed in Africa. Generally I don't feel that zoos should take animals from the wild, and I don't feel that elephants in particular should be in zoos at all. Still, if people can't see elephants, how do they know what it is we are trying to save? It is a tricky question.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Loved the story, learned a lot!

My book club choose this book and I very much enjoyed it. Great story, non fiction so I learned a ton and really made me look at zoos in a whole new way. I highly recommend this listen!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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  • Story

enjoyable listen

as it was written in a biography style, it could easily be overlooked on a shelf. i think that the reader made the difference. it was interesting and entertaining

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Not as good as I had hoped.

Would you try another book from Thomas French and/or John Allen Nelson?

Probably not.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Still trudging through the Audible version--might or might not finish it. If I have to use the word "trudge," that's not a good sign.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator's style had a repetitive rhythm to it that grew annoying. He also was too matter of fact. His style would suit a more dramatic book, such as a biography of Eliot Ness, or other nonfiction history, like tales from WWII. The narrator's predictable tone and dry delivery caused my attention to drift more than once. Subsequently I feel that I missed important facts, but there is no way I can slog through a re-listen. I might pick up a print copy for that purpose.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

I doubt it.

Any additional comments?

The narrator wasn't the only disappointment in this Audible book. The author, in a scattered, non-linear fashion, tried to cover too many aspects of zoos, wildlife, habitat loss, animal sentience, administrative politics, and more. He held forth at length on each topic, to the point where it seemed that if one word would have sufficed, the author felt compelled to use ten. Between the irritating narration and the rambling story line, I started to lose interest in this book. That's particularly sad, as I just finished orientation as a volunteer at a zoo in a major U.S. city. I had hoped to gain a few insights through this book--and I have, but at the cost of wading through piles of verbiage that were not well presented.

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  • Story

Zoo Politics, Zoo Tragedy, Zoo Dreams

Much of my adult life has turned within the world of animal medicine and ecological and environmental issues have always been close to my heart. I am a bunny lover but also a realist who has labored inside the financial and heart rending constraints of rescue work. Even so, I found parts of this book brutal and more than I could bear. I want to believe that with enough caring people and enough sacrificial giving we can find ways to treat all animals with the dignity and bounty they deserve. This book wants me to accept that there is no solution but the heartless culling of thousands of our apex species because space and resources demanded by explosive human population growth demands it. I was still living in ignorance - blissful, hopeful ignorance. The subtitle for this book might as well have been, The death of Zoo dreams.

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  • Story
  • Nancy
  • United States
  • 03-02-16

Leaves a lot to be desired

While the story is an interesting one, it is not as well written as it might have been.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • CJ
  • 06-18-12

Not An Interest Grabber

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I'm still trying to get through it. I was captivated in the beginning with the story of the elephants in Africa, but the rest of the book is pretty much a snooze-fest.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Probably not.

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  • Performance
  • Story

The complicated world of zoos

What did you love best about Zoo Story?

This was a very exciting book, which explores the complicated relationship of zoos to conservation and the blurry grey areas of good and bad zoo keeping, and the problem of wild natural animals in civilized engineered human spaces. I really enjoyed the book and was pleased that it was very balanced in how zoos are good and bad.

What other book might you compare Zoo Story to and why?

Monsters of God By David Quamman

What about John Allen Nelson’s performance did you like?

it was not annoying. Nothing worse than a narrator who has an annoying voice.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It had me from the beginning, when they were transporting a herd of elephants on a plane.I cried several times throughout the book.

Any additional comments?

This book answers many questions and raises some as well, as far as how humans deal with and preserve animals.

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