THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM: A Year in the Life of America's Oldest Zoo by John Sedgwick

THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM: A Year in the Life of America's Oldest Zoo

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Sedgwick's one-year study of the daily goings-on at the Philadelphia Zoo paints a picture of anything but a ""peaceable"" zoo kingdom. Sedgwick (Night Vision, 1982; Rich Kids, 1985) reports here on virtually everything he sees, and covers much territory--from the history of the institution to its breeding program for endangered animals to the roles of various staff personnel. But his overemphasis on the dangerous aspects of zoo work detracts from his book's effectiveness. We learn of keepers ""tusked"" by elephants, bitten by chimpanzees, and, in the case of a zoo worker's wife, brutally attacked by a ""pet"" wolf/dog. Beyond the accent on violence, however, there are touching, equally dramatic accounts--among them the birth of the first rhino baby at the Philadelphia Zoo; the arrival of a visiting dignitary, a koala named K'bluey; the raising of exotic baby animals by the zoo's two human surrogate mothers (for an infant kangaroo, an L.L. Bean bag is substituted for a pouch); and a zoo dentist whose patients include a plaque-plagued otter and a gorilla with a gargantuan bad tooth. The connective thread running throughout the chapters is the construction of a naturalistic primate center at the zoo, the opening of which provides an upbeat conclusion for the book. More selectivity in details and incidents presented would have made this a more cogent read; still, an unusual and interesting look at zoo life.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1987
Publisher: Morrow