Life at the Zoo: Behind the Scenes with the Animal Doctors

Life at the Zoo: Behind the Scenes with the Animal Doctors

by Phillip T. Robinson
     
 

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Please Do Not Annoy, torment, pester, plague, molest, worry, badger, harry, persecute, irk, bullyrag, vex, disquiet, grate, beset, bother, tease, nettle, tantalize or ruffle the Animals.—sign at zoo

Since the early days of traveling menageries and staged attractions that included animal acts, balloon ascents, and pyrotechnic displays, zoos have come a long…  See more details below

Overview

Please Do Not Annoy, torment, pester, plague, molest, worry, badger, harry, persecute, irk, bullyrag, vex, disquiet, grate, beset, bother, tease, nettle, tantalize or ruffle the Animals.—sign at zoo

Since the early days of traveling menageries and staged attractions that included animal acts, balloon ascents, and pyrotechnic displays, zoos have come a long way. The Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris, founded in 1793, didn’t offer its great apes lessons in parenting or perform dental surgery on leopards. Certainly the introduction of veterinary care in the nineteenth century—and its gradual integration into the twentieth—has had much to do with this. Today, we expect more of zoos as animal welfare concerns have escalated along with steady advances in science, medicine, and technology. Life at the Zoo is an eminent zoo veterinarian’s personal account of the challenges presented by the evolution of zoos and the expectations of their visitors. Based on fifteen years of work at the world-famous San Diego Zoo, this charming book reveals the hazards and rewards of running a modern zoo.

Zoos exist outside of the "natural" order in which the worlds of humans and myriad exotic animals would rarely, if ever, collide. But this unlikely encounter is precisely why today’s zoos remain the sites of much humor, confusion, and, occasionally, danger. This book abounds with insights on wildlife (foulmouthed parrots, gum-chewing chimps, stinky flamingoes), human behavior (the fierce competition for zookeeper jobs, the well-worn shtick of tour guides), and the casualties—both animal and human—of ignorance and carelessness. Phillip Robinson shows how animal exhibits are developed and how illnesses are detected and describes the perils of working around dangerous creatures. From escaping the affections of a leopard that thought he was a lap cat to training a gorilla to hold her newborn baby gently (instead of scrubbing the floor with it) and from operating on an anesthetized elephant ("I had the insecure sensation of working under a large dump truck with a wobbly support jack") to figuring out why a zoo’s polar bears were turning green in color, Life at the Zoo tells irresistible stories about zoo animals and zoo people.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Robinson, a retired San Diego Zoo veterinarian, offers a thorough tour of zoos covering their history and issues of animal care, feeding, handling, and exhibition. Veterinary care, he reveals, has come a long way but is still sometimes primitive. Lacking prior cases, veterinarians often face uncertain treatment options (and some of the photographs show that this situation may be unsettling). The author highlights the veterinarian's sometimes adversarial relationships with the rest of the zoo staff adversarial until an animal falls ill, of course. His professional concern for animal care qualifies him to present fairly a comprehensive look at the animal welfare debate. An annotated bibliography is included. Readers looking more for humorous anecdotes than scientific insight should turn to Peter Brazaitis's You Belong in a Zoo!. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. Alvin Hutchinson, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Booklist
The author entertains while educating the reader...an excellent introduction to the zoo world...the best single book to give teens who want to work in a zoo.

— Nancy Bent

San Diego Union-Tribune
Robinson's wry tone, coupled with his intimate knowledge of zoo animals and melancholic love for them, makes Life at the Zoo eerily compelling.

— Kate Callen

Animal Keepers' Forum: The Journal of the American Association of Zoo Keepers

People not involved in the zoo field will probably enjoy this behind the scenes look into what happens at the zoo. It is also a good addition to any zookeeper's personal collection if you enjoy reading zoo related books.

— Nannette Driver

New Scientist
Life at the Zoo is more than a personal memoir of an illustrious career, it is a wise and witty reflection on all aspects of zoo life.

— John Bonner

Washington Post
His plain-spoken descriptions of these close encounters make for the most vivid reading.

— Julia M. Klein

American Scientist
The book is compelling and ought to appeal to zoo lovers of all stripes.

Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society
Many lessons and much entertainment for all in this fascinating, frank and fair-minded book.

— Sally Walker

Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
The reader will come away with a better appreciation for zoo evolution and the difficulties faced as zoos cope with mounting political and fiscal pressures while trying to conserve dwindling wild animal populations.

— Kirk Suedmeyer

Animal Keepers' Forum
Robinson's wildly entertaining tales of illuminate the hazards and rewards of a world in which the "natural" and "unnatural" can collide, insightfully tracing the evolution of zoos from banal menageries to important conservation institutions.

Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society - Sally Walker
Many lessons and much entertainment for all in this fascinating, frank and fair-minded book.

Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine - Kirk Suedmeyer
The reader will come away with a better appreciation for zoo evolution and the difficulties faced as zoos cope with mounting political and fiscal pressures while trying to conserve dwindling wild animal populations.

Animal Keepers' Forum: The Journal of the American Association of Zoo Keepers
People not involved in the zoo field will probably enjoy this behind the scenes look into what happens at the zoo. It is also a good addition to any zookeeper's personal collection if you enjoy reading zoo related books.

— Nannette Driver

Booklist - Nancy Bent
The author entertains while educating the reader...an excellent introduction to the zoo world...the best single book to give teens who want to work in a zoo.

San Diego Union-Tribune - Kate Callen
Robinson's wry tone, coupled with his intimate knowledge of zoo animals and melancholic love for them, makes Life at the Zoo eerily compelling.

Animal Keepers' Forum: The Journal of the American Association of Zoo Keepers - Nannette Driver
People not involved in the zoo field will probably enjoy this behind the scenes look into what happens at the zoo. It is also a good addition to any zookeeper's personal collection if you enjoy reading zoo related books.

New Scientist - John Bonner
Life at the Zoo is more than a personal memoir of an illustrious career, it is a wise and witty reflection on all aspects of zoo life.

Washington Post - Julia M. Klein
His plain-spoken descriptions of these close encounters make for the most vivid reading.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231507196
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
11/05/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
919,068
File size:
13 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

What People are saying about this

Doctor - Kurt Benirschke
From his extensive firsthand experience, Robinson describes details of his recollections as one of the early zoo veterinarians in this readable book. The history of zoos, their remarkable change over the years, and the outlook for modern zoos with emphasis on conservation are detailed unemotionally, but very accurately. Robinson touches on nutrition, the visitors, architectural designs, and many other important issues facing the zoo world today. As an early proponent of competent veterinary care and science in zoos, he is well equipped to bring his extensive experience to the reader. I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone interested at all in the complexity of animal care in zoological gardens.
Dr. Jack Hanna
Life at the Zoo is a comprehensive look at all the unique aspects of zoos—both past and present. Dr. Robinson gives valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of the zoo world, touching on zoo keeping, animal diets, exhibit trends, and more. Life at the Zoo is a must-read for anyone considering a career with animals.

' - Lester Fisher
Combines the very best in the development of zoo/wildlife medicine, zoo operation, and the evolution of the modern zoo.... Poignant and humorous.

Doctor - Jack Hanna
Life at the Zoo is a comprehensive look at all the unique aspects of zoos — both past and present. Dr. Robinson gives valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of the zoo world, touching on zoo keeping, animal diets, exhibit trends, and more. Life at the Zoo is a must-read for anyone considering a career with animals.
Dr. Kurt Benirschke
From his extensive firsthand experience, Robinson describes details of his recollections as one of the early zoo veterinarians in this readable book. The history of zoos, their remarkable change over the years, and the outlook for modern zoos with emphasis on conservation are detailed unemotionally, but very accurately. Robinson touches on nutrition, the visitors, architectural designs, and many other important issues facing the zoo world today. As an early proponent of competent veterinary care and science in zoos, he is well equipped to bring his extensive experience to the reader. I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone interested at all in the complexity of animal care in zoological gardens.

Lester Fisher

Combines the very best in the development of zoo/wildlife medicine, zoo operation, and the evolution of the modern zoo.... Poignant and humorous.

— '
Lester Fisher, director emeritus, Lincoln Park Zoo

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Meet the Author

Phillip T. Robinson directed the veterinary medical program at the San Diego Zoo for ten years. He then became director of veterinary services and animal resources at the University of California, San Diego. A founding member of the board specialty of zoological medicine of the American College of Zoological Medicine and a past president of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, he has also worked on the medical problems of animals in private collections and has been on the design team for several major zoo-animal medical facilities in the United States.


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