American Zoo: A Sociological Safari by David Grazian

By David Grazian

Orangutans swing from Kevlar-lined fireplace hoses. Giraffes dinner party on celebratory birthday brownies crowned with carrots rather than candles. Hi-tech dinosaur robots growl between metal timber, whereas owls watch lively cartoons on outdated tv units. In American Zoo, sociologist David Grazian takes us on a safari in the course of the modern zoo, alive with its many contradictions and weird wonders.

Trading in his tweed jacket for a zoo uniform and a couple of muddy paintings boots, Grazian introduces us to zookeepers and animal rights activists, mom and dad and children, and the opposite human primates that make up the zoo's social global. He exhibits that during a massive shift clear of their unlucky pasts, American zoos this day emphasize naturalistic shows teeming with lush and immersive landscapes, breeding courses for endangered animals, and enrichment actions for his or her captive creatures. In doing so, zoos blur the imaginary barriers we frequently use to split tradition from nature, people from animals, and civilization from the wild. even as, zoos deal with a wasteland of competing priorities--animal care, schooling, clinical study, and recreation--all whereas trying to function facilities for conservation within the wake of the present environmental and climate-change challenge. the area of the zoo displays how we undertaking our personal prejudices and wishes onto the animal state, and make investments nature with that means and sentiment.

A revealing portrayal of comedian animals, overjoyed youngsters, and feisty zookeepers, American Zoo is a notable close-up exploration of a vintage cultural allure.

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An old shoe, rusty can or bottle sometimes becomes a fringehead’s home. ] Tucked snugly into the junk with just his head poking out, a male guards his castle, ready to charge at trespassers. 58 Much of that drifting debris concentrates around five major garbage patches, accumulations of bath toys, tires, polystyrene foam containers, bags, bottles, and other waste that oceanic winds, currents, and tides draw together in swirling masses of trash. ” Such artworks poignantly illustrate how human activities reconstitute every inch of the Earth’s environmental reality.

One set of exhibit design strategies involves controlling the sight lines and visual experience of both animal and visitor alike through the manipulation of physical space. An obvious impediment to building even simulated wilderness in zoos is that animals live in massively spacious habitats in the wild, especially nomadic creatures such as polar bears and wolves. Nature makers therefore manipulate sight lines to create an illusion of limitless space and total animal control over the environment.

The African wild dogs at the Philadelphia Zoo enjoy Chanel No. 5, while the San Diego Zoo’s giant pandas prefer Ralph Lauren Polo for Men. The San Francisco Zoo’s snow leopards go wild for Old Spice, and keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park supply their tigers with deer antlers sprayed with Calvin Klein’s Obsession. With spring in the air, Metro Zoo keepers once sprayed a donated sixty-dollar bottle of Trésor in Love eau de parfum by Lancôme on the insides of a coati’s enclosure. Enrichment also involves employing strategic animal management practices that provide mental stimulation while discouraging stereotypic behaviors, as in the aforementioned example of providing novel foraging opportunities for gorillas.

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