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Many people find zoos saddening: the animals often seem depressed and understimulated in dreary, unnatural settings. Hancocks (Animals and Architecture), an architect and director of the Open Range Zoo in Melbourne, Australia, confirms the accuracy of those impressions. He became concerned about the plight of zoo animals when, as a university student, he looked into a gorilla's intelligent eyes: "I walked away from London Zoo that day... feeling confused and depressed." This brilliantly researched and persuasive book traces the sociology of animal captivity back to Paleolithic times, when "wild animal ownership bestowed prestige and power." Speculating that the first zoo appeared in Sumeria 4,300 years ago, Hancocks explores zoo design, ecology and history worldwide. He praises certain model institutions, including the Bronx Zoo, Emmen Zoo in Holland and Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. Otherwise, he stridently criticizes many zoo practices, such as "disjointed exhibits," cramped conditions and even bad cafeteria food. "My proposal is to uninvent zoos as we know them and to create a new type of institution, one that... engenders respect for all animals and that interprets a holistic view of Nature." Zoos shouldn't solely provide entertainment, he says, but should educate visitors about animals and encourage preservation of their natural habitats. They should also hold a multitude of species, not just the most popular or beautiful ones. Though the somewhat academic text loses steam midway, Hancocks's passion for creating humane environments for captive animals revives it at the end. Photos.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The capture and display of wild animals, an ancient and universal phenomenon, embodies a dichotomy, Hancocks explains in this engrossing history of zoos and their role in society: humans revere nature yet seek to dominate and control it, a doomed endeavor that has caused widespread environmental degradation. Working from the premise that zoo design reflects "our attitudes to and relationship with nature," Hancocks, director of the Open Range Zoo at Werribee, Australia, contrasts the horrific massacres of thousands of wild animals in the Colosseum with Montezuma's splendidly humane zoo, then chronicles the first scientifically oriented zoos in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England and Germany and their American offshoots. His critique of the miseries associated with their museumlike warehousing of living creatures is electrifying, the perfect lead-in to his discussion of the slow realization that naturalistic habitats are essential to zoo animals' health and happiness. What zoos must do now, Hancocks concludes, is help educate people about natural systems, biodiversity, and the pressing need for preservation. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.