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A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future Paperback – Jan 1 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (Jan. 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520236769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520236769
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #422,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.

From Booklist

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.

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First Sentence
he elephant destined to become the most famous animal in the world was captured as a youngster, probably in Ethiopia in 1861, sold to a Bavarian animal dealer, sold again to the menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, then exchanged for an Indian rhinoceros and shipped to London Zoo, where he arrived on 26 June 1865, half-starved, incredibly filthy, and covered with sores (Bartlett, 1900).3 Read the first page
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Format: Hardcover
David Hancocks has a lot of bad things to say about zoos - but he doesn't come at it from a wing-nut "zoos are evil" perspective. He criticizes them, justifiably and intelligently, for doing a poor job. As he sees it, zoos should be able to help animals and truly educate people about nature (of which fauna are just one part), but most often they don't do so well enough.
He goes through the history of zoos, from ancient menageries to Disney's Animal Kingdom, and shows how that history relates to political, religious and scientific trends. He explains lucidly how zoos should (and sometimes do) interlock zoology with conservation, botany, geology, architecture and other fields. He doles out praise to various institutions when merrited - which is in several cases, but sadly, far outweighed by the times when zoos have failed. It's time to start doing a better job, while there's still time.
This book will give you a lot of food for thought, and make you see animals and nature and zoos in a new light. It will makes you see zoos' flaws, but also their potential.
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Format: Hardcover
See the excellent review of this book in the journal, Science (Vol. 292, page 1304, 18 May 2001), by Michalel H. Robinson, the former director of the US National Zoo. The role of zoos is normally conceived of as fourfold: to promote recreation, education, research and conservation. He concludes that, in fact, only the very best zoos realize this potential. How many visitors, for example, leave a zoo knowing more about animal needs or their native habitats than when they entered? This reflects a failure of zoological parks to promote "biological literacy." Part of the problem is the frequent catering of zoological parks to show off charismatic vertebrates to humans desiring to see them. Yet it is increasingly recognized that effective conservation must be ecological in scope and based on large-scale "in situ" preservation of habitats. This book calls for a new vision of Zoological Gardens, to help save the world around us.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Superb! Knowledge, scope, logic, and honesty is excellent, clear & concise. Aug. 4 2005
By Dustin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When I first opened up this book, I skipped to the last couple of chapters as I had read a couple of other books on zoos recently, I didn't think I would want to read the first few chapters as it would be repetitive information from the others - I ended up going to the start and reading the whole book, in < 2 days. The writing style is clear,logic good, and author's knowledge of zoos (And newer concepts) - all over the world is extensive, detailed, and impressive. He has a sharp eye for how a zoo is an alteration of reality.

I realized early on that the author knows his stuff when I read a single paragraph in one of the later chapters where he identified quite possibly the best zoo in the world - The Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. A zoo I visited in late 2003 - which surprised me as being quite innovative, and impressively landscaped, and designed. (Author also highlights the Costa Rica ZooAve, Belize Zoo, and Tuxtle Guiterrez, Mexico zoo - I haven't been to any of these)

As an extensive traveler and scuba diver, I dislike zoos intensely, aquariums less so. The difference between making the effort to see an animal in the wild versus at a zoo like a checklist is to put it mildly - like night and day. This author understands it. (Though I was quite impressed by Singapore's night safari concept - also heard of a night one in Malaysia - though not been yet. Many animals are more active at night.)

I've been to a handful of zoos and aquariums, most of them recently in support of a project - but they are "among the best" - San Diego, Seattle's Woodland Park, and aquariums - Monterey Bay, Seattle, and Osaka, Japan and a couple of others that are shameful - Tacoma Zoo, Monte Carlo aquarium. I hope I never visit one again - save for a few, countable on one hand, that the author highlights.

Mr. Hancocks gives a short, but concise overview on the history of zoos / animal keeping - starting from Egypt to the present day - how they evolved and how they are changing / "improving." His detailed knowledge of specific exhibits types globally, and the fallacy of zoo "conservation" efforts is impressive to say the least. He also talks about what zoos, bioparks, or museums might look like in the future, and what their future role should / can be, and even why they fall short of better examples today. He does offer both praise and criticism. He notes the irony of many zoo initiatives. I can't recommend this book any higher. This easily vaults into one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read.

Instead of zoos, how about building cities of harmony? In Nara, Japan, a modern town of 365k, 1,200 deer roam freely. There is a yearly ceremony where the antlers are cut off, otherwise they roam around in a large central park, unfenced. Accidents with cars are few due to walkable streets and low speed car traffic.

Additional books I recommend:

Life at the Zoo - perspective from a zoo veterinarian - though his logic is not quite as sound as Mr. Hancocks, nor is his knowledge of zoos around the world. Good writing style though, attentive to details, and easy to read bibliography (Which is how I found - A Different Nature).

Keepers of the Kingdom:New American Zoo - Coffee table style book with lots of large colorful photographs on the newest "innovations" of American Zoos (By a reknown NG wildlife photographer)

Zoo: A History of Zoological Gardens in the West - Quite detailed history, but easy to get lost in the writing. LOTS of wondeful historical photographs / pictures from the past. Many from Europe.

...read A Different Nature for intellectual honesty and a global perspective, Life At the Zoo for some more details and perspective from a zoo doctor, and check out the other two for the wonderful photographs!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
from the Science review July 10 2001
By BlueJay54 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
See the excellent review of this book in the journal, Science (Vol. 292, page 1304, 18 May 2001), by Michalel H. Robinson, the former director of the US National Zoo. The role of zoos is normally conceived of as fourfold: to promote recreation, education, research and conservation. He concludes that, in fact, only the very best zoos realize this potential. How many visitors, for example, leave a zoo knowing more about animal needs or their native habitats than when they entered? This reflects a failure of zoological parks to promote "biological literacy." Part of the problem is the frequent catering of zoological parks to show off charismatic vertebrates to humans desiring to see them. Yet it is increasingly recognized that effective conservation must be ecological in scope and based on large-scale "in situ" preservation of habitats. This book calls for a new vision of Zoological Gardens, to help save the world around us.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
If You Like Animals Even a Little, Read This Book June 17 2001
By Jonah Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
David Hancocks has a lot of bad things to say about zoos - but he doesn't come at it from a wing-nut "zoos are evil" perspective. He criticizes them, justifiably and intelligently, for doing a poor job. As he sees it, zoos should be able to help animals and truly educate people about nature (of which fauna are just one part), but most often they don't do so well enough.
He goes through the history of zoos, from ancient menageries to Disney's Animal Kingdom, and shows how that history relates to political, religious and scientific trends. He explains lucidly how zoos should (and sometimes do) interlock zoology with conservation, botany, geology, architecture and other fields. He doles out praise to various institutions when merrited - which is in several cases, but sadly, far outweighed by the times when zoos have failed. It's time to start doing a better job, while there's still time.
This book will give you a lot of food for thought, and make you see animals and nature and zoos in a new light. It will makes you see zoos' flaws, but also their potential.
Two Stars Oct. 23 2014
By Highland Gal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neither appropriate or particularly interesting for a teenager.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorite books Aug. 23 2007
By Fernanda M.S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a fantastic literary work based on an extensive literature review, sincerely (and lacking of drama) exposes the reality of zoological gardens in the world. This is not one more book talking about cruelty, and horror stories around zoos. This is a fantastic, well researched, written and founded call for a wake up for everyone involved with zoological parks.
I've found it quite inspiring, in fact. There are so many things we can do to improve 1) the quality of life of the animals in captivity, and 2) the intellectual experience of the visitors.
Those who work in a zoo, no matter where in the world, or what type of zoo it is, will probably feel this book as an intervention. It clearly let us know what we have been doing wrong, but it also clearly exposes examples of how to do it right.
Fantastic!


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