Z is for Zoo Story

I have no idea where I got this book. It was sitting among our piles of books on the coffee table for, I don’t know, a year or two? I must have bought it sometime at a used bookstore, but I don’t recall.


For whatever reason, a few months ago, I picked it up and was captivated.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Thomas French reported exhaustively on the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla., for this fascinating and beautifully written book. Beginning with the transport of elephants imported from a game park in Swaziland, the book explores the delicate balance between conserving endangered animals and exploiting them for profit.

One of the strengths of the book is that it presents both sides. As an animal lover, my heart breaks when an animal dies violently in captivity. I want to advocate for keeping animals in their native environment. But what can we do when there is no place in Africa for the elephants? Are they better off being airlifted to a zoo in Florida?

I really appreciate the end notes that let readers know exactly where French got his information. The opening of the book reads as though he were on the plane with the elephants. Consulting the end notes, I saw that the description was based on interviews with those who were there. A lot of the time however, French’s reporting is first-hand.

See that cover blurb from Washington Monthly? “Zoo Story is a very fun read.”

I wouldn’t go that far. I recommend it highly, but I wouldn’t call it “fun.” The plight of many of these captive animals is devastating.

Z is for Zoo Story


And thus, we arrive at the end of the alphabet. However, I started with B is for Best Friends, so I owe you a letter A. Check back tomorrow.

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

6 thoughts on “Z is for Zoo Story

  1. I have this book and am looking forward to reading it. I did not realize or remember that it was set at the Lowry Park Zoo – I have been there and it is a particularly nice facility.

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