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New zoo book author

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Kara Arundel, 21 Oct 2017.

  1. Kara Arundel

    Kara Arundel New Member

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    Hello,
    My name is Kara Arundel and I am the author of a new book -- Raising America's Zoo -- about the true story of a family of gorillas that lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and the zoo's evolution from an antiquated animal park to an internationally respected conservation center.
    I wrote this book because my father-in-law brought two baby gorillas from Africa in 1955 on a commercial airplane and donated them to the National Zoo. Those gorillas' lives, the lives of their offspring, and the setbacks and victories of the humans who worked to make the gorillas' home at the zoo better during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, are told in this narrative non-fiction.
    I dedicated the book to people who care for animals and I also included a hidden message in the book. Let me know if you find it! Thank you to everyone who cares for animals.:)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 15 Mar 2018
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I typed up a review of this impressive new zoo book and I already posted it on another thread but I thought that it would be beneficial to place it here as well.

    Raising America's Zoo: How Two Wild Gorillas Helped Transform the National Zoo
    (2017), by Kara Arundel, is a fascinating non-fiction book that is both a history of western lowland gorillas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and also a history of the zoo itself. The book begins with a focus on Arthur "Nick" Arundel, Kara's father-in-law, as he attempts to obtain a young couple of gorillas from the Belgian Congo in 1955. That situation is then set aside as the book explores the origins of the National Zoological Park, the zoo's first gorilla (named N'Gi) and director William Mann's long tenure at the establishment. This section of the book is extremely interesting but at times slightly unfocused as it bounces around between the early years of the National Zoo and a look at a junior Nick Arundel's attempts to bring giraffes to the facility. Errors are few and far between, other than perhaps on page 9 the Central Park Zoo being called "New York City's Central Zoo" and on page 61 there is mention of "about 700 cages didn't even have labels" in regards to the financial struggles of the fledgling zoo. I've personally visited hundreds of zoos and aquariums and I've never imagined a zoological destination with more than 700 cages. Would that be accurate?

    The book gathers steam with many pages discussing the impact that the gorillas Nikumba and Moka made on both visitors and zoo professionals, and with the stunning revelation that a young toddler from British Columbia, Canada, was mauled to death by a lion in 1958. "If there was any good to have come from this tragic accident, it was that the zoo was finally getting the attention it needed to make overdue improvements" and the 1960s saw the blossoming of FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) and a new Master Plan. Giant pandas arrived in 1972 and "that following Sunday, 75,000 people waited in a quarter-mile-long line to welcome the furry diplomats". There are countless more terrific insights into the various gorilla troops that called the zoo home over the decades, a shocking couple of pages in regards to a lead poisoning epidemic that killed off approximately 50% of the zoo's primates "over a 15-year period from the mid-50s to the early 1970s" and many more tidbits of information that are not readily available in other zoo books. As great as the later chapters on gorillas are, one of my favourite sections is all about the opening of the CRC (Conservation and Research Center) in the early 1970s. The 3,150-acres in Front Royal, Virginia, about an hour from the National Zoo, is profiled and that facility is now known as the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (as of 2010). I'm not sure that I own another zoo book that provides as much information about this little-known 'satellite zoo' and the great work that has been accomplished there.

    Kara Arundel has worked as a journalist for more than two decades and this shows in her writing style as the book is packed with facts on every page. There are 35 pages of EndNotes and that illustrates the due diligence of her efforts. Other than a slight lack of focus during the first few chapters, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is a valuable addition to my library. I only wish that it was longer, as at 178 pages the book is easy enough to read in a couple of evenings. It would be fantastic if the author was to one day publish a longer history of the National Zoo, as that famous institution deserves to be honoured with a lengthy tome.

    Lastly, I should point out that in a future issue of Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News there will be a lengthier, more detailed review of this book by Chairman Tim Brown. I'm looking forward to reading his write-up and I've already heard that it will be another positive review of this excellent new book.

    Scott Richardson
     
  3. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review Scott - on the basis of your acclaim, I’ve ordered a copy as a Christmas present for myself. It sounds good!
     
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  4. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I've followed "Sooty's" example and, based on "snowleopard's" review, I've also ordered myself a copy of this book.

    Apart from William Mann's "Wild Animals In and Out of the Zoo" I don't have any other books about this collection, so I am looking forward to reading this.
     
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  5. TheGerenuk

    TheGerenuk Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to Zoochat!
     
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  6. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I agree with "snowleopard", this is an interesting book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading; I am pleased with my copy and glad "snowleopard"s" review encouraged me to purchase it.
    I concur with this comment too. There is certainly a need for an in-depth history of this zoo; especially one that provides details of the notable species the zoo housed during its early days.

    Amongst other noteworthy early residents, the zoo's collection included a marbled cat, a Sumatran rhinoceros, two Caribbean monk seals and five thylacines. Although, of course, the main focus of the new book is gorillas, I was somewhat surprised that there is no mention whatsoever of these interesting species in the section on the zoo's early history (even though a lot of information is supplied about the first elephants and giraffes).

    I certainly hope a subsequent more detailed history of the zoo follows.