Zooland: The Institution of Captivity

Dec 6, 2012

A book written by a University at Buffalo professor takes an extensive, behind-the-scenes look at zoos.  A book launch party will beheld Thursday night at Talking Leaves on Main Street for "Zooland: The Institution of Captivity." 

WBFO's Eileen Buckley says University at Buffalo Law professor Irus Braverman learned how zoos have transformed over the decades.

"I was trying to  understand what it is that I don't see when I go and visit the zoo," said Braverman.

Braverman was born in Jerusalem so visiting a zoo was not part of her childhood.  But now in her adult life, she lives right near The Buffalo Zoo.  She became intrigued and fascinated  with zoo operations.  That's when she set out to talk with more  than 70 zoo leaders, administrators and zoo curators.  She visited about 15 zoos in North American and Europe.

Zooland: The Institution of Captivity, by Irus Braverman

"Where do animal stay when they are not on exhibit. What happens to them when they have dental problems," said Braverman. 

Braverman said Buffalo Zoo President and CEO Donna Fernandes was very helpful as she collected information and interviews to write her book. 

"A gorilla is born at the Buffalo Zoo and a committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in North American says listen this gorilla is needed for the Cleveland Zoo because we need those genes," said Braverman.

Fernandes was willing to talk about the behind-the-scenes operations, somewhat controversial topic for those who protest the zoo's captivity of wild animals.

"Something that you don't really learn when you are coming to the zoo. What allows those animals to actually be there, because most of those animals are not from the Congo or other natural habitats," said Braverman.

Braverman's Zooland features the story of the oldest male gorilla in North America, named Timmy.

Braverman said ethical decisions zoos decided on are striking and revealing in the relationship of between humans and animals.