I just finished reading We Bought a Zoo, by Benjamin Mee. What an entertaining book! This book is the true story of one daring English family that spent their life savings to buy an old, dilapidated zoo. The zoo has been shut down due to having it’s license revoked and is rife with problems, from falling apart buildings and improperly cared for animals, to animal fencing that isn’t always as strong as it should be. Through lots of hard work, Benjamin Mee, along with his family and staff, slowly nurse the zoo and it’s animals back to health, reopening in 2007 as the Dartmoor Zoological Park.
This book was highly entertaining. Benjamin Mee, a writer who has always been interested in animals, has no experience running a zoological park. The book is full of his trials and tribulations in the early days before Dartmoor Zoological Park reopened, including everything from trying to get skeptical lenders to fund his zoo to Code Reds (which are called when a dangerous animal escapes). The writing style is both humorous and easy to read, and although they do succeed, the book keeps the reader in a sense of suspense, wondering just how they are going to manage to pull off this wild endeavor.
Benjamin Mee, as director of Dartmoor Zoological Park, also faces many of the questions and ethical decisions present at any modern zoo or wildlife park. What animals should we keep in zoos? How should we design habitats and enrich the animals lives to keep them happy? When are certain medical procedures necessary? In We Bought a Zoo, Benjamin Mee addresses many of these questions in a thoughtful and elegant manner. It is obvious that he loves both the zoo and the animals and wants to do what is best for the animals and for the park. His perspective is also interesting, as he is an outsider to the zoo world and sometimes has a different opinion than that of the traditional establishment.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading We Bought a Zoo and would recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife, zoos, exotic animals or risk takers. It’s fun getting to know the animals and by the end of the book you’ll be rooting for the park to succeed.