By David Grazian
Orangutans swing from Kevlar-lined hearth hoses. Giraffes dinner party on celebratory birthday brownies crowned with carrots rather than candles. Hi-tech dinosaur robots growl between metal bushes, whereas owls watch lively cartoons on previous tv units. In American Zoo, sociologist David Grazian takes us on a safari during the modern zoo, alive with its many contradictions and weird wonders.
Trading in his tweed jacket for a zoo uniform and a couple of muddy paintings boots, Grazian introduces us to zookeepers and animal rights activists, mom and dad and tots, and the opposite human primates that make up the zoo's social global. He indicates that during an immense shift clear of their unlucky pasts, American zoos this present day emphasize naturalistic shows teeming with lush and immersive landscapes, breeding courses for endangered animals, and enrichment actions for his or her captive creatures. In doing so, zoos blur the imaginary obstacles we often use to split tradition from nature, people from animals, and civilization from the wild. whilst, zoos deal with a wasteland of competing priorities--animal care, schooling, medical learn, and recreation--all whereas trying to function facilities for conservation within the wake of the present environmental and climate-change challenge. the realm of the zoo displays how we undertaking our personal prejudices and wishes onto the animal state, and make investments nature with which means and sentiment.
A revealing portrayal of comedian animals, extremely joyful young children, and feisty zookeepers, American Zoo is a impressive close-up exploration of a vintage cultural allure.
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Extra resources for American Zoo: A Sociological Safari
Although carnivores quite obviously eat other animals in the wild, at zoos this fact is often kept from small children whom Where the Wild Things Aren’t • 37 some parents fear might be confused by such a discovery, or at least disturbed by the sight of dead prey. In these instances, zoo visitors care less about experiencing the authenticity associated with what the nineteenth-century British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson once described as “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” as much as an airbrushed depiction of nature as a tidy cultural artifact, free of blood and bones.
Glass, obviously, is one of the best ways to do that. So a lot of thinking goes into it, as you can imagine. We hire glazing engineers, glass engineers that we say, “Okay, we have a four-hundred-pound gorilla that could be running at this thing at twenty miles an hour, can you help us out? ” Usually this exhibit’s glazing is several pieces of glass laminated together, so it may be two or Where the Wild Things Aren’t • 23 three (usually we don’t get above three layers), but those layers of glass can be anywhere from a quarter-inch thick to a half-inch more thick with a membrane in between them to help adhere it, and actually the membrane gives it a little bit of strength as well.
Other nature making practices similarly employ strategic sight lines to bolster the visitor’s naturalistic experience of the zoo. Architects and designers strategically elevate exhibits above public viewing areas on the ground, thereby placing visitors in a spatially subordinate position relative to the animals on display. In the grassland habitats of Metro Zoo, spectators feel the majesty of massive elk that peer down at them from the top of their steeply sloped enclosure. The San Diego Zoo’s Lost Forest immersive exhibit requires visitors to gaze up at Malayan tigers perched at terrific heights.
American Zoo: A Sociological Safari by David Grazian