Author: Annette Libeskind Berkovits

Publisher: Tenth Planet Press

ISBN-10: 0998757802; ISBN-13: 978-0998757803

Somewhat reminiscent of Gerald Durrell’s Menagerie Manor, which delighted fans of the great British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist and TV presenter with tales of how he finally fulfilled his childhood dream of founding his own private zoo, the Manor of Les Augres, on the English Channel island of Jersey, comes Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator by Annette Libeskind Berkovits. Telling of her time spent working for the Education Division of the Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, set, as it is, within Bronx Park, New York City, Confessions shares the author’s numerous encounters with a vast range of animals from across the globe, and how she learned to handle them under the most trying of circumstances (including being ousted from a New York taxi cab by an irate driver when hearing that, wrapped around her middle, snugly positioned beneath her highly fashionable ankle-length sheepskin fur coat, was a boa constrictor).

Berkovits regales us with the adventures of her sometimes hair-raising (though, hopefully, never hair-ruffling) exploits with both visitors to the Zoo and its inhabitants, as well as with fellow employees. Always mindful of the human component of her work with animals, she, nevertheless, manages to convey her keen scientific interest in the unique qualities of the denizens of such a realm with remarkable ease and fluency, especially when taking into consideration her Polish background. Coming to the United States while still a youngster, she was raised with an intense awareness of, and pride in, her foreign origins, which can be seen in her previous book, In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, Gulags, and Soviet Communism, on her redoubtable father, a courageous survivor of the brutal Gulag archipelago.

Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator is relatively light-hearted in tone, despite reflecting the more serious undertones of any environmentally conscious scientific institution in the 21st century. Whereas the opening scenes of DreamWorks’ Madagascar movie provide an animator’s version of a zoo set in an urban metropolis, where most of the animals are only too keen to return to the wild from whence many came, the animals in Confessions are rendered, overall, as being quite content to remain within the bounds of their eco-sensitively designed exhibits (which, in the past, would have been boring and life-depleting cages). The professional interest that is taken by contemporary staff members in nurturing those in their custody is heartening, inspiring the reader to have faith and trust in the authorities that run such a well-organized institution, not only for the benefit of the wider public, but also for the preservation of animals that are becoming ever rarer, in many cases, in the wild.

For any animal lover, no matter the age, Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator should make ideal recreational reading―who knows, they might even pick up some previously unknown facts about the animals themselves.