The Zookeepers’ War

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The Zookeepers’ War audiobook

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Review #1

The Zookeepers’ War audiobook free

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book!

The Zookeeper’s War by J.M. Mohnhaupt has been on my radar for quite some time. I have a vexed relationship with zoos. I enjoy being able to see creatures I’d otherwise never be able to see, and I believe that some zoos really are doing excellent work on behalf of conservation. But I’ve seen my share of distressing zoos and distressed animals… so I always welcome a book that will help me sort out this cognitive dissonance.

Mohnhaupt’s work does include some wonderful anecdotes about animals on both sides of the Berlin Wall. It also shows the myriad of challenges faced by zoo directors. My favorite example concerns the absurd premise that women were good enough to help clear out rubble after bombing… but not good enough to be trusted with running a zoo. I also enjoyed learning the strange ways animals were donated to zoos, shipped to zoos, named after local or visiting dignitaries; sometimes these captive creatures seemed to bear quite a bit of cultural weight!

The place where the book broke down for me, a bit, is in the moments that need a bit more explanation. The author takes for granted that readers will have a strong grip on how people lived on both sides of the wall – and the story of the zoos sometimes disappears behind the larger story for which they are a cipher. This may be a failing on my part, of course, but I wished for more background in these places – and more animals overall. Despite this, I think this would be an interesting book for a college course either in Human-Animal Studies or in history, as it shows how the Cold War reached into every aspect of life… even the lives of elephants!


Review #2

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I chose this as one of my reads for non-fiction November and it appealed to me for two reasons. One, I’m a biologist, of course love animals and if there was any kind of potential money in career in zoology I’d have been all over it! Zoos and aquariums are increasingly challenged because of the ethics related to captivity and this recounting tackles that in a very unique way by offering a historical perspective.

The second reason I was drawn to the story was because I find WWII stories to be deeply important. I must say, in all of my reads in that area, I’ve never once thought about what happened to the zoos. The absolute atrocities of human on human violence has certainly been the focus of my reading. The first few chapters gave a really enlightening recounting of what this zoo endured during wartime and how it fought to rebuild.

The story tackles gender inequality, the challenges of socialism and political intrigue. It’s a really interesting perspective on history that I would have never looked to learn but I’m glad I have!


Review #3

Audiobook The Zookeepers’ War by J. W. Mohnhaupt Shelley Frisch


Review #4

Audio The Zookeepers’ War narrated by Jacques Roy

A little-known true story of the fierce rivalry between zoos on either side of the Berlin Wall that would grow to become a symbol of the divided city; instead of stockpiling weapons, it was all about which side could incorporate the best animals to make their zoo into the BEST. Money poured in as competition grew and things turned political.

The committed and resourceful zoo staff accomplished so much for the love of animals. Inspirational. I was especially taken with accomplished Doctor of Zoology Kathe Heinroth, the only female zoo director who had to deal with the Boys’ Club, the guys in power who believed only men had director capability.

The author has meticulously detailed the events of this unique story.


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