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Zoo Renewal

Zoo Renewal: White Flight and the Animal Ghetto

Series: A Quadrant Book
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
  • Book Info
    Zoo Renewal
    Book Description:

    Why do we feel bad at the zoo? In a fascinating counterhistory of American zoos in the 1960s and 1970s, Lisa Uddin revisits the familiar narrative of zoo reform, from naked cages to more naturalistic enclosures. She argues that reform belongs to the story of cities and feelings toward many of their human inhabitants.InZoo Renewal,Uddin demonstrates how efforts to make the zoo more natural and a haven for particular species reflected white fears about the American city-and, pointedly, how the shame many visitors felt in observing confined animals drew on broader anxieties about race and urban life. Examining the campaign against cages, renovations at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and the San Diego Zoo, and the cases of a rare female white Bengal tiger and a collection of southern white rhinoceroses, Uddin unpacks episodes that challenge assumptions that zoos are about other worlds and other creatures and expand the history of U.S. urbanism.Uddin shows how the drive to protect endangered species and to ensure larger, safer zoos was shaped by struggles over urban decay, suburban growth, and the dilemmas of postwar American whiteness. In so doing,Zoo Renewalultimately reveals how feeling bad, or good, at the zoo is connected to our feelings about American cities and their residents.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4140-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: On Feeling Bad at the Zoo
    (pp. 1-26)

    During a recent trip to the Oregon Zoo in Portland, my family and I wandered into a minor event familiar to many zoo goers. Fresh off our pleasant look at the otters, we made our way to the underground viewing area for the sea lions—all facets of the Oregon coastal habitat exhibit, Steller Cove. The contrast between a cavelike theater space and the luminous 230,000-gallon saltwater pool was effective. We approached the plate-glass window between them with the anticipation of seeing something enchanting, especially (for) our toddler. But a split second later our path was suspended in confusion. The...

  5. 1 Shame and the Naked Cage
    (pp. 27-70)

    In a 1971 issue ofCurator,a publication of the American Museum of Natural History, Dale Osborn, curator at large of Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, offered some recommendations for renovating animal exhibits. Under the title “Dressing the Naked Cage,” and with four references to barren cages in the first five sentences, the problem was clearly defined. Osborn was critical of the classic animal house with its “display of rows of brightly lighted, ‘naked’ cages,” a setting in which “sterility is the keynote” and furnishings consisted of “a shelf on the back wall, a piece of tree wedged into a corner, and...

  6. 2 Zoo Slum Clearance in Washington, D.C.
    (pp. 71-124)

    In 1952 theWashington Postreporter Chalmers Roberts embarked on a mission to redevelop downtown Washington. Armed with statistics, graphs, and maps, his eighteen-part series “Progress or Decay?” diagnosed the metropolitan center as a site of acute blight marred by escalating traffic jams, waning business districts, and growing slums. Reversing this downward spiral, he argued, was urgent, given that “the critical civic problem in Washington today—as in every other major American city—is the flight to suburbs.” For Roberts, the ultimate cost of a declining downtown was the loss of particular forms of residential and commercial life to the...

  7. 3 Mohini’s Bodies
    (pp. 125-156)

    In a 1977 letter to Dr. Porter Keir, director of the National Museum of Natural History, National Zoo director Dr. Theodore Reed expressed doubts that the zoo’s rare female white Bengal tiger would survive the following year. Mohini, a Hindu name meaning “enchantress,” was approaching nineteen years of age—old for the species—and had begun to experience kidney problems, vision problems, and a lack of coordination with her hindquarters. Reed’s letter inquired if the museum would be interested in taking the beloved animal, posthumously:

    Would you please assess this unusual color phase of tiger and determine if you want...

  8. 4 White Open Spaces in San Diego County
    (pp. 157-190)

    In 1971 a business partnership called Kaiser Aetna ran an advertisement in San Diego Magazine (see Plate 6). The ad showcased a private land development project in the booming inland region between San Diego and Los Angeles counties. Under the provocative heading “Southern California needs a wildlife refuge. For humans,” the developers targeted both seasoned and newly minted suburbanites who were uneasy about the spatial future of their state and longed for its idyllic past. The copy read: “Remember Southern California? The place people used to go to get away from it all? Now, it all is here: Traffic. Factories....

  9. 5 Looking Endangered
    (pp. 191-222)

    In February 1971 staff from the Zoological Society of San Diego released twenty southern white rhinoceroses from South Africa’s Umfolozi Game Reserve into the Wild Animal Park in suburban San Diego. As former director Charles Schroeder recalled twelve years later, “We brought the rhinos in very early. And this built enthusiasm, especially on the part of the local people.”¹ There was much cause for enthusiasm. The acquisition was the largest collection of these animals in any U.S. zoo to date, matched only by the same number acquired for London Zoo’s facility in Whipsnade a few months prior.² At fourteen hundred...

  10. Afterword: Good Feelings in Seattle
    (pp. 223-230)

    In August 2007 Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo mounted the Maasai Journey, an educational program whose adaptations continue as of this writing and echo something of the San Diego Zoo’s production of African tourism in Southern California. The program expanded Woodland Park Zoo’s permanent African Savanna exhibit that opened in 1980 as a large, naturalistic display of multiple animal species native to east Africa. The exhibit was augmented in 2001 with the construction of an African village featuring a classroom based on traditional Kikuyu architecture.¹ The Maasai Journey involved the addition of two giraffes, some ostriches, and most prominently, four Maasai...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 231-268)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 269-278)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)
  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)