Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator
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Published by: Tenth Planet Press
Release Date: March 14, 2017
From cougars, orangutans, supersize snakes, fugitive pigs, and a shocked New York City cabbie, Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator is fascinating, and often hilarious. Berkovits masterfully regales readers with stories that give the inside scoop on what went on behind the scenes at one of the world's most famous zoos with facts that read like fiction! Her tales will surprise and enlighten. A must read for all animal lovers and those interested in the future of wildlife.
This is the first-ever book written from the perspective of a passionate professional whose central mission was to awaken the public to the need for preservation of the natural environment. A remarkable fact: 175 million people in the US alone visit zoos each year. That is more than the attendance in all sports events combined. This staggering number demonstrates how much interest animals generate.
“Berkovits tells a remarkable story, fascinating and unique. With a deft blend of personal insight and eloquent story-telling, she takes us from a remote village in Kyrgyzstan to the Bronx Zoo, from accidental zoology to innovative environmental education and describes her adventures as she evolved from neophyte to international leader in her field.”
—William Conway, Senior Conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society; former President of the Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo
“Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator is a story that goes far beyond its title. While I am not a fan of reading people’s life stories, the trajectory of the life of Annette Berkovits as she develops through a difficult childhood devoid of any real animal connections, to become one of the world’s foremost leaders in zoo-based wildlife conservation education is both fascinating and inspiring. This is a story that shows how love and passion for the natural world can grow and blossom out of experience and a desire to inspire others. Annette’s career and her accomplishments were no accident, but instead arose out of a willingness to take on opportunities and experience life to its fullest.”
—Alan Rabinowitz PhD, zoologist, author and CEO of Panthera, a conservation organization working to protect the world's wild cats and their ecosystems
“Reading this book, I’m pleased to discover anew the passion, curiosity and humorous sensibility that have always characterized Annette’s work and her life. Confessions of the Accidental Zoo Curator is simply a delight.”
—Lee Ehmke, Houston Zoo Director and CEO; President, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (2013-2015)
“...As one of the most creative and innovative educators in the zoo community, Annette faced the challenge of educating, rather than entertaining young zoo visitors to return to their homes with a greater appreciation for the importance and value of wildlife and wild places. To be successful in getting her messages to the students required that the work be interesting, stimulating, and fun too. Go behind the scenes in a major zoo and see it through her eyes.”
—James Doherty, retired general curator at the Bronx Zoo; Carter Chair in Mammalogy; species coordinator for the AZA Sumatran Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan
“Berkovits’s humor, passion for her work, and wealth of interesting anecdotes make for a book that is a pleasure to read… Berkovits is a wonderful storyteller …She isn’t afraid to laugh at herself or share her fears… There are also acknowledgments of the complicated and personal nature of taking a stance on animal conservation…A lively and thoughtful memoir that will appeal to a wide audience.”
—Foreword Clarion Review by Christine Canfield; a Five Star Review
“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.”
“It's that trait - an initial separation from animals - which made Annette Berkovits an "accidental" zoo curator. It's also what makes her such a fascinating, insightful narrator.”
—The Zoo Review
“[Annette] is an inspiration to all young women (and men) who want to be a force for good in their lives and careers.”
What Readers Say
"The title of this book caught my attention, so decided to order it and find out the story behind it. It was a fun read and the title makes perfect sense now - very clever! Clever also describes many of the individual stories in the book. They provided several laugh out loud moments as well as surprising, sad and happy moments. The boa’s taxi ride to the set of Captain Kangaroo is a picture that will forever be etched in my mind!"
—Lesa J, United States
"While the stories Berkovits relates are true and definitely inform; they are simultaneously very funny and offer an unexpected glimpse into the “behind the scenes” quirks and foibles that took place at the world famous Bronx Zoo. Berkovits not only delivers stories that range from the tender to the hilarious to the profound; she also covers a wide swath of the globe."
—Bibliomaniac, United States
Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Zoos
Here are ten things most people do not know about zoos, even though zoos are ubiquitous in US cities and more people attend zoos than all sports events combined.
Read the article
Interview by Princess Fuzzypants, a cat
A few weeks ago I published a review for a book called Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator by Annette Libeskind Berkovits. I enjoyed the book so much that I asked Annette to join meow for a chat.
Read the interview
Not Your Father’s Zoo
With their mindboggling array of exotic creatures — anteaters to zebras, pandas to tigers — zoos are a magnet. More people visit zoos in America than attend all sports events combined. But other than showcasing incredible creatures, today’s zoos are nothing like the zoos of previous generations.
Read the article
Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator (For Museum/Zoo professionals)
If you look around at many, if not most, of the conservation education programs in zoos, natural history museums and nature centers, you'd find that they had origins in programs introduced between the seventies and early two-thousands.
Read the article
Lee C. Ehmke
Lee C. Ehmke has been Chief Executive Officer and President of Houston Zoo since September 2015. Mr. Ehmke served as President of Minnesota Zoo Foundation. He served as Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Minnesota Zoological Garden until August, 2015. He joined Minnesota Zoo in August 2000. During his tenure, he led Minnesota Zoo to significant institutional growth including the development of new exhibits, increased service to the community, and a refocused mission that placed conservation at the core of the Zoo’s work. His exhibit legacy is seen throughout the Minnesota Zoo’s campus. Prior to his Minnesota Zoo position, Mr. Ehmke was a key designer of the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest and other award winning exhibitions.
Mr. Ehmke served as President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“… She opened the cage, reached in and took out Harriet, trying to balance her heft on both arms.
“Here, I have an idea,” she said, and moved uncomfortably close. “Wrap her around your waist, like this.” Before I could respond she began draping the lethargic boa around my middle. “On a cold day like today she will hardly move.” Kim looked like a fashion designer installing a new fangled belt on a model. Then she said, “Perfect, your sheepskin coat will keep her cozy. It’s better than a pillow case.”
I was speechless. “There, close those coat buckles and go.” She moved on to another task. I had no choice. Gingerly, I adjusted Harriet’s smooth cool body and made sure her muscular bulk was evenly distributed around my waist. She felt nearly as heavy as my four- year old son. For the moment, my nervousness about being late to the TV studio overshadowed my fear. I walked out toward the side entrance just as the security guard opened the metal gate and a yellow taxi skidded to a stop on the slippery entrance path.
The cabbie rolled down the window, looked me over from head to foot and whistled. “Let’s go,” he said, “Before the traffic gets any worse.” I got into the back seat inhaling an unidentifiable scent of air freshener fighting to overpower the tobacco stink. I hoped the odors wouldn’t annoy Harriet, but she remained inert as a thick brown belt. After the shock at my circumstance wore off a little, all I could think of was, if only Donna could see me here, sitting in a taxi with a huge serpent snuggled up to my belly, a regular Eve earning her daily bread. Nah, she’d never believe it….”