ZOO SCIENTISTS TO THE RESCUE
Copyright Date: 2017
A 2018 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
Junior Library Guild Selection
What inspired you to write this book, Patricia?
When my niece was in fifth grade, she told me about a persuasive essay she had to write on zoos. The information the teacher gave the class was almost all anti-zoo and as the mother of a zookeeper, I knew she didn’t have all the facts. Granted, not all zoos have high standards, but the scientific inquiry and conservation projects sponsored by AZA-member zoos educate visitors, promote the captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered species into the wild, and bring their sophisticated lab know-how to the field to preserve wildness. Those were the kinds of conservation efforts I wanted to share with young readers.
There are so many zoos working on conservation programs. How did you select the ones that appear in this book?
The zoo animals and the scientists that appear in Zoo Scientists to the Rescue meet a specific set of criteria. First, they are from zoos willing to cooperate with us as a creative team. Not all zoos are willing to work on outside commercial ventures, and some charge hefty fees to interview their scientists. Others charge steep licensing fees to photograph or write about animals in their collections.
Second, the zoos had to be large enough to employ scientists conducting original research. Many small zoos do not have laboratories and do not have the resources for research.
Third, the animals and the scientists’ work had to match one of the three ways zoos promote conservation: education, captive breeding and reintroduction, and studying wildlife in its native habitat. These three pieces form the backbone of the structure in Zoo Scientists to the Rescue.
And lastly, we wanted to write about animals that kids could connect to emotionally. In the zoo world, they are called charismatic megafauna.
When we think about all the pieces that had to fall into place to make this book work, we feel like we achieved a minor miracle!
The photographs are engaging and create an intimate look at these species. What challenges did you face, Annie, in taking them for the book?
The two biggest challenges were time and budget. When you hold a book in your hands, you do not often think about how it went from imagination to creation. Patti and I traveled to all three locations to interview the scientists. In addition, I needed to photograph the animals, labs, breeding facility, and any and all locations and activities that would complement the publication.
When we visited Colorado, we were caught in a blizzard and didn’t even know if we were going to be able to make it to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo or some of our other planned shoot locations. We literally traveled to the zoo in a blizzard. Lucky for us, the black-footed ferrets were inside the facility and we were able to make our appointment!
As to the black rhinos and Dr. Rachel Santymire: I had no idea what kind of access we would have, nor if the weather would cooperate. I allotted for 5 days of shooting and in the end really had 2 days as weather interfered. In order to photograph/film the rhinos, you have to wait for them to be outside. So, I stood with my camera observing and documenting the rhinos. They like heat and in the week I was in Chicago the weather went from 80 degrees to 40 degrees overnight and the rhinos decided to stay inside. Fortunately, Rachel and the entire team were incredible to work with. To get a great, memorable shot you must know the behavior of the animal and their character. This comes with time, asking questions, understanding the subject, and the right lighting. Being able to predict your shot helps as well. The trainer helped me photograph Maku by keeping him close with some treats. There is also a lot of waiting. Rhinos mark territory with urine so I found myself waiting to photograph/film until they would relieve themselves. I also had to wait until Maku needed to pooh. Rachel’s chapter is called Feces Saves Species, so I felt the need to capture Maku pooping and his trainer taking samples for Dr Santymire in the lab.
I love being in the field, meeting the animals, figuring out how to capture their character and everything about creating an image. In Australia at the Melbourne Park Zoo they have a phenomenal orangutan exhibit and have huge educational outreach to pressure companies to use only environmentally friendly (aka orangutan friendly) palm oil.
It is not one zoo making a difference, it is all zoos working together to educate and inspire the often-unknowing public about the environmental issues the animals face.
As Patti wove the scientists’ stories together, I spent my days at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle photographing/filming tigers, lions, penguins, zebras, hippos, and many other animals. I live about 20 minutes away from the zoo, so by visiting daily, I was able to get to know the animals and their behavior. I talked to many of the keepers to find out when their animals were most active, or when they would be giving public presentations as they always plan those around behavior. Storytelling happens on many levels and being able to complement this book with images to take the reader into the labs, breeding facilities, and so much more is so much fun!
Did the two of you research and travel together? If so, can you share any outtakes — fun, or challenging?
When we collaborated on Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Annie traveled with the scientists on board the research vessel, the New Horizon. Patti entered the picture after the expedition had returned to dry land. As Patti wrote, Annie clarified aspects of the expedition during the writing process, and of course, worked with the editorial team in choosing the best photos to tell our story.
For Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, we worked together from the very beginning. The proposal that Patti wrote for editor Carol Hinz (Millbrook Press/Lerner) morphed from sales document to planning document. What questions did Patti need to ask in interviews? What shots did Annie need to tell our story visually?
In the three trips to the three zoos, we had a fabulous time, a lot of laughs, some frustrations, and several adventures. Most of all we learned a lot about what it takes to work together so Patti gets the best quotes and Annie gets the best shots. We’re looking forward to our next book together!
And you bet we have outtakes! How about a massive March blizzard in Denver that closed the road to the National Black-footed Ferret Center in northern Colorado and forced us to reschedule. Annie has photos of Patti scraping thick snow off our rental car. Or how about the back story to the photograph of Maku (the black rhino at Lincoln Park Zoo) on the book’s cover. As Annie squeezed her camera lens through the bars of his enclosure, Maku turned and charged. Annie fell backwards, and we dissolved into a fit of giggles.
What was the most surprising thing you learned researching this book?
The three scientists in Zoo Scientists to the Rescue—Meredith, Jeff, and Rachel—were all inspired by reading about and participating in conservation projects as kids. They, in turn, hope that kids who read about their adventures will be inspired to follow in their footsteps.
Meet-the-Author of Zoo Scientists to the Rescue:
In this incredibly informative book, readers learn about three zoo scientists who are working to save three species (orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and wild black rhinos) using a variety of methods, from conservation education to breeding programs. Newman also includes ideas on how students can contribute to conservation efforts, such as reducing palm oil usage. Various zoos and organizations that focus on conservation are also mentioned; for example, biobanks, where scientists freeze the sperm and eggs of various species in order to protect it from a catastrophic loss. The photographs show the animals as well as the scientists and effectively enhance the information presented. Several charts, including one comparing apes and monkeys, add a deeper level of understanding. Maps of the original and current habitats of the creatures are helpful in visualizing how the earth has changed over the years. VERDICT A great book for research or for students interested in conservation.
– V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, NC
Many kids are familiar with zoos, but there’s much more to these attractions than an opportunity to see animals up close. Newman shines a light on the important work zoo scientists do to aid conservation and contribute important research, both at zoo labs and in the wild. This engagingly written book focuses on three scientists and their work protecting and researching orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinoceroses, respectively. Each scientist describes his or her background, research in the wild, challenges to conservation efforts, and how zoo labs help them do their work. Photos of the scientists in the field, as well as their animal research subjects, enlivens the already fascinating material. Newman clearly describes the conditions that led to each species becoming endangered and encourages readers to think carefully about their own actions in light of threats to wildlife. Though the book appears slim, the content is fairly dense, so this will likely appeal more to middle-grade readers. Hand this to kids who can’t get enough of the Scientists in the Field series.
— Sarah Hunter
Readers see the human side of animal science. Newman brings scientific research to life with her lively introduction to three scientists active today, two women and one man, all white and from the United States. The National Zoo’s Meredith Bastian’s “wild perspective” was an important factor in her hiring, first by the Philadelphia Zoo and then by her current employer. Her experiences in Borneo led to conservation efforts that include educating zoo visitors about using palm oil products from companies that do not harm orangutan environments. She has also advocated for the installation of “overhead trails,” resembling ziplines, that allow “orangutans to travel much like wild ones do.” In writing about the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Rachel Santymire’s work in South Africa, Newman describes how “male black rhinos scrape their feces into long trenches” to mark their territory, while “females scrape to look for a mate—kind of like posting a profile on a dating website.” The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Jeff Baughman doesn’t just breed black-footed ferrets; he reintroduces these small mammals back into the wild, helping to build up a population that numbered only 18 in 1984. With engaging photos, useful charts and maps, and practical conservation tips, this volume provides lots of encouragement for budding young scientists. Three experts, three species, three zoos: these elements add up to a fascinating story of how specialists make a real difference in conservation today.
I really enjoyed this book … On the one hand, I didn’t want to put the book down, because I was so engrossed in the stories and information. On the other, it was nicely broken up into the three separate stories following three separate scientists and their efforts to help three specific species, so it was easy to pick up where I’d left off. The science is fascinating, the human stories are compelling, and the gorgeous photography brings it all to life right before your eyes. I’ve been ambivalent about zoos my whole life. I love animals, so I love being able to see them… but I also want them to live as happily and naturally as possible. This book helped me see a different side of zoos that I have heard about but never really had a chance to explore in much detail or depth, the conservation aspect. I admire the scientists profiled in this book and the work that they’re doing, and I am grateful to Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley for sharing their stories with us.
Written in kid-friendly terms, this book provides a fascinating, in-depth look at how zoo scientists are helping orangutans, black-footed ferrets and black rhinos, three animals on the Critically Endangered list. Meredith Bastian studied orangutans in the field for several years, observing behaviors from the moment they woke, until they laid down to sleep. Her data has helped orangutans in both the wild and in zoos. She later worked at the Philadelphia Zoo to integrate conservation into its operation. Jeff Baughman helps manage the revival of the almost extinct black-footed ferret. In 1981 130 ferrets were discovered and Jeff is instrumental in expanding the population and returning it to the wild. Rachel Santymire studied black rhinos in Africa to learn how to help them in zoos and in the field. Rachel specializes in studying ‘poop’, which provides invaluable information about their lives. The book also provides zoo history, conservation, and career information about zoo scientists. The photos are outstanding and draw in both young and adult readers. http://www.books4thecuriouschild.com/ages-4-8/zoo-scientists-to-the-rescue/