The Zookeepers’ War: An Incredible True Story from the Cold War

S. & S. Nov. 2019. 272p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501188497. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501188510. SCI
August 2019 marked the 175th anniversary of the Berlin Zoo, which was among the most biodiverse in the world before World War II, and once again bears that distinction. Following the war, zookeepers in West Berlin rebuilt the Berlin Zoo from rubble and ruin, while a new zoo called Tierpark was being constructed on the former grounds of Friedrichsfelde Palace in East Berlin. Much can be understood about the challenges of postwar Germany by learning about the struggles facing zookeepers at the time: shortages of materials and food, the impact of the Berlin Wall, and the complexities of reunification. This work by Munich-based Mohnhaupt, translated smoothly by Frisch, provides detail on both the diplomatic and the competitive nature of the “animal arms race,” the effort to best the other side of the Cold War by having the most exotic and appealing animals. Zoos are one of Germany’s most popular recreational facilities, and Mohnhaupt makes a compelling case that, in divided Berlin, zoos reflected the feeling of being enclosed and the geopolitical realities of Cold War Germany.
VERDICT Well researched and executed, this book will appeal to zoologists, zoo lovers, and readers interested in the history of postwar Germany.

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