"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Thursday, April 11, 2019


Published in April of 2019

Royal, Nebraska is a town of 81 people and an abandoned zoo. In 1987, Dick Haskin brought a chimpanzee named Reuben to his hometown in Nebraska in hopes of starting the Midwest Primate Center to continue the research of his slain hero, Dian Fossey.

But, the funds for the primate center never materialized. He wasn't interested in starting a zoo but, over time, he ended up with an odd collection of animals - tigers, wolves, llamas and more. Eventually, he accepted the fact that he had a zoo and changed the name to Zoo Nebraska. In absolute terms, it wasn't much of a zoo, but it was a heck of a thing for rural Nebraska. Even famed TV talk show host (and Nebraska native) got in the act and donated a lot of money to upgrade the chimpanzee habitat (he felt that kids in rural Nebraska needed this kind of opportunity, even if it was a limited one).

But, it was not ever financially viable. Taking care of exotic animals in expensive and labor-intensive. The pool of volunteers was limited and there were never enough tickets sold to hire enough help. And, that's where this story takes a long, sad turn for the worse that ends up with 4 chimpanzees escaping and tearing through the zoo and the town in 2005. Three of them were shot and killed and the zoo closed two years later.

This book looks into the small town politics that dogged the zoo its entire life. For me, that was the worst part of the book. It seemed like an endless parade of people with hidden agendas and it made the last 2/3 of the book a real chore to read. 

Because of that, I rate this book 3 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: ZOO NEBRASKA: THE DISMANTLING of an AMERICAN DREAM by Carson Vaughan.

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