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This is a book about zoos. More specifically, it's a book about the establishment of a new zoo on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. But it's still more than that - Durrell has a vision of what a zoo should be, in stark contrast to what most zoos are.
Durrell's concept is that a zoo should fulfill 4 purposes: conservation, education, research, and entertainment. Most zoos, in his estimation, fulfill only the entertainment role. He condemns most zoos for failing in their public duty, and for cruelty to their animals.
We all know that zoos are (or should be) entertaining, but few of us give much thought to their other functions. The conservation role of zoos, according to Durrell, should be in protecting endangered species, and in breeding programs that will make the zoo an exporter of wild animals to other zoos rather than an importer depleting populations of wild animals.
Zoos should be sights of education where people can learn about animals and their habits. In research, zoos should be places where the habits of animals are carefully observed and recorded