Zoos of the Future: Background information when reading Night of the Animals

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Night of the Animals

by Bill Broun

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun X
Night of the Animals by Bill Broun
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 560 pages

    Apr 2017, 592 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Zoos of the Future

This article relates to Night of the Animals

Print Review

Bill Broun's debut novel, Night of the Animals, features the London Zoo - but in the future. What will zoos look like in the years to come? Animals roaming free while visitors lurk underground for a glimpse of them? Fewer elephants and more amphibians? No zoos at all?

According to various sources, including The Guardian and The Christian Science Monitor, these are just a few of the myriad possibilities for zoos in the future.

ZootopiaOne of these visions is already commanding attention in Denmark. Billed as a 300-acre expansion of Givskud Zoo, Zootopia, aiming for a 2019 opening, is designed to fool animals into thinking that there are no humans around. Visitors arrive at a bowl-shaped pavilion that offers paths to the different continents that the zoo offers. From there, they can see lions from a bunker located underneath a hill, see pandas through a bamboo screen, and look at giraffes from a hole cut in a hillside. There will also be mirrored pods in which visitors can fly above bears. (The idea is that the bears will only notice themselves if they look up.)

Detroit ZooZoos may also look to downsize in the future, finding that they can't reasonably provide the space necessary to house, say, elephants. In fact, this is already happening. In 2005, the Detroit Zoo became one of the first to close its elephant exhibit for that reason, sending their elephants to a sanctuary. In its place, they ramped up their efforts to highlight the importance of amphibians in ecosystems, expanding their National Amphibian Conservation Center. Advocates and conservationists see it as a model for protecting species and showing the public the value of amphibians – and in the process they stop doing harm to large animals such as elephants.

Frog at Detroit ZooAnd then, with rapid advances in technology in the last few years, perhaps app-driven zoos will be the future. There's an app called Animal Tracker, which lets you follow wild animals that are being tracked via tiny GPS tags they carry. These are stored at Movebank, used by hundreds of researchers and hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. The Institute itself tracks 223 birds with the app. Animals are free in their natural habitats, and humans are free to see them from afar. Or, if they're in that animal's area, they can also upload their own data and observations to the app.

Animal Tracker AppOther ideas for the future of zoos include more intense versions of what already exists: landscape immersion, making the lands at zoos closely represent animals' natural habitats, or a sanctuary model, which sacrifices exhibit space, but gives more room for animals to roam. Some zoos are considering focusing on animals that are best suited to the local climate, such as polar bears in Detroit where winter temperatures are often below zero.

Rendering of Zootopia, courtesy of BIG, the architectural firm designing the futuristic zoo.
National Amphibian Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo.
Frog at the Detroit Zoo
Animal Tracker App

Filed under Nature and the Environment

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This "beyond the book article" relates to Night of the Animals. It originally ran in September 2016 and has been updated for the April 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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