Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas French sat down with Stephen Colbert last night to discuss his new book, "Zoo Story: Life In The Garden Of Captives."
"I'm trying to recreate your habitat here," Colbert said, "And I know you work at a newspaper so I fired almost my entire staff today."
"Journalists are an endangered species," French agreed.
"Yes," said Colbert. "Is there a breeding program for them?"
The book details Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, and the six years French spent reporting and researching there while at the St. Petersburg Times.
During this period, French said, the zoo ambitiously tried to go from being a "mid-size, respected zoo" to "a big-city zoo."
"The centerpiece of that was they brought in wild elephants from Africa. So the book opens with a scene where you have eleven wild elephants in crates who've been taken from Swaziland," French said. "They're flying across the Atlantic in one 747."
An interesting wrinkle in French's book is that at the heart of every zoo is human ego.
"This idea that our species has the right to gather other species from around the world and hold them in this place says a lot about our assumptions of human supremacy."
French related another story in which the zoo tried to begin an installation with Patas Monkeys.
"They brought them in, installed them on this monkey island, and they promptly swam away. There was some debate about whether the monkeys could swim."
"Well, who won that debate?" replied Colbert.
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