Photographer and animal enthusiast Stephen Toothman’s Zoos of the Midwest offers an illustrated and conservation-focused travel and photo guide showcasing 28 zoos in seven Midwestern states—North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri—selected for their high animal care standards and conservation, scientific, and educational programs.
Organized into two distinct parts, the first is a guide to the zoos, listed alphabetically and detailing each zoo’s history, its main focus and features (types of animals, numbers of species, special animal habitats), special wildlife conservation programs (survival plans for endangered species), including local wildlife conservation, and finally, basic visitor information (hours, addresses, websites, phone numbers, and so on).
The second half consists of a “photo book” section that highlights 53 animals most commonly found at many of the zoos covered (from the gray wolf to the western lowland gorilla). Toothman ably highlights facts and figures each animal and its habitat, along with his personal observations and anecdotes from visiting and photographing the animals.
Both book sections are richly illustrated with evocative photographs of the animals.
The author has an engaging, upbeat, smart, and humorous voice. His writing comes across vividly and his love for animals is as infectious as it is informative.
One might wish that the book’s guide half offered more contextualizing and geographically orienting information about the zoos and their settings, answering common traveler questions, such as: Is the zoo in the center of the city? On the outskirts? How is it laid out physically? How can one access the zoo when driving? What is the atmosphere of the zoo? Also, organizing the zoo entries by geography rather than alphabetically would have made it more practical for travelers.
Nonetheless, this is a lovingly produced volume that will appeal to animal and wildlife lovers, as well as environmentalists and ecologists. A portion of the book’s sales will be donated to zoo conservation efforts.