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Tuesday, June 05, 2012 | This article is listed in the sections Zoos and animal parks and Magazine.

We Bought a Zoo


At present, the relatively small Dartmoor Zoo near the village of Sparkwell in southwestern England probably gains more popularity than any other British zoo. This is mainly due to the adaptation of the bestselling memoir "We Bought a Zoo” starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson as the lead characters. It tells the unusual story of the zoo director Benjamin Mee making his dream of an own zoo come true.

Funded as Dartmoor Wildlife Park in 1968, Dartmoor Zoo entered more and more into a financial crisis in the beginning of the present century owing to the economic situation. The former holder became the subject of debates raising questions about welfare concerns and the living conditions for the animals. Furthermore, he was found guilty of breeding tigers illegally, and of keeping them in poor conditions. When the zoo closed to the public in 2006, Daw looked out for a buyer for the severely dilapidated zoo. If the search had proved to be in vain, the majority of the zoo animals would have been destroyed.

Benjamin Mee, journalist of "The Guardian”, was in search of a big house for himself and his family in the county of Devon, in order to take better care of his mother after his father's dead. Thereby he came across a beautiful, huge estate that included a big country house and a zoo. Although Mee didn't have experience with keeping wild animals at that time, he fell in love with the idea of being the owner of a zoo. He, his mother, his wife, and his brother Duncan bought the dilapidated zoo for roughly one million GBP. His immediate neighbours were, among others, five Siberian tigers, three African lions, nine wolves, three big brown bears, two pumas, a lynx, four otters, two flamingos, lots of owls, and a Brazilian tapir named "Ronnie”.



Benjamin Mee really managed to whip the dilapidated zoo back into shape by making great affords. In order to maintain the license, he needed to spend another 500,000 GPB to modernize enclosures. He succeeded in doing so at the end of the day. With the help of the employed zoo keepers and further experts, Mee could save the zoo with its animals, and made Dartmoor Zoo known supraregional with his book "We Bought a Zoo” in which he wrote down the whole story. Thanks to the film currently running in the cinemas, the zoological park will undoubtedly gain more prominence.


© parkscout/MV/AF



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