Category Archives: collections husbandry science

Living Institutions or Zoos?

Is it a Zoo or a Living Collection? This is what happens to you if you spend too much time in school as I did. Everything becomes an “institution” and eventually so do you. Actually, I prefer Living Institution which I believe was coined by the  top-notch folks at the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society.  The reason I like the term is because zoos are deserving of the same respect that academics tend to reserve for Museums of Natural History. I’d much prefer to call a zoo a zoo, but in an effort to better market these wildlife holding facilities to a more sophisticated patron or consumer, I think it’s worth considering a slight upgrade.

I don’t know that the Popcorn Park Zoo will be as well- served by the name change. In fact, the Popcorn Park Living Institution sounds kind of scary. It doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, rather it  falls out of the skull, for lack of a less artfully sadistic expression. With that said, it’s also all-encompassing terminology. A living institution can refer to a collective group of marine parks, aquariums,  zoological parks and other captive wildlife facilities.  Some may think that my thought process alone, warrants sending me to another kind of institution, but I think that facilities can be well-served with multiple names.  Zoo Miami has just adopted two. One name is official and the other is used as a working title. The “Living Institution of Miami” might conjure up some kind of convalescent home in your mind, but once people get used to it, the name may very well catch on.

I remember when one of my parents friends asked me what I thought of the tittle  “Zoo Keeper.” I didn’t initially pick up on her condescension. I replied that technically I’m an “Animal Keeper” who happens to work at a zoo. I was very proud that I came up with the distinction so promptly and on my own. And then I realized  she was hoping I would come up with a more sophisticated name like “Scatological Disposal Technician” or my favorite, “Special Species Collection Husbandry Science Specialist.”  In school you are often taught big words and faculty often carry  big titles. Again, I see potential for multiple titles. This goes back to my post about my friend who is a self-proclaimed “aquatic biologist “even though his official title is animal keeper. He may be an aquatic biologist, but his colleagues refer to him as fish geek or fish keeper. I think that the longer and more confusing the name, the more we create intrigue. Some of you will continue to disagree vehemently, but it’s just my new opinion on the matter after I started to become fond of the name  “Living Institution.”

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus (AKA Special Species Collection Husbandry Science Specialist Emeritus)