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Raised by the Zoo by Gerry Creighton: A charming insight into the life of a Dublin Zoo keeper

His tone is passionate not preachy, and his conviction in matters pertaining to animal welfare provides reassurance

Raised by the Zoo
Author: Gerry Creighton
ISBN-13: 9780717197514
Publisher: Gill
Guideline Price: €22.99

Dublin Zoo has undergone an evolution. Where once visitors could expect to ride on an elephant, watch chimps at a tea party, where apes drank Guinness, or chimps puffed on cigarettes; today, animal welfare is paramount. Even if “the needs of animals are not necessarily what the visitors want”.

Second generation zookeeper and face of RTÉ’s The Zoo, Gerry Creighton describes his book as “part memoir and part manifesto”. The author, who began working in Dublin Zoo at the age of 15, charts the zoo’s evolution from a place of institutionalisation, where struggling animals were hand-reared and gorillas brought to the Harcourt Street children’s hospital, to an environment now governed under an ethos of physiological, psychological and biological care. Animals, Creighton stresses, should be empowered to be animals.

Elephants are an area of special interest for the former under-18s middleweight boxing champion. These beguiling creatures are considered a “keystone” species, for their crucial role in our ecosystem. Creighton’s efforts to protect the animal feels particularly prescient after the author notes that certain elephants are now evolving to a state where they no longer develop tusks – nature’s attempt to save them from poachers. A stark and worrying piece of information.

Creighton advises a group of trainee elephant carers to “never make the mistake of viewing an elephant as a friend”. He is adamant that we avoid anthropomorphism. That said, it is clear that Creighton has a profound connection to the creatures under his care. This is evidenced by a number of moments of pathos in the book. Two particularly poignant examples include the time he was forced to shoot Dorothy the rhino in order to protect human visitors, and the drowning of a mother and daughter chimp pair.


Creighton makes for a charming narrator. He is well-informed, reflective and humorous. His tone is passionate not preachy, and his conviction in matters pertaining to animal welfare provides reassurance; this is a man committed to the wellbeing and conservation of the creatures with which we share the planet. Raised by the Zoo is an interesting insight into the physical fortitude, compassion and commitment required to be a keeper in Dublin Zoo.

Brigid O'Dea

Brigid O'Dea, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health