Thomas French

Aired:  08/18/10 Views: 20,463

Spending six years at a zoo made Thomas French start to see people's primal behavior underneath. (6:11)

MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS A NEW BOOK

ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD A

ZOO.

THAT'S EASY.

A COUPLE OF DOG, A FAKE MONKEY

TAIL AND A HOT GLUE GUN.

PLEASE WELCOME THOMAS FRENCH.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

HEY MR. FRENCH.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING ON.

YOU, SIR, HAVE FASCINATEING

STORY.

IT IS CALLED ZOO STORY, LIGHTS

IN THE GARDEN OF CAPTIVES.

WHY WOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT A ZOO?

>> I WAS JUST FASCINATED BY WHAT

HAPPENED TO THE ANIMALS INSIDE

THE ZOO IN TAMPA.

>> Stephen: IT SPECIFICALLY

WAS THE TAMPA ZOO?

>> YES, I SPENT SIX YEARS THERE

OFF AND ON.

>> Stephen: DID THEY TREAT YOU

WELL?

>> THEY DID.

THEY WERE VERY GENEROUS AND

REALLY KIND.

>> I'M TRYING THE RECREATE YOUR

HABITAT HERE.

I KNOW YOU WORK AT A NEWSPAPER,

SO I FIRED ALMOST MY ENTIRE

STAFF TODAY.

>> WELL, JOURNALISTS ARE AN

ENDANGERED SPECIES.

>> Stephen: THEY ARE.

IS THERE A BREEDING PROGRAM FOR

THEM?

>> WE'RE TRYING.

>> Stephen: NOW, THIS

PARTICULAR ZOO WAS AN AMBITIOUS

ZOO TO TELL THE FOLKS WHAT THE

ZOO WAS TRYING TO DO WITH

ITSELF.

>> WELL, THEY TRIED THE

BASICALLY MOVE FROM BEING A

MID-SIZED RESPECTED ZOO TO BEING

A BIG-CITY ZOO.

TO DO THAT THE CENTERPIECE WAS

THEY BROUGHT IN WILD EL FACTS

FROM AFRICA.

SO THE BOOK OPENS WITH SCENE

WHERE YOU HAVE 11 WILD ELEPHANTS

IN CRATES WHO HAVE BEEN TAKEN

FROM SWAZILAND IN THE SOUTHERN

TIP OF AFRICA AND ARE FLYING

ACROSS THE ATLANTIC IN ONE 747

TO LIVES IN CAPTIVITY.

>> FIRST CLASS OR COACH?

THERE'S VERY LITTLE ROOM BACK

THERE.

>> IT WAS ACTUALLY A FRAILGTER

747 AND THEY WERE IN THESE GIANT

CRATES INSIDE THIS HOLD.

THEY HAD A COUPLE HUMAN, A VET

AND ANOTHER GENTLEMAN WHO KNEW

THE ELEPHANTS WELL, HAD GROWN UP

WITH THEM IN AFRICA.

>> Stephen: THE ELEPHANTS WERE

ASLEEP?

>> THEY WERE SEDATED.

SOME OF THEM WERE WAKING UP.

>> Stephen: OVER THE ATLANTIC?

>> OVER THE ATLANTIC.

SOME OF THE BULLS AT ONE POINT

BEGAN TO PUSH AGAINST THE SIDE

OF THE CRATE AND TEST THE

STRENGTH OF THE WALL.

A HUMAN HAD A TERRIFYING VISION

OF ONE OF THE BULLS...

>>

>> Stephen: GRABBING A BEER

AND PULLING THE ESCAPE THING AND

GOING DOWN A SLIDE?

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE.

[APPLAUSE]

>> MUCH WORSE THAN THAT.

HE HAD A VISION OF A BULL

CHARGING THE CENTER OF THE PLANE

AND THEN TUMBLING DOWN WITH THE

PLANE DISABLED BECAUSE THERE'S

NO PILOT.

>> Stephen: COMING RIGHT AT

YOU.

THAT POINTS OUT THE THINGS WE

DON'T THINK ABOUT ZOOS.

I GO TO ZOOS AND I GO, OKAY,

ANIMALS, A LOT GOES INTO GETTING

THE ANIMALS THERE.

THESE GUYS COLLECTED A BUNCH OF

MONKEYS AND TRIED TO CREATE A

MONKEY ISLAND.

WHERE DID THEY GET MONKEY?

>> ORIGINALLY FROM AFRICA.

SO THEY WERE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT

MONKEYS?

>> THEY GOT THEM FROM PUERTO

RICO.

THERE'S A LOT OF BONKIES THERE

AND INSTALLED THEM ON THIS

MONKEY ISLAND AND THEY PROMPTLY

SWAM AWAY.

>> Stephen: THEY DIDN'T THINK

MONKEYS COULD SWIM?

>> THERE WAS SOME DEBATE ABOUT

WHETHER THEY COULD SWIM OR

WHETHER THEY COULDN'T.

WHO WON THAT DEBATE?

THE MONKEYS WON THE DEBATE.

>> Stephen: WELL, I THINK THIS

SHOULD BE CALLED "ESCAPE FROM

MONKEY ISLAND."

"MONKEY MADNESS MAYHEM."

[APPLAUSE]

SO DID... WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO

GROW A ZOO?

LIKE WHAT'S... I MEAN, IS IT

STATUS?

IS A GREAT TOWN NEED A GREAT ZOO

BECAUSE CHICAGO'S LINKIN PARK

ZOO, SAN DIEGO'S GOT THEIR ZOO,

NEW YORK WE GOT OUR CENTRAL PARK

AND THE WRONGS ZOO, DOES IT SAY

SOMETHING ABOUT A TOWN THAT YOU

HAVE THE BEST CAPTIVE ANIMALS?

>> YES, BIG CITIES REALLY LONG

FOR BIG-CITY ZOOS, AND TAMPA

WANTED A BIG-CITY ZOO.

IT IS ABOUT EGO.

ACTUALLY EVERYTHING ABOUT A ZOO

IS ABOUT HUMAN EGO BECAUSE THIS

IDEA THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT,

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.

>> Stephen: ABSOLUTELY.

YOU WILL HAVE DOMINION OVER THE

ANIMALS.

READ YOUR GENESIS, SIR.

>> IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE

BEGINNING.

>> Stephen: IT ABSOLUTELY.

IS THE ANIMALS LOVE IT THERE,

RIGHT?

LIFE IN THE GARDEN OF CANTIVES.

IT SOUNDS LIKE THE GARDEN OF

EDEN.

IT'S PARADISE.

THEY GET THEIR PELLETS AND THAW.

>> WELL, I TELL YOU, THE KEEPERS

WORK REALLY HARD TO TAKE REALLY

GOOD CARE OF THESE ANIMALS, AND

YOU CAN TELL SOME OF THE ANIMALS

ARE HAPPY THERE.

HAPPINESS IS A HUMAN CONSTRUCT,

BUT THEY'RE CERTAINLY CONTENT.

THEY'RE WELL FED AND WELL CARED

FOR.

YOU SEE WHEN YOU GO TO THAT ZOO

AND OTHERS THAT SOME SPECIES

REALLY STRUGGLE WITH CAPTIVITY.

FOR SIX YEARS YOU WERE THERE?

>> OFF AND ON.

>> Stephen: DID IT CHANGE THE

WAY YOU LOOKED AT PEOPLE?

DID YOU START SEEING PEOPLE AS

ANIMALS?

>> YES, ABSOLUTELY.

YOU WATCH ALL THESE SPECIES AND

THEIR BEHAVIOR, AND YOU START TO

SEE PEOPLE'S PRIMAL BEHAVIOR

UNDERNEATH.

THE HEAD OF THE ZOO WHOSE

NICKNAME WAS EL DIABLOS?

BLANCO AMONG THE STAFF.

>> Stephen: THE WHITE DEVIL?

>> THE WHITE DEVIL BECAUSE HE

HAD A REALLY STRONG VISION FOR

WHAT THE ZOO SHOULD BE, AND HE

WAS DETERMINED THE MAKE THAT

VISION COME TRUE, AND NOT

EVERYONE UNDERNEATH HIM THOUGHT

HE WAS THE MOST GENTLE OF

BOSSES.

>> Stephen: WAS HE THE ALPHA

MALE GRILL A?

>> HE WAS THE ALPHA OF THE ZOO.

THEY HAVE WALKIE TALKIES WITH

VARIOUS CODES.

HE WAS NUMBER ONE.

>> Stephen: WAS HE AGGRESSIVE

TOWARDS YOU IN ANY WAY?

>> NOT TOWARDS ME.

>> Stephen: HE NEVER TRIED TO

MOUNT YOU OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: SO THERE IS HAPPY

ENDING.

THOMAS FRENCH, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING ME.

THE BOOK IS "ZOO STORY: L

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