Bialowieza and the Zookeeper's Wife

February 21, 2013


I've been reading The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. I've long been a fan of Ackerman. One of my favorite books is a collection of nature essays by her called Moon by Whalelight. The Zookeeper's Wife is about the Zabinskis, a couple in Poland during WWII that ran the Warsaw zoo. The husband was an active member of the Polish Underground resistance movement and the couple provided hiding and protection for many jews (and others) escaping the Warsaw Ghetto. It's an extraordinary story, and Ackerman tells it well.

The Bialowieza forest is mentioned quite a bit in the book. I have heard of it before, but this renewed my interest. Bialowieza is an ancient, primeval forest straddling Poland and Belarus. It may be the last remnant of an old growth forest in Europe. It has towering trees and an astounding amount of biodiversity, but one of the things it is famous for is its forest bison, or the wisent (European bison). They had been hunted to extinction in the wild with the last one in Poland being shot in 1919. Since then, however, they have been successfully bred from captive populations and released back in to the wild in various Europeans habitats, including Bialowieza. I was captivated by the image of these huge, dark, creatures strutting through this ancient forest. In addition to the bison, Bialowieza has wolves, lynx, deer, elk, wild boar, and many species of birds. 

This Guardian article on Bialowieza has some pretty great photos. And this is an interesting piece 
on some of the issues of reintroducing a bison heard back to the forest. 

Have great week and weekend!

7 comments:

  1. Just Beautiful, I agree. Your Bison looks magnificent and has real presence. The article is fascinating, what a place. Part of me wants to go and see, and the other part says it might just be scary. But I totally believe in letting it be, as they seem to be doing. Once again you open my eyes! Thank-you. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Julie! I also believe in just letting it be, but it does seem like that the bison need to be managed a bit to keep them healthly since they no longer have any natural predators (others than us).

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  2. Beautiful picture! Whimsical but dark... Reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are.

    I'm frequently amused by all the titles I see that can be broken down thus: The [Profession or title]'s [Female relation]. Like the Grave Digger's Daughter, or The Time Traveler's Wife, The Ringmaster's Daughter, The Zookeeper's Wife, etc. It's such a popular naming convention! Have you ever noticed this?

    <4 jen @ librarian tells all

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    1. Yes, I have noticed that trend. That was the only thing that bothered me about the book: it's lackluster title.

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  3. Haunting piece. It sets my imagination going. There's comfort in knowing that these magnificent beasts are once again wandering their ancestral home.

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