A Vancouver writer and RAPS volunteer explores the world of wild animal animal sanctuaries in North America in a new book called A Home Away From Home with proceeds supporting RAPS and other animal charities. Fully illustrated with myriad colour photos, it’s ideal for all ages, including young readers.
Nicholas Read, a former Vancouver Sun reporter and current volunteer at RAPS, has published a new book about sanctuaries for exotic animals in North America. It’s called a Home Away From Home: True Stories of Wild Animal Sanctuaries and features stories about sanctuaries for chimps, monkeys, large cats, elephants, reptiles, exotic birds and even orcas and belugas. And now, for the first time, it’s available through RAPS with half the $20 sale price going to our cats.
In addition to sumptuous full-colour photography that tugs the heart, the book provides readers with an introduction to individual animals like Hannah, a 500-pound pygmy hippo with “teeth the size of two-scoop ice cream cones.” Hannah’s life has been a succession of zoos and sad, inappropriate accommodations. But in 2002, she was rescued by the Fund for Animals Wildlife Centre, in California. Now the oldest pygmy hippo in North America, at 46, her retirement life is a happy ending. Of course, not every story ends as satisfactorily – but the book is a testament to those organizations and people who do all they can to bring a happy resolution to as many lives as they can. Animals rescued from circuses, roadside attractions and private homes find forever homes surrounded by people who care about them. The book recognizes and applauds these people – and the animals they save.
“I thought it was time that somebody acknowledged and celebrated the work that these truly extraordinary people do,” Read told RAPS. “I was really surprised that nobody had, frankly. They are not that well known, but I thought surely somebody would have written about them before me, but no.”
By telling behind-the-scenes stories of animals in entertainment, research and the pet trade, Read hopes it will open readers’ eyes to the implications of animal exploitation.
“I hope that somebody who reads the book might say, no, let’s not go to the zoo. Or let’s not go to the aquarium or, well, you know I thought I wanted a snake as a pet, but maybe not.
“Humans can – and do – make plenty of excuses for our treatment of animals,” Read continues. “We eat meat, we use animal products in clothing, we test drugs on animals.
“It all involves horrible abuse and terrible suffering, but you could argue that the ends justify the means – and people do. But there is no excuse for wanting to have an exotic pet except your own vanity or your own craziness or your own selfishness. The same thing applies to most zoos. They are just roadside, falling-down hovels where they keep animals in horrible conditions so that they can make a few bucks. There is nothing to excuse that kind of abuse.”
The publisher would say the target market is middle school kids, says the author, “But many adults have read it and said this is as much for me as it is for a child.”
Even so, a child’s sense of right and wrong can help shift the conversation and attitudes toward animal exhibits and similar exploitive practices, Read says.
“Kids see things in black-and-white, where we tend to see greys. Someone who is 14 and hears about a wrong that he or she had never heard of before might go home to his parents and say ‘Did you know that? We are not going to any more zoos.’ … and the parents will say, okay.”
Read has another book coming out later this year about a year in the life of Critter Care Wildlife Society. His earlier books have been about such issues as urban wildlife and the Great Bear Rainforest on B.C.’s central coast.
For a copy of A Home Away from Home: True Stories of Wild Animal Sanctuaries, click here. The cost is $20 plus $6 postage – and 50% of the cover price goes directly to RAPS. (Of the other half, 35% goes to the publisher and Read is donating the other 15% to animal charities across B.C. and Canada. A Home Away From Home is his 11th book and earlier this year, thanks to royalties he earned from their sales, he donated $3,000 to RAPS.)
So if you want to help RAPS and learn about sanctuaries for animals other than cats, please consider buying a copy of A Home Away From Home for your home. Our cats will be very grateful.