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“The Dragon Keeper” Debates Zoo Ethics

Photo Credit: Ashland Creek Press

Photo Credit: Ashland Creek Press

Elana Pisani, exclusive to Global Animal

Mindy Mejia’s debut novel The Dragon Keeper tells the tale of a young zookeeper and her relationship with the Komodo dragon under her care. When the dragon, Jata, produces viable eggs without a mate, a process known as parthenogenesis, attention turns to the zoo and the zookeeper. As a consequence to the “miracle,” Meg must manage to deal with her bosses, reporters, and her love life while remaining an advocate for Jata.

Mejia beautifully tackles the subjects of animal captivity, endangered animals, human-animal connections, and even evolution. She manages to eloquently bring these subjects together in a realistic fashion while also unfolding a dramatic story. The amount of research that went into the novel is impressive and keeps the story grounded in science. 

The connection that Meg and Jata share is an intriguing aspect of the story. Meg is unable to connect with people, but feels close to Jata. Komodo dragons are thought of as dangerous and they can be, but Jata is familiar with Meg and recognizes her. 

One of the more powerful themes of the book is animal captivity in zoos. The novel suggests there are gray areas involved in the question of zoo-keeping. Should humans keep animals caged for entertainment? What obligation do we have to endangered animals who need our help?

The story centers around Jata, a Komodo dragon like the one pictured above. Photo Credit: dragon-komodo.com

To start asking these questions is key to an understanding of the necessity for zoos in the future and it is thoughtful writing like Mejia’s that encourages debate on the issue.  

The Dragon Keeper contains adult language and situations, and may not be suitable for young readers.

Publisher: Ashland Creek Press

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One Response to “The Dragon Keeper” Debates Zoo Ethics

  1. Stephanie Kuwasaki August 28, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    I just ordered this & am very excited to read it!