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Zoo Registrars: A Bewildering Bureaucracy

By Irus Braverman

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While their counterparts in the museum world have received some scholarly attention, no scholarly account of zoo registrars has been published to date. Why bother studying zoo registrars? Firstly, in the (contained) wildness of the zoo, the registrar performs the role of law and order. She (typically this position is employed by females) manages the administrative side of the zoo: a junction between data management and small-scale legal administration. Secondly, registrars both depict and represent the significant transformations that have occurred in North American zoos over the last few decades, from insular urban institutions exhibiting exotic animals for entertainment, to a globalized collective enterprise for conservation and education that corresponds with increasing visibility and legalization as a public institution. This shift of priorities has carved out the two-pronged work of registrars: record keeping and database management, on the one hand, and legal administration, on the other hand. Thirdly and finally, the work of the registrar is important in that it is uniquely situated on the border between the inside and the outside of the zoo. The registrar sets up both the official and legal connections between her own zoo and others and between the zoo’s animals and the relevant legal system. The registrar’s small everyday management tasks are situated at the heart of the ambitious project of contemporary zoos: the project of controlling to conserve.


Katie Osborn

Publication Title Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum
Pages 165-206
Publisher Digital Commons @ University at Buffalo School of Law
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Irus Braverman (2018), "Zoo Registrars: A Bewildering Bureaucracy,"

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  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed
  3. Physical environment
  4. Zoos
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed