We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

We Bought a Zoo

By Benjamin Mee

  • Release Date: 2008-06-02
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 4
From 87 Ratings
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Chuck it all in and buy a zoo? Why not? thought Benjamin Mee, unaware of the grim living conditions, creditors and escaped big cat that lay in wait…

A few years ago, Ben and his wife, Katherine, sold their small flat in Primrose Hill and moved to France to pursue their dream of restoring an old barn near Nimes.

That dream then became much, much bigger for, last October, they moved with their two young children, Ben’s 76 year-old mother and his brother, into a run-down zoo on the edge of Dartmoor which they had bought, and found themselves responsible for 200 animals including four huge tigers, lions, pumas, three massive bears, a tapir and a wolf pack.

Ben's new extended family now included: Solomon, an African lion and scourge of the local golf course; Zak, the rickety Alpha wolf, a broadly benevolent dictator clinging to power; Ronnie, a Brazilian tapir, easily capable of killing a man, but hopelessly soppy; and Sovereign, a jaguar who is also a would-be ninja, and has devised a long term escape plan and implemented it.

But tragedy was to strike for, in the midst of dealing with escaping wolves and jaguars, and troublesome adolescent vervet monkeys, Katherine, who had developed, and had removed, a brain tumour while in France, began to experience symptoms again. The prognosis was poor, and so Ben found himself juggling the complexities of managing the zoo and getting it ready for re-opening, and at the same time having to care for his rapidly deteriorating wife, their two young children, and their ever growing menagerie of animals.

Ben's story will both move and entertain – charting, simultaneously, the family's attempts to improve the animals’ lives, the build-up to the Zoo’s official reopening, as well as Katherine’s decline, her final days, and how the family went on.


An engaging tale from someone who dared to do something different.'

'One of the most inspiring books I've read.'
Western Daily Press

'Mee writes movingly about his wife's fatal illness, his children coming to terms with this, his sprightly old mum and, of course, his 200 wild animals in all their diverse glory.'
Daily Mail

About the author

A former bricklayer and decorator, Benjamin Mee began to study and write about animal intelligence, reading psychology at UCL and then completing an MSc in Science Journalism at Imperial College. Benjamin became a contributing editor to Men’s Health magazine and a Guardian columnist, and then moved to Southern France, and began writing a book on the Evolution of Humour in Man and Animals. Then the zoo came up for sale, and everything changed.


  • We Bought a Zoo

    By Kazkomo
    This book was awesome! I couldn't put it down and read 2/3rds in a day, finishing it off on the next. Much better than the movie. I love reading, but it is more enjoyable when the book gives the reader the experience of different emotions. I laughed and also cried whilst reading this terrific true story. I really felt Benjamin's passion for being able to give the public a place to experience nature
  • Hi

    By lulu6666666
    The best book ever
  • We brought a zoo

    By Riltf
    Well i brought a great book that was a really great read. Kept me up past my bed time and now I'm going to watch the movie!
  • Great story

    By 25 romantic
    Ben Mee tells a heartwarming story about taking chances, devotion and integrity. His families efforts in managing their grief by restoring a zoo as they reinvented their lives and rescued animals in the process was a fantastic read.
  • Inspirational

    By Pip1979
    What a wonderful and humbling novel to read! Benjamin has truly captured the trials and tribulations that his family had on what can only be described as a wondrous journey! I shed a tear ( or two ) and laughed at and with you all on some of the experiences! A wonderful read that brings the message home that with hope, hard work and support we are all capable of achieving our goals, all with the ability to help change the world for the better. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
  • We Bought a Zoo

    By ChelBaCo
    An enjoyable read, great to share with younger children (with open minds) My children and I love zoos although we often talk about the reality of life contained in a cage. This book has been a great conversation point about how and why zoos are necessary in order to conserve some species. Well done to a courageous family, we wish them every success with the zoo and captive breeding of endangered animals.
  • We bought a zoo

    By Fergus the Ferret
    Worth reading, interesting and enjoyable. A million times better than the movie
  • Worth a read

    By subi63
    This was a good read. Bought it to read before I saw the movie, and enjoyed the roller coaster that the family went through. Definitely more of a journalistic writer, emotionally portrayed but not over the top.