Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator

Annette Libeskind Berkovits

Book Cover



    Core Theme














    From cougars, orangutans, supersize snakes, fugitive pigs, and a shocked New York City cabbie, "Confessions" is fascinating, and often hilarious. From a remote village in Kyrgyzstan to the Bronx Zoo..from a childhood devoid of real animal connections to one of the world's foremost leaders in conservation education, Berkovits spins a remarkable story, fascinating and unique.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 35-54

    Target Gender: Universal


    Kyrgyzstan, Poland, New York, Kenya, Belize, China, Venezuela

    Based on a True Story


    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Tenth Planet Press

    Year Published: 2017

    Starting Description

    Torn from family, young Anetka who’d been sent away to recover, returns home. She is an unhappy child. Her parents, at a loss to cheer her up, bring a surprise—a fluffy white ball, a Pomeranian puppy named Snow White. Instead of being delighted, Anetka is terrified of its toothy grin and growl.

    Ending Description

    One day…a huge boa constrictor is thrust into Annette’s arms. That's just the beginning. She eventually learns to handle and love Carlos, the cougar, and many exotic animals. Thus unfolds a career inventing ingenious ways to persuade people to care for wildlife that takes Annette around the world.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available



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    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Happy Ending, Coming of Age, Meaningful Message, Philosophical Questions,,Coming of Age,Philosophical Questions,Meaningful Message

    Plot - Premise

    Internal Journey/Rebirth

    Main Character Details

    Name: Annette

    Age: 25

    Gender: Female

    Role: Logical

    Key Traits: Decisive, Modest, Badass, Blunt, Visionary, Perseverance, Complex, Confident, Educated, Funny, Strong Moral Code, Outspoken, Leader, Flexible, Adventurous, Aspiring, Empathetic,Adventurous,Complex,Educated,Leader,Underdog,Visionary,Outspoken,Modest

    Additional Character Details

    Name: David

    Age: 25

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Educated, Faithful, Flexible, Funny, Honorable, Masculine, Adventurous, Confident, Strong Moral Code, Empathetic, Selfless, Charming, Decisive,Funny,Charming

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jessica

    Age: 10

    Gender: Female

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Badass, Charming, Confident, Engaging, Funny,Funny

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jeremy

    Age: 8

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Charming, Funny, Naive,Naive

    Development Pitch

    Though there is an important through-line, each of the 31 chapters can stand on its own. "Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator" would make for a great TV series. With the high popularity of wildlife shows and not enough of substance, fun and humor, this could be a blockbuster.


    Based on a true story. Now retired, Annette recounts how she went from a childhood in Poland devoid of animals to becoming one of the world's foremost conservation educators. Annette went from teaching inside a zoo to developing new programs that took her around the world and brought her face to face with incredible animals.

    What We Liked

    - This is a true story by someone with an interesting, unique experience. Despite the broad stretch of time in the memoir, most of the lessons in it are more relevant than ever to today's world.
    - As a film, this could be a lovely documentary about conservation education efforts throughout the world using Annette's story as a lens and framework.
    - As a television show, it could be a sitcom focusing on animal encounters and how everyday folks relate to the natural world around them, not just in zoos, but everywhere. Each chapter in the book is a self contained unit/episode.
    - This could also be adapted into a miniseries about zoo education programs around the world.
    - Key points: Based on a true story; Unique premise; Natural humor of animals; Unique main characters; Modern relevance.


    As a child, Annette grows up in post-war Poland and then Israel before moving to the Bronx in New York by 1960. Her early life was devoid of animals and surrounded by concrete rather than nature. Her first encounter with wildlife was a failed attempt at her parents to give her a pet--she was too afraid of the Pomeranian gifted to her by her mother and not yet ready for the responsibility and so soon after receiving the puppy, it was re-gifted to another home. Almost a decade later, she secretly trapped a tadpole in a glass jar and named him Bully. She raised him until she accidentally let him fall into the toilet and swim down the drain. For years she regretted the loss of her pet and worried over his safety, but he soon came to inspire her to protect animals and became a symbol of redemption.

    Her true journey into animal conservation education began when she interviewed for a job at the Bronx zoo as a teacher. She was surprised and scared at first to learn that she'd be working hands-on with the animals, and didn't know how to react when handed a terrifying boa constrictor. After all, her neighbor down the hall was constantly teasing Annette for her fear of the neighbor's Siamese cat, and now she would be expected to interact with much larger and much more dangerous animals on a daily basis. Annette quickly takes to the position, however, and soon is invited to go on a local talk show to publicize the zoo's educational programs. She takes a boa with her by wrapping it around herself--much to the chagrin of the cab driver, who sees the snake wriggling in his backseat and immediately demands Annette and the creature leave. While starting out, Annette feels out of her league, especially in comparison to her coworkers who seem to handle dangerous predators with ease, but she soon learns how to earn their respect and is able to face animals without fear, including a young cougar named Carlos. Annette and Carlos develop a close relationship, and she is able to use him in her lessons with the students. However, Annette is heartbroken when a tourist at the zoo carelessly leaves a towel in Carlos's enclosure, which fills his stomach when he consumes it and ends up killing him.

    Annette is an innovative educator and realizes that her lessons can reach more students if she expands them into classes for teachers. Her classes for teachers are a success, and inspire her to come up with more programs, such as a summer camp where students can come to learn about the animals and even spend the night exploring the zoo after dark. Annette struggles to get approval for her ideas, but soon emerges victorious and the camp is such a success that it spawns similar programs elsewhere. Annette is promoted through the ranks of the zoo and is invited to go to China to lead an exploratory commission looking to expand the education conservation programs to Chinese students as well. Annette takes further trips such as to Caracas, Venezuela to expand the conservation efforts, unfortunately while massive riots are going on that endanger her and her husband. Her most exciting trip is to Africa, where she sleeps in a tent on a wildlife reserve and gets up close with a lioness and her cub.

    Annette's father dies in his old age, and one of her coworkers, Kathleen, memorializes him in a way unique to their line of work--an infant wallaby was rejected by his mother, and Kathleen decided to raise him herself and named him Nachman after Annette's friendly father. Nachman was a Holocaust survivor, and Kathleen jokes that they are both survivors. The zoo expands in popularity, and Nachman the wallaby becomes a favorite picture prop of many celebrity visitors such as Bill Clinton. As Annette ages and watches her children have children of their own, her husband encourages her to retire, but she's restless and loves her job. It isn't until she has a bad fall that leaves her unable to walk for a time that she is able to relent and give up some of her duties. She takes her granddaughter to the zoo and sees the love in her eyes and realizes that even as she leaves this job, another young woman will eventually take her place and continue her work in conservation education.

    About The Author

    Annette Libeskind Berkovits was born in Kyrgyzstan and grew up in postwar Poland and the fledgling state of Israel before coming to America at age sixteen. In her three-decade career with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, she spearheaded the institution's nationwide and worldwide science education programs. Her achievements include the first-ever agreement to bring environmental education to China's schools. Now retired, she is pursuing her life-long love of writing.