Love what we do?

In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Would you ever describe a penguin as ungrateful, or an elderly gibbon as working spectacularly?

Several animals from the Racine Zoo have been featured in a new book – one that improbably links the idiosyncratic nature of the zoo’s animals with the shopping reviews typically found on online retailers.

The new book, Animals Reviewed: Starred Ratings of Our Feathered, Finned, and Furry Friends, features Racine Zoo residents such as the African Penguin, Orangutan, White-Handed Gibbon, Andean (Spectacled) Bear and the Leopard Gecko.

The idea of the book came from Shervin Hess, a Digital Media Specialist at the Oregon Zoo. One day, Hess was shopping for hiking boots on Amazon when he read the description: “waterproof, great for winter, only comes in brown.” That description befits not only hiking boots, but also Lincoln, the Zoo’s rescued sea otter pup. He posted Lincoln’s new “description” online, and the idea really took off.

The Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) ran with Lincoln’s description, posting it on Twitter. It wasn’t too much later that the hashtag #rateaspecies reached 100 million people.

The AZA later partnered with Timber Press to publish an entire book of #rateaspecies gems. While the ratings are humorous, they’re also educational – even if they poke fun at some of the animals’ personality quirks.

In one “rating,” the Racine Zoo’s African Penguin gets just one star. Here’s how the book described our penguin: “Ungrateful, fussy bird. Recently installed an igloo and industrial AC in my garage to make him feel at home—refused to go in and yelled like a donkey when I tried to take him outside for some fresh air on my snow day. Disappointed. Would not buy again.”

Proceeds from the book go to the AZA as well as their Saving Animals From Extinction program.

Here are some of the other ratings from Racine Zoo animals that you’ll also find in the book:

Orangutan: “Five Stars. Wonderful product! Very strong. Was lucky enough to get one before they run out! Apparently the place that makes them is disappearing.”

White-Handed Gibbon: “Five Stars. Excellent product, has exceeded my expectations! Instructions said it would need to be replaced at least every 30 years, but mine is now over 50 and still working spectacularly!”

Andean (Spectacled) Bear: “Four Stars. Thought I ordered a solid black bear, but this one came with a brown face. Called the manufacturer, and they tried to pass this off as ‘spectacles.’”

Leopard Gecko: “Four Stars. Other reviewers have complained that the tail breaks off this product if it gets scared, but don’t worry, it grows back!”