Review of Science and the Art of Zoo Bus Maintenance, by Dr Mike Leahy

From the back cover

It is said that everyone is only three decisions away from homelessness and, after a successful career as a virologist and TV presenter, Mike Leahy found out just that. Desperate times called for desperate measures. One night after one beer too many he decided that a Zoo Bus seemed like a sensible solution to his predicament and within a few days he had thrown himself into building an unlikely educational project based on an old London bus that he bought on eBay. However unhinged his solution seemed to others, Mike now had a new mission. He would work with a troop of rescue animals (some venomous), educating students and the public about killer bugs, the environment and neglected tropical diseases while at the same time navigating an unreliable old double decker bus to communities and schools across Great Britain. What could possibly go wrong?


I first saw Dr Mike on the BBC TV show Rough Science, where a group of half a dozen scientists and engineers covering disparate subjects are abandoned in an out-of-the-way place and, much like Matt Damon’s character in The Martian, have to “science the sh*t out of it” to make their given goals. If you can catch it, it’s great fun and very interesting.

Then I saw the Nat Geo series Bite Me, featuring Mike adventuring across the globe and encountering various fascinating but decidedly and usually bitey weird creatures.

I followed the writing of his book via his Twitter account, @OfficialDrMike, and had to get my hands on a copy. It is funny, educational, heartfelt and moving. I particularly like the quotes that begin each chapter, from Albert Camus to Angelina Jolie. Brilliant.

It tells the story, after a period of homelessness (even after a successful scientific career and TV presenting jobs, which just goes to show a change of fortune can happen to anyone at any time), of the inception and building of the educational Zoo Bus, an absolutely genius if hugely ambitious project that Mike undertook. If you ever wondered how to keep a leech happy, now you will know!

And the Tale of the Tapeworm is an eye opener!

In short, this book is really, really fascinating, will make you laugh, and will also open your eyes to the challenges the environment and the Earth’s flora & fauna face around the world.



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