Sailing with Noah
Stories from the World of Zoos
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Missouri Press
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Praise, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Common sense would tell you that waiting until the day a manuscript is due at the publisher’s and then trying to do the acknowledgments is not a good idea. Sometimes, however, schedules and common sense collide. Not only am I waiting until the last possible minute to thank all of the people who helped me prepare this manuscript, ...
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I often say that I don’t remember a thing that I learned in first grade. I must have learned something, because I know the alphabet and I can count. Still, I don’t actually remember anything with clarity. Most people at least remember their teacher’s name or, better yet, some intriguing and wonderful lesson that seemed to stick with them over the years, ...
Chapter 1 - Escargot, Anyone?
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One warm Sunday in May, I found myself standing on the balcony of my office overlooking the Saint Louis Zoo, watching the birds flock at the feeder below. A small house sparrow was under attack by a starling, which pecked viciously at the little bird. The sparrow would escape briefly, flutter a few feet, and the starling would once again renew the onslaught. ...
Chapter 2 - IronKids Bread
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At first I didn’t get the joke. It never occurred to me that there might be something funny about having five elephants with diarrhea. I might have been the first to laugh at a news story about a fire in a match factory or a flood in an Alka Seltzer factory, but I never suspected that the newspaper would poke some gentle fun at our sick elephants. ...
Chapter 3 - The Tragedy in Philadelphia and the Miracle in Chicago
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Pete Hoskins, the director of the Philadelphia Zoo, is in bed, sound asleep, when his phone rings. It is past midnight, so technically, it is the earliest hours of Christmas Eve, the morning of December 24, 1995. On the line is one of his security personnel. “There’s been a fire in the World of Primates,” he is told. ...
Chapter 4 - When a Butterfly Sneezes
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It’s funny how the smallest things can have a huge impact on our lives. My favorite example is the story of how I really graduated from college. I spent my senior year working on an honors thesis in the anthropology department at the University of Missouri. I wrote a very long paper on the evolution of law in society—probably pretty boring stuff, ...
Chapter 5 - The Telemetric Egg
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The Saint Louis Zoo has the largest collection of waterfowl of any zoo in America—at last count we had 442 individuals representing 61 different species. They live, for the most part, on the three small lakes in the center of the zoo. The problem is that the birds in our collection face many of the same difficulties that birds in the wild face ...
Chapter 6 - A Virus among Us
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Most people are surprised to learn that over 95 percent of the animals in any given accredited zoo in America have been bred in zoos, many of them in highly selective, computer-driven breeding programs call Species Survival Plans (or SSPs). Now, that sentence requires more than a little explanation. ...
Chapter 7 - Lions and Tigers and Bears
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In 1993, North American zoos decided to form the first SSP for an animal that wasn’t threatened or endangered—the African lion. Most of the lions found in zoos up until then were of unknown genetic heritage. We had been breeding lions in zoos without much regard for ancestry—because they weren’t exactly rare or difficult to reproduce, ...
Chapter 8 - Golden Tamarins and Ferrets with Black Feet
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The current candidate for the dubious distinction of being North America’s most endangered mammal might go to a charming little fellow called the black-footed ferret. They’re members of the weasel family (Mustelidae), which includes minks, otters, wolverines, badgers, and skunks. ...
Chapter 9 - Ralph Neds I Have Known
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Okay, the chapter title requires some explanation. If you look closely as you wander around any zoo in America, you’ll see that most keepers have radios. In fact, here at the Saint Louis Zoo, we have about two hundred radios in use on any given day. ...
Chapter 10 - Immaculate Conception
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I’m sure everyone has a favorite example of political correctness gone awry. My first experience with the PC movement dates back to the early 1970s, when I was in college at the University of Missouri. Our student newspaper was named The Maneater, after Missouri’s mascot, a tiger. ...
Chapter 11 - The Stradivarius of Birds
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There is some debate about how many violins made by Antonio Stradivari survive to this day, but seven hundred instruments is a pretty good guess. They vary greatly in value, but they can fetch up to $3.5 million at auction. There is no debate about how many Guam kingfishers survive to this day. As I write this, there are fifty-eight birds left alive. ...
Chapter 12 - We Haven’t Lost Anybody (Yet)
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One of the best things about being a zoo president involves traveling to some of the world’s most exotic places. As a child, I dreamed of seeing the world and living the life of a nineteenth- or early-twentieth-century explorer. To a certain extent, I have. I have rafted the lower Zambezi River, floated in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti, ...
Chapter 13 - Skukuza
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September 30, 2000, found us flying back to South Africa. This time, our ultimate destination was South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where we were slated to track and capture five white rhinos for export back to the States, with three of them destined to live in Indianapolis. ...
Chapter 14 - The Panda Wars
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The panda wars were civil wars in the truest sense of the phrase. They were civil in the literal sense, in that no one got shot at (although, at times, I’m sure the thought crossed people’s minds), and civil in the more common sense, in that they pitted conservation organizations that were normally the closest of friends and allies against one another. ...
Chapter 15 - This Would Be a Nice Place—If It Weren’t for the Visitors
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I was, I have to admit, one of the people the author of the letter talked to about her latex allergy. I didn’t point out that many people (including myself) are allergic to cats. If I had pointed that out, I probably would have gone on to say that my allergy isn’t a good reason for us to stop our work with Siberian tigers. ...
Chapter 16 - The Problem with PETA
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Satellite phones are simply wonderful. As the Saint Louis Zoo sends more and more curators, keepers, vets, and scientists out to the field, usually to remote and inaccessible places, you can call the office with the push of a few buttons and, aside from the fact that it sounds like you’re talking from the bottom of a trash can, you can communicate perfectly. ...
Chapter 17 - Zoos of the Future
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The world around us is changing fast and, when it comes to wildlife, it is not changing for the better. The IUCN publishes the international list of threatened and endangered species (called the Red List), and a quick look at their list will tell you this: 18 percent of the world’s remaining mammals and 11 percent of the world’s remaining birds are threatened with extinction. ...
Chapter 18 - Sailing with Noah
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I grew up in a devoutly religious family. My grandfather was a Methodist minister who preached in western Pennsylvania and along the southern tier of New York—the counties that border the northern edge of Pennsylvania. He had four sons, and my father was his second. ...
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Sitting on this beautiful beach, looking out over the Caribbean, it is hard to imagine that there is anything amiss with our world. The water is five completely different hues of blue, stretching in wide bands from the deep azure of the horizon, to the striking teal waters just off-shore, then finally blending into the pure white of the waves washing up on the beach. ...
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About the Author
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Jeffrey P. Bonner is the President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo and Past President of the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens. He is a Burgess Fellow, Travelling Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, President’s Fellow, and a recipient of the National Research Service Award.
Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 20 color and 11 b&w illus
Publication Year: 2006