We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Sailing with Noah

Stories from the World of Zoos

Jeffrey P. Bonner

Publication Year: 2006


Written by the president of the nation’s number-one zoo, Sailing with Noah is an intensely personal, behind-the-scenes look at modern zoos. Jeffrey P. Bonner, who was trained as an anthropologist and came to the zoo world quite by accident, shares some of the most compelling stories ever told about contemporary zoos. The stories jump between zoos in different cities and between countries on different continents. Some are fun and funny. Others are sad, even tragic. Pete Hoskins, the director of the Philadelphia Zoo, is in bed, sound asleep, when his phone rings. . . . “There’s been a fire in the World of Primates,” he is told. “You’ve got to get over here.” Whatever he has been dreaming, it is nothing like the nightmare he will find now that he is awake. . . . “They’re all gone. They’re all gone.” All of the animals in the building—the gorillas, the lemurs, the orangutans, and the gibbons—all twenty-three of them are dead.
Written in a lively, accessible style, Sailing with Noah explores the role of zoos in today’s society and their future as institutions of education, conservation, and research. Along the way, Bonner relates a variety of true stories about animals and those who care for them (or abuse them), offering his perspective on heavily publicized incidents and describing less-well-known events with compassion and humor in turn. By bringing the stories of the animals’ lives before us, Bonner gives them a voice. He strongly believes that zoos must act for living things, and he argues that conservation is a shared responsibility of all mankind. This book helps us to understand why biodiversity is important and what it means to be a steward of life on earth.
            From the day-to-day aspects of caring for some of the world’s most exotic creatures to the role of zoos as field conservation organizations, saving wild things in wild places, this book takes the reader on an incredible journey—a journey that begins within the zoo and continues around the globe.  Everyone—from zoo visitors to animal lovers to professional conservationists, the young and old alike—will be fascinated by this extraordinary book.

Published by: University of Missouri Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (92.1 KB)
pp. 1-2

Praise, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.1 KB)
pp. 3-9


pdf iconDownload PDF (26.1 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.7 KB)
pp. xi-xii

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, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.5 KB)
pp. 1-9

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, ...

read more

Chapter 1 - Escargot, Anyone?

pdf iconDownload PDF (73.2 KB)
pp. 10-21

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. ...

read more

Chapter 2 - IronKids Bread

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.1 KB)
pp. 22-33

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. ...

read more

Chapter 3 - The Tragedy in Philadelphia and the Miracle in Chicago

pdf iconDownload PDF (134.2 KB)
pp. 34-55

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. ...

read more

Chapter 4 - When a Butterfly Sneezes

pdf iconDownload PDF (72.7 KB)
pp. 56-67

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, ...

read more

Chapter 5 - The Telemetric Egg

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.2 KB)
pp. 68-82

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 ...

read more

Chapter 6 - A Virus among Us

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 83-114

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. ...

read more

Chapter 7 - Lions and Tigers and Bears

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.8 KB)
pp. 115-124

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, ...

read more

Chapter 8 - Golden Tamarins and Ferrets with Black Feet

pdf iconDownload PDF (139.6 KB)
pp. 125-144

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. ...

read more

Chapter 9 - Ralph Neds I Have Known

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.8 KB)
pp. 145-161

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. ...

read more

Chapter 10 - Immaculate Conception

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.9 KB)
pp. 162-175

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. ...

read more

Chapter 11 - The Stradivarius of Birds

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.0 KB)
pp. 176-188

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. ...

read more

Chapter 12 - We Haven’t Lost Anybody (Yet)

pdf iconDownload PDF (67.3 KB)
pp. 189-197

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, ...

read more

Chapter 13 - Skukuza

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.3 KB)
pp. 198-211

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. ...

read more

Chapter 14 - The Panda Wars

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.8 KB)
pp. 212-232

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. ...

read more

Chapter 15 - This Would Be a Nice Place—If It Weren’t for the Visitors

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.7 KB)
pp. 233-244

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. ...

read more

Chapter 16 - The Problem with PETA

pdf iconDownload PDF (111.7 KB)
pp. 245-266

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. ...

read more

Chapter 17 - Zoos of the Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.2 KB)
pp. 267-283

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. ...

read more

Chapter 18 - Sailing with Noah

pdf iconDownload PDF (108.0 KB)
pp. 284-293

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. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (44.3 KB)
pp. 294-298

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. ...

Selected References

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.3 KB)
pp. 299-302


pdf iconDownload PDF (50.9 KB)
pp. 303-310

read more

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (31.9 KB)
p. 326-326

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.

E-ISBN-13: 9780826265142
E-ISBN-10: 0826265146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826216373
Print-ISBN-10: 0826216374

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 20 color and 11 b&w illus
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1