Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President & CEO

In April 2002, Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Louis Zoo. In 2009 his position was endowed by the Dana Brown Charitable Trust.

From 1993 to 2002, he served as President and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens. Before that, from 1987 to 1993, he was Vice President for Research and Special Projects at the Saint Louis Science Center, where he supervised long-range planning of exhibits and associated programming. He began his work at the Science Center in 1983 as Director of Exhibits and Programs. 

Dr. Bonner received his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Missouri – Columbia in 1975.  He received his M.A. and M. Phil. degrees in anthropology from Columbia University in New York in 1977 and 1979, along with his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1982.  He is a Burgess Fellow, Traveling Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, President’s Fellow and a recipient of the National Research Service Award.  Dr. Bonner is the author of numerous articles and has written a book based on his doctoral research in northern India. 

When he became president and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo in 2002, Dr. Bonner was impressed by the breadth of conservation programs that the Zoo already supported and made it a priority to bring even more focus and attention to these efforts. Despite its wide reach, the Zoo’s most important work is still happening where it all began 100 years ago. “The longer I work in zoos, the more I have come to believe that connecting visitors with the animals they see right in front of them is still the best service we can render,” Dr. Bonner wrote in his bookSailing with Noah. “In other words, the animals that reside in zoos become ambassadors for their kind.”

Under his leadership, Zoo staff was asked to brainstorm and then prioritize conservation programs that would be the best fit for the Saint Louis Zoo. Out of this effort the WildCare Institute was born, with 12 Conservation Centers supporting research and conservation activities for critically endangered species and habitats across the globe. From the hellbender salamanders of the Missouri Ozarks to Armenian mountain vipers, the Saint Louis Zoo has strengthened and extended its reach “beyond the fence.”

Dr. Bonner serves on numerous boards, including the Conservation Planning Specialist Group, BioSTL Coalition, Higher Education Channel TV, Forest Park Forever, St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce (RCGA) and the Academy of Science of St. Louis. He is the former chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Amphibian Ark,  the International Species Information System and the Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group, an international consortium of 39 zoos and related institutions. He is a member of The Explorers Club, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Academy of Science and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Dr. Bonner is also the author of Sailing with Noah, Stories from the World of Zoos. The book, published in 2006, is an intensely personal, behind-the-scenes look at modern zoos.  In it, he explores the role of zoos in today's society and their future as institutions of education, conservation and research.  Written in a lively, accessible style, the book offers a variety of true stories about animals and those who care for them, providing Dr. Bonner’s perspective on heavily-publicized incidents and describing less-known events with compassion and humor.