top of page
  • Writer's pictureAmai Palmer

Why I wrote "The Great Animal Rescue: Operation Noah"


I’m Jane Palmer also known as Amai Palmer, particularly by my three soon-to-be four, gorgeous grandchildren.

I was born in Masvingo, Zimbabwe to Frank and Jean Junor while they were living in a caravan in the middle of Kyle Game Reserve in what was then Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.

My mother tells the story that when she was pregnant with me the doctor asked, “Have you been skinny dipping in the lake?” She replied, “Why on earth would you think that?” “Well, most of the pregnant tums I see are lily white, yours is tanned.” This was her explanation “You see doctor our bathroom doesn’t have a roof. It consists of grass walls with a canvas bath. The cold water is siphoned from a tanker, sometimes used to transport fish. The hot water comes from an ‘ingenious dragon’ commonly known as a “donkey boiler”, who like his artistic creator is very temperamental and just won’t be lit on bad days. So, I take advantage of good days by having a long lie in a hot bath.”

I started life in this unique environment because my father Frank was the first fisheries research officer at Kyle Dam with National Parks.

Love of Wildlife

When you are born into a family culture it takes a while to appreciate what you have. My rather unique early years were spent in a national park surrounded by animals that had come into our care. My mother’s sewing room was outside under a tree with a Kudu doe, bushbuck, and parrot to keep us occupied while she got on with her task.

Why I wrote “The Great Animal Rescue: Operation Noah”
Why I wrote “The Great Animal Rescue: Operation Noah”

My father’s deep passion for wildlife was a part of all that we did including my “school on the air” projects, Sunday afternoon drives, and even taking up space in the bath (my sisters and I found a crocodile there one evening).

The fascination, love, and respect for wildlife became integral to my worldview. Later this took on a new dimension when I read of God’s mandate to mankind to take care of His creation. Creation and mankind are bound together; they are directly affected by each other’s actions.


When I was 7 years old, I distinctly remember sitting down at school whilst the teacher attached the 16mm film and prepared the projector. My family and I had just moved to Kariba, a town on the edge of a vast lake, except it wasn’t a naturally formed lake but more of a massive man-made dam. Colossal concrete walls hold back hundreds and thousands of litres of water.

As the film started rolling and the pictures showed, we learned exactly what happened when the man-made dam was built in 1958 - 1964. Devastating flooding. Thousands of animals were at risk of death. I still feel the surprised look on my face as a picture of my father showed on the screen. I looked around the room in amazement to gauge my teacher’s reaction and then back to the picture. He was holding a snake. My father was part of Operation Noah; one of the largest animal rescue operations ever.

Many Rhodesian/Zimbabwean children through the years watched these films. The story became a national legend, one that does not include politics.


When I visit the homes of Zimbabweans scattered throughout the world, the pictures on their walls and the decoration of their homes reflect the love of wildlife and the natural beauty of Zimbabwe. It is central to Zimbabwean culture.


I woke up one morning with the clear thought that I was to honour my father and the amazing men, who committed to the enormously challenging task of rescuing thousands of animals, by retelling the story. I realised how important it was to pass it on to my grandchildren and all our grandchildren before it was lost. It is an important example of mankind taking responsibility for the care of our wildlife.

My sisters and I have the privilege of being in possession of my grandmother’s scrapbook of newspaper cuttings and telegrams along with my father’s diary, photographs, and yes 16mm film, which we later had Dad commentate on while we videoed. All of these resourced the writing of the children’s book “The Great Animal Rescue: Operation Noah”.

The Book

This true story’s underlying themes are those of courage, self-sacrifice, grit, and determination to make a difference.

In the book, you will find a few chapters written from an elephant’s perspective, and the remainder is narrated by my father’s voice. My niece Carmen Ladwig, has done an outstanding job of graphic design, incorporating some of the original photos, newspaper cuttings, and even a telegram. A Telegram was sent to my grandparents when my father had a buffalo stick its horn through his leg. From a piece of communication history to a picture created with the use of artificial intelligence the graphics bring variety.

To stay true to my father’s scientific style, some chapters are full of facts. Reference is made to some YouTube videos compiled by Ron Thomson having been donated by Hillary Drysdale, Rupert Fothergill’s daughter, they are worth watching.

At the beginning of the book, there are 2 articles one from Life magazine and a newspaper cutting both of which refer to the men taking on the work of Noah. There are several sticky notes throughout with verses from this Biblical story. I have chosen to use these to continue the parallel and remind us of the mandate given to us to take care of creation.


My experience as a teacher has directly informed my approach to the form of the book.

Although I believe this can be a coffee table book for all ages, the target audience is young people who are not yet hooked on reading. They may be found flicking through an encyclopedia or a factual book of some kind. It is designed to be easy to read in small amounts as each chapter is a story in itself, except for the rhino rescue drama that stretches over two chapters. This is intended to develop empathy for the men who faced challenges and didn’t always succeed on the first attempt. Consequently, they had to come up with another plan. This demonstrates to the reader initiative and resilience.

For the visual learner, there are a plethora of old photos, sketches, newspaper cuttings, and even a telegram for them to enjoy along with the latest in technology, pictures created with artificial intelligence. I purposely have not simplified the vocabulary with the intention of extending the young reader. To Quote Mem Fox

Adults tend to think that children find new or literary words difficult to understand.

Children don’t find difficult words difficult: they easily guess their meanings in the

context of the surrounding story.”


The books written by Keith Meadows, Eric Robins, and Ronald Legge have informed and contributed to the creation of this children’s book “The Great Animal Rescue: Operation Noah”.

Share the story.

For the many people who are intrigued by and care about wildlife around the world, this book tells an epic story worth reading about the rescue of over 6,000 animals.

I would very much appreciate you activating the Bush Telegraph to let people know about this book. Thank you for reading all the way to the end 😊

17 views0 comments


bottom of page