by Gerald Durrell
If Durrell really wrote a book about every trip he went on to film or capture wildlife, I am happy there are so many yet for me to read! This one is from earlier in his career, when he was part of making a wildlife documentary for television. With a small film crew and his wife, he spent six months travelling through New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia to look at wildlife conservation efforts in those countries. Of course, having a short time frame in which to find elusive, often very rare animals and get good footage of them, often made for hectic schedules and amusing situations, such as when they captured \”flying lizards\” (gliding lizards in the Draco genus) and released them over and over from the top of a stepladder while the cameraman lay on his back below, to get it on film. Banter among the camera crew and his wife constantly interjecting caution (the cameraman in particular would take alarming risks to get the footage needed) interesting observations on culture and local people in the places they went, make for a lively read. As always, I was most intrigued to read first-hand descriptions of animals in their native habitat (for the most part- a few they saw in captive breeding programs). Some of these included the royal albatross, king shag, takahe, malee (two rare birds), platypus, mudskippers (not rare, but very interesting) and leatherback sea turtle. They witnessed a kangaroo birth and apparently were the second to ever get it on film. (The first footage made, by scientists at a place that studied kangaroos, was deemed unfit for television use). Durrell was apparently quite fond of wombats, but considered koalas to be dim-witted and dull. I wasn\’t aware that black swans were (at the time) considered an invasive species in New Zealand. Durrell makes a continual point how mankind has changed natural landscapes and many species are in danger of extinction. His final chapter is a plea (repeated in most of his books) for people to pay more attention to the needs of wildlife and support conservation efforts. It\’s nice to know most of the conservation programs he visited at the time, have since shown a good success rate.
Rating: 3/5 256 pages, 1966