When an author has written a series of books I usually prefer to review them in the order they were written,, or in chronological order if the series has a chronology. I’m going to break that habit with Gerald Durrell’s books because I picked up some books covering his later collecting trips. These are the books I’ve read most recently, so I’ll do them first.
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons is the story of his trip to Mauritius to catch some endangered birds and bats for a breeding programme. He also visited nearby Round Island to catch some endangered lizards and snakes, also for breeding. With some of the creatures, finding the specimens was the easy part. Catching them was tricky. Round Island was, and probably still is, exposed with very little shelter from the sun. Even with plenty of water, dehydration and sun stroke were very real dangers.
As always with Gerald Durrell’s books, the animals he’s trying to catch all have personalities, and the various local people who wander briefly into the story add plenty of colour. There’s the man growing (and sampling!) drugs in the forest, the airport officials and the boat owner, to name just a few. The collecting trips are so well written that I felt like I was there. Durrell’s description of the creatures he saw while snorkelling were so vivid that I wished I’d been there. More to the point, I wish I could snorkel.
The Afterword of Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons describes what happened to the various birds and animals Durrell caught on this expedition. It’s heartening to know that the results were quite good. However, more needs to be done, and organizations like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust need all the help they can get.