, August 22, 2009
(view all comments by JulesJones)
Nowadays, a good many zoos are seriously involved in conservation work, the last hope for some of the most endangered species on the planet. In the 1970s, that wasn't the case. This book was Durrell's polemic against the keeping of wild animals purely for entertainment purposes, an impassioned plea for things to change. In a series of seven essays he set out the case for zoological gardens to be genuine centres of scientific excellence devoted to the preservation and breeding of the animals in their care, and described the work of the zoo he had set up for this purpose. He made himself highly unpopular in some quarters with his stinging criticism of then-current practice, not least because it's well and entertainingly written, a successful appeal to the public at large to support his campaign. The first chapter is a little dry, but after that this is a fascinating description of the work of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Funny, moving, and utterly devoted to the animals without ever lapsing into saccharine sentiment, this is well worth a read.