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Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons: A Journey to the Flora and Fauna of a Unique… (1977)

by Gerald Durrell

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306561,161 (3.88)25
In cooperation with the Mauritian government, Gerald Durrell and his team visited the island to help rescue some of the rapidly dwindling fauna from almost certain extinction. This book recounts their attempts.

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Gerald Durrell was a force to be reckoned with in wildlife conservation, and Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons is his account of a trip to Mauritius and surrounding islands to capture enough critically endangered species to take back to his zoo on the island of Jersey to begin successful breeding programs. It's a wonderful book that was too short.

Durrell tells of his preparations and of trying to get all the supplies and everyone in his group in and out of boats and onto tricky landing spots in remote areas. A great deal of thought went into how they would trap the birds, bats, and reptiles so that they would not be injured as well as how the animals would be housed until they were ready to depart for Jersey. Each species required a specific number of animals for a chance at a successful breeding program, and Durrell and his group did not take any more than they needed. (There are records from the 1700s of ships leaving these islands with thousands of turtles and other creatures on board, at least half of which would die before they reached their destinations.)

Hunting the animals was fascinating reading which often made me laugh out loud as Durrell described travel with Jak fruit and being in a hut during a torrential downpour with land slugs and a nervous rat.

In addition to the laughter, it's the beauty of Mauritius that I will remember, especially Durrell breakfasting with birds out on a terrace and his incredible descriptions of marine life when he went snorkeling. If you love wildlife, this is a book you must read. ( )
  cathyskye | May 24, 2020 |
About a collection trip Durrell took to Mauritius, in particular visiting several tiny islands- Round Island gets a lot of mention- where species of snakes, birds and lizards live that exist nowhere else in the world. These species were nearly extinct due to introduced rabbits, goats and monkeys which either denuded the vegetation or destroyed the native animals' young. When Durrell visited the island, less than forty pink pigeons remained, there were only eight Mauritian kestrels known to exist, and the Round Island boa numbered seventy-five. Their purpose was to get an estimated count of the various endangered species, capture just enough individuals to set up a captive breeding program, and ascertain what could be done about the invasive animal problem. A lot of it of course, is about the mishaps and struggles working in remote, foreign conditions- in this case under constant blistering heat with little shade.... While the focus of the trip was the golden bat, pink pigeon and Mauritian kestrel, a lot of the text describes the numerous and sometimes beautiful lizards- there being plenty of those around to observe.... Apart from the collecting efforts, Durrell also describes the beauties of the reef, as they spent several mornings snorkeling. The descriptions of the dazzling variety of fishes, corals, invertebrates and more is just wonderful. Unlike most Durrell books I've read, this one is illustrated with photographs (as well as some nice pen-and-ink drawings).

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Aug 8, 2019 |
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons: A Journey to the Flora and Fauna of a Unique Island is the entertaining story of Gerald Durrell's experience on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where he collected rare specimens for his animal sanctuary. The Dodo had already vanished from the island and by the 1970s many more species were going the way of the Dodo.

Durrell's tales are entertaining and funny. His description of the Jak fruit as "an obscene green fruit, covered with knobs and looking rather like the corpse of a Martian baby" sent me into hysterics. My husband and I had just seen one at Kroger two days before I read this description. The Jak was meant to lure the Golden Bats and had a pungent smell "vaguely reminiscent of a putrefying body." And the produce man told us it tasted like "Juicy Fruit" gum. Glad we were not tempted.

After several delays, which involved Durrell's team eating the bat fruit before it spoiled and buying more, the team finally landed on Rodriguez island. That evening the mosquitoes attacked. "I'm rather glad we came really, I would hate to think of all these mosquitoes going hungry," remarked one of the party. "Yes it's a form of conservation, really," Durrell replied.

The party contended with other invasions as well, by giant land snails that invaded their tent and ate their food and baby Shearwaters that invaded their beds.

The descriptions of Mauritius's flora, fauna, and coral reefs are vivid and gorgeous. My favorite chapter was The Enchanted World on the coral reefs. The writing is evocative and lovely as Durrell describes experiencing the overwhelming life and color of the reef. You understand his enchantment.

As I read this chapter I experienced a tightness in the pit of my stomach, fearful that these teeming reefs are dying like reefs all over the world. I checked it out. The reef is suffering from higher temperature water due to El Nino events and is also impacted by a billion tourists a year and the agricultural runoff from the island.

Mother Earth is losing her children from human impact and climate change. Durrell strove to save species from extinction. I am glad to have read his memoir and learned about his work.

I thank the publisher for the free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | Apr 25, 2017 |
I really enjoy Durrell's books. Both for the adventures and the education he provides. This one was short, a very quick read. Written later in his life, it concentrates a bit more on the conservation aspects than his earlier works. I have to wonder what it would have been like to have accompanied him on his adventures. Just the thought will provide me with many hours of daydreaming! ( )
  1Randal | Feb 2, 2017 |
Short and sweet.

The target this time is Mauritius and the neighbouring Round island. the Dod last lived in Mauritius and as it's the symbol of Durrell's preservation program he decided that some of the other endagered animals on Mauritius shoudl be amoung the first to benefit from active preservation. This was in the late 70s!

His particular targets were the Pink pigeons and Golden bats of the title, plus a few skinks and snakes. As usual Gerald and companions and native assistants venture into the untamed - or at least poorly tracked, wilds in search of rare creatures. Being rare, they are't easily found and instead Gerald has enconters with other creatures of which most disgustingly described is an invasion of land snails. There's also an entire chapter detailing the fascinating creatures that can be observed whiel snorkling off the local reefs - nothing at all to do with Gerald's purposes there, just local colour: and jealously inspiring.

Considering that the whole expedition was over 4 months and there was a follow up a year later, it really is a remarkably short book. One would have expected many more incidents to have to come to light over that time. But what there is, is good typically humourous Durrell fare. ( )
  reading_fox | Feb 2, 2009 |
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This is for Farida and Wahab
whose kindness and hospitality
sum up the whole charm of
Mauritius
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When you are venturing into a new area of the world
for the first time, it is essential—especially if you are
an animal collector—that you do two things.
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Bello

2 editions of this book were published by Bello.

Editions: 1447214153, 1447214161

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