When the much-loved Gerald Durrell died aged seventy in 1995, he left behind not only his bestselling My Family and Other Animals and A Zoo in My Luggage, but also the legacy of the zoo he'd dreamed of as a small boy, where he pioneered the captive breeding of animals for conservation. With the authorization of Gerald Durrell's widow, Lee, and his surviving family, biographer Douglas Botting traces the life of the world-famous naturalist and popular author of over thirty-seven bestsellers. Brother of the famous novelist Lawrence Durrell, the younger Durrell always saw his writings about his eccentric family in Imperial India or on the idyllic island of Corfu and his early interest in birds and beasts as the means of financing his great passion: the breeding of endangered species for their return to the wild. Like Jacques Cousteau, he traveled across the globe, bringing the exotic natural world closer to ordinary people, and presented a dozen different television documentary series on zoology, such as Catch Me a Colobus and Ark on the Move, which gave him an international audience. As he traces Durrell's growing menagerie of tapirs, angwantibos, gorillas, lemurs, tamarins, and Chumley the chimp, Botting brings to life the man Sir David Attenborough called "a pioneer with a marvelous sense of humor." "[Botting's] admiration and affection for his subject are infectious" - Sunday Times (London)
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Although his work is not widely read today, Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was among the world's most popular naturalists in the 1950s and early '60s. He traveled to then-remote places such as Siberia, Cameroon, Tierra del Fuego, and Mauritius in search of odd zoological specimens and reported his travels in books like The Whispering Land and My Family and Other Animals. In the first full-length biography devoted to Durrell, Douglas Botting writes of his passage from gifted child amateur to scientifically trained professional. That passage was inspired in part by Gerald's older (and more famous) brother, the novelist and memoirist Lawrence Durrell, who gave Gerald a copy of Jean-Henri Fabre's classic Insect Life: Souvenirs of a Naturalist and encouraged his younger brother to follow his dream of living and working in the wild. Gerald Durrell, as Botting shows, went on to make signal contributions as a conservationist who founded the Jersey Zoo and other organizations devoted to protecting endangered species by breeding them in captivity and then reintroducing them into their native habitats. (Among those species were the Siberian ferret, highland gorilla, snow leopard, bespectacled bear, and golden lion tamarin.) Botting's well-written biography will be of interest not only to admirers of Durrell's work but also to students of the environmentalist and conservationist movements. --Gregory McNameeFrom Kirkus Reviews:
A portly, respectful biography of the late British conservationist, author, and raconteur. Like his better-known brother, the novelist and travel essayist Lawrence Durrell, Gerald Durrell (192595) was born in India and lived in England only under protest: ``That mean, shabby little island wrung my guts out of me and tried to destroy anything singular and unique in me,'' wrote Lawrence bitterly, and Gerald was inclined to agree. Although he would regard England as his home for most of his life, Gerald Durrell spent as much time as he could away from the island, traveling widely around the world in pursuit of his zoological interests and exploring deserts, savannas, mountains, and jungles far afield. Botting (One Chilly Siberian Morning, 1967) provides a thoroughly documented account of Durrell's itinerary, charting his development from amateur to professional naturalist whose books, such as My Family and Other Animals, were once widely read. Botting does an especially good job of addressing Durrell's many contributions to wildlife conservation; among other things, Durrell founded the Jersey Zoo, which helped protect dozens of endangered species, and he advised many governments on programs to protect indigenous animals. For these contributions alone, Botting suggests, Durrell deserves to be remembered todayeven while divorcing him, Durrell's wife was moved to remark, ``As a champion of the animal world and a pioneer of animal conservation he was one of the great men of our age, and his immense contribution to the cause is only now beginning to sink in.'' But Botting avoids hagiography, and he does offer a capable accounting of other aspects of Durrell's life as a writer, lecturer, sometime celebrity, and bon vivant. The result is a solid, engaging biography that will appeal to Durrell's admirersand perhaps, with good cause, earn him a few more. (24 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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