#StevesLibrary: The Whispering Land
There is always someone that helps cheer us up in uncertain times, such as those which we are facing. For me, that person is Gerald Durrell. Why is this? Well during the 1970s, Durrell helped to (almost) single-handed change the way zoos are seen in the public eye but focussing his efforts on conservation instead of exhibiting species for the public to visit. This helped shape how zoos would go on to function to this day with more emphasis on conservation and education. During this process, Durrell travelled the world on various trips to different countries in order to collect animals to breed in captivity (perhaps for the first time). Whilst he wasn’t the first to do this, he certainly had some flair and passion that makes reading about his escapades.
The Whispering Land covers such adventures that Durrell undertook to in Argentina to collect animals to take back to Jersey in order to start the laborious process of establishing captive assurance populations. This is no mean feat especially for animals that have never been kept or bred in captivity before. Their husbandry needs are usually assumed to be similar to their closest relatives for which we’ve already successfully kept but this assumption doesn’t always hold true. Reading Durrell’s adventures, it is evident that he was the sort of figure that I would have loved to have had a beer with (although he’d have probably preferred a gin an tonic). His diplomatic skills appear second to none in terms of procuring specimens in even the most unlikely scenarios.
Something The Whispering Land reminded me of (that I had completely forgotten about) is that Durrell was also an avid filmmaker. He presented a number of wildlife films and can be seen as a contemporary to Sir David Attenborough, who is only a year younger than Durrell. Durrell was as prolific at filmmaking as he was at writing, The Whispering Land documents some of his attempts to film Argentina’s wildlife. Again this was no mean feat at the time (when Durrell visited some 60 years ago). There are snippets of Durrell’s adventures on YouTube if you want to check them out – he had a similar talent to Attenborough and it’s a shame Durrell is no longer with us to help enthuse people about the natural world in these challenging times.
If you’re feeling gloomy about the world, pick up a copy of one of Durrell’s books and see if his optimism and enthusiasm shines through and helps you too.
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