Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Good Madagascar Book

Gerald Durrell is a conservationist who spent some time in Madagascar, and this is the story of a trip he and his wife took to try and obtain some animals for zoos. The point was to provide animals for captive breeding programs and to assist in species recovery. While I don't like the idea of removing animals from the wild, I recognize that in some cases captive breeding programs are the only way that species have a hope of recovery. Mr. Durrell has been around for a very long time, and so in a way he is the last of his era of conservation, and looking at how things were done we can only hope they have improved a bit for all concerned. That said, it is a good story.

For one thing, he tells the story of travel in Madagascar without editing or romanticizing it. For example, the many people who met who were killing and eating lemurs, or just killing them, or capturing them, and who upon being told this was illegal said "So what? No one will enforce the law." That was exactly the attitude I observed in the people there as well. I found his observations about the people, places and conditions, though made more than a decade before my trip there, to be quite accurate.

Some aye-ayes were captured, as well as some bamboo lemurs and tortoises. The story of how these animals were captured and how they were cared for an transported is interesting, if a bit bizarre. Carrying baby bamboo lemurs around in baskets and feeding them bananas is not something most conservationists would probably approve of, but what other way to get them to the safety of a zoo when traveling in such a country?

Durell's wit and humor, his love of animals, and his acceptance and observation rather than hatred or judgment about humans makes this book an enjoyable read, though the first chapter got off to a slow start. There is a story about what happens to him while camping when some ducks invade his shower that certainly ought to make anyone laugh out loud - that alone is worth the time to buy or check this book out from the library. This is one of the best books about Madagascar I read when I was trying to learn more about the country.


Alex said...

Hey Esmae, I enjoyed your entries about Madagascar! We're considering a trip there (and, coincidentally, reading Gerald Durrell's book). I know it won't be exactly perfect (and the current unrest will have to settle down, of course) - like you, I think we often find ourselves in troubled places because we desperately want to see the wildlife there.

We'll definitely check out Antipode too.

I've only skimmed your non-Madagascar entries, but it looks like you haven't gone to South America?

Esmae said...

No, haven't been to South America yet - but some day! It's on the list! Madagascar was the most difficult trip I've done, in almost every way, and although I don't regret it, I probably won't go back.

If you have a blog of your adventures let me know!