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.
Read about Durrell's Zoo on Jersey
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to see the flora and fauna discussed in the book
News report on the coral reef
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons
Open Road Media