Dead as a dodo is a concept Durrell abhors--so he has set off, time and again, to retrieve rare animals and promote their breeding at his own zoo on the island of Jersey or at reserves near the animals' native habitat. This latest expedition (subject also of a BBC-TV series) took Durrell and zoologist wife Lee to four islands in the Indian Ocean--ranging from uninhabited Round Island to massive Madagascar. With his usual fluency, Durrell describes ""satanic black"" male Macao lemurs whose ""yellow eyes showed up like dandelions in a pool of pitch"" and a species of chameleon ""with a fat tail coiled like a green Catherine wheel."" He also adds just enough trials-and-tribulations to remind us that exotic islands are no Edens. In Mauritius, hundreds of thousands of tiny black moths ""crawled all over us, into our hair, our eyes, up our noses and into our ears."" Madagascar boasted the fabulous thorn ""forests"": groves of cacti, 75-ft. tall, whose trunks sport 2-in., needle-sharp spikes (not the sort of prop to lean against while aiming your camera). Each island presented different ecological challenges, as well. Rats, mongooses, and the strangler liana plant are working havoc with Mauritius. Rabbits and goats have laid Round Island waste. Rodrigues has been all but swept away by cyclones. But the rescue operations retrieved pink pigeons from Mauritius; rare skinks, geckos, and even a boa (a New World reptile) from Round Island; bats and fody birds from Rodrigues; and, of course, the magnificent lemurs and other fauna native to Madagascar. Durrell's lyric descriptions of the antics of sifaka, mouse lemurs, idris, and other story-book primates are sufficient in themselves to delight his many admirers.