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by Gerald Durrell

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 1-55970-140-4
Publisher: Arcade

 The ark in question isn't Noah's, although the intention is the same: to construct a shelter for endangered species. In this frothy, sometimes hilarious memoir, Durrell (How to Shoot an Amateur Naturalist, 1985; 18 other books) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Jersey Zoological Park, which he founded and still directs on the island of Jersey in the British Channel. As Durrell explains in his arch, very British accent (everyone ``sallies forth'' here), his zoo is different: It exists to establish breeding colonies for endangered species; it contains an international training center for ``captive-breeding'' programs; and David Niven officiated at the wedding of its two randy gorillas. Celebrities pop up in these pages almost as frequently as do critters: Princess Grace, Richard Adams, Princess Anne (the latter being the butt, so to speak, of Durrell's funniest anecdote, when he remarks to the princess, walking past a cage of mandrills- -famous for their blue-and-scarlet posterior--``Wonderful animal, ma'am. Wouldn't you like to have a behind like that?''). Fund- raising in America and an effort to breed pygmy hogs prove equally funny, but also painful in their suggestions of bureaucratic roadblocks and public indifference--both responsible, as Durrell makes clear, for the irrevocable loss of many species. Durrell's loving descriptions of animal antics--such as the potentially dangerous chimps who dropped in on his mother one day (``but dear, they came to tea,'' she says) are as enjoyable as ever; what sets this apart is the apelike behavior of so many of the humans. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)