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This ""very last,"" very brief book brings into the Adamson fold two seldom-observed species, Colobus monkeys and Verreaux's eagle owls--preceded by Juliette Huxley's recollections of Adamson over the years. ""Elsa,"" Huxley writes, ""became the child she had never had""--and we see that same maternal attentiveness gain her the trust of the monkeys and the owls here. But she had little patience, Huxley adds, ""in her relations with human beings. . . expecting more understanding than she was prepared to give."" Of that too we see fresh evidence: she is quick to suspect neighbors of doing her animals harm, and on one occasion sets the authorities, successfully, on an absent neighbor's ""obviously lying"" staff. It is not so difficult, then, to imagine someone murdering her--though Huxley also suggests a loneliness and disquietude, toward the end, that might have made death a blessing. The two animal pieces, however, stand on their own. The Colobus turn up at Elsamere just before baby Coil is born, and Adamson watches his coloring change, bit by bit, from almost-all-white to solid black--save for his startling black-and-white face, white tail, and gray ""cape."" (The photos should be knockouts.) She sees him change character too, at five-and-a-half, from a teasing imp to a tyrant. Meanwhile Adamson has lost (with ""deep remorse"") an abandoned baby Colobus whom she entrusted to Coli's mother's care too precipitately. But, encouragingly, two captive-born orphans--pesky Short-Tail and placid Long-Tail--are permanently adopted by the wild family (proof, to Adamson, that ""a healthy survival number could be maintained""). The Verreaux's eagle owls--the largest in Africa, we learn, with a wingspan of 23 inches--have less intrinsic potential as subjects. Yet their attachment to Adamson is if anything more remarkable, and so is the altruistic behavior she observes in young Pfeiffer--who conscientiously feeds each newborn ""rival."" A postscript, perhaps, but not unworthy of the author.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich