Since Shawn brought up the Tuatara in the other column, your book reviewer decided to highlight that creature in this month’s review. The book under consideration is another of naturalist Gerald Durrell’s, one titled Two in the Bush. This volume by the celebrated zoologist and writer tells a bit about a trip Durrell and his collecting team made to New Zealand and Australia, and chronicles their efforts to film the Tuatara in its native habitat.
“When we had got the gear safely installed in the one wooden hut which we would all have to share as bedroom and work-shop, I (this is Durrell speaking) turned to Alan eagerly.
‘Tell me,’ I said, ‘did you manage to get a Tuatara for us?’
‘Oh, aye,’ he said casually, ‘that’s all right.’
‘Wonderful,’ I said enthusiastically. ‘Can I see it?’
Alan gave me an amused look.
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘Come with me.’
He led Jacquie, Chris and myself to a small shed that stood not far from the hut we were to occupy, unlocked the door, and threw it open; we all peered inside.
I have, at one time and another, had many zoological surprises, but, offhand, I can never remember being quite so taken aback as when I peered into that tiny shed on the Boulders. Instead of the one Tuatara I had expected, the whole floor was -- quite literally -- covered with them. They ranged from great-grandfathers some two feet long to babies measuring some six inches. Alan, glancing at my face, misinterpreted my expression of disbelieving delight for one of horror.
‘I hope I haven’t got too many,’ he said anxiously. ‘Only you didn’t say what size you wanted or how many, so I thought I’d better catch you a fair selection.’
‘My dear fellow,’ I said in a hushed whisper, ‘you couldn’t have done anything to please me more. There was I, thinking we might be lucky if we saw just one Tuatara, and here you provide me with a positive sea of them. It’s incredible!’ “
Alan had, as it happened, captured some 30 of the wondrous reptiles, and Durrell and his crew were able to film them to their hearts’ content. The excitement of the Tuataras and the rest of the crew’s adventures in New Zealand and Australia are delightfully detailed in Two in the Bush , and certainly help make these writers anxious to visit those mysterious and beguiling “lands down under” - be sure to read all about it!
Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
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