Title: Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions
Author: David Attenborough
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Conservation, Non-fiction
Publisher: Two Roads
5th sentence, 74th page: We had constructed a large cage for the peccary from thin saplings bound together with strips of bark, and this was wedged in the bows of the boat.
In 1954, a young David Attenborough was offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to travel the world finding rare and elusive animals for London Zoo’s collection, and to film the expeditions for the BBC for a new show called Zoo Quest.
This is the story of those voyages. Staying with local tribes while trekking in search of giant anteaters in Guyana, Komodo dragons in Indonesia and armadillos in Paraguay, he and the rest of the team battled with cannibal fish, aggressive tree porcupines and escape-artist wild pigs, as well as treacherous terrain and unpredictable weather, to record the incredible beauty and biodiversity of these regions. The methods may be outdated now, but the fascination and respect for the wildlife, the people and the environment – and the importance of protecting these wild places – is not.
Written with Attenborough’s trademark wit and charm, Adventures of a Young Naturalist is not just the story of a remarkable adventure, but of the man who made us fall in love with the natural world, and who is still doing so today.
I love David Attenborough. So it’s not really a surprise that I love this book. Although I’ve seen him live, and talking about the years in which he travelled around filming and catching for Zoo Quest, it was a lot more fun to read about it. Or at least, to read about three of his adventures. It was completely unexpected, quite funny in spots and just a fascinating journey to be swept away on.
This journey starts with an introduction – it tells you a little about the background of Zoo Quest and how it all came about. Then you begin in Guyana. Each chapter is its own little adventure, and the three completely different journeys are structured and separated in a way that you almost pause and take a break in between. Much like Attenborough would have as he travelled on such a crazy whirlwind.
One of the things that really stuck out at me throughout this novel is how dramatically everything has changed. I highly doubt you could go on such an adventure anymore. And it’s even less likely that many of the animals that were found, filmed, and in some cases, captured are roaming about the wilderness anymore. This might be where Attenborough’s career really took off, but it is also a poignant reminder of the myriad of ways in which conservation practices and wilderness has changed in the last sixty years.
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