‘Talking of photography, Durrell’, he said at the end of tea, ‘have you seen that film young Attenborough brought back from Africa on that lioness… you know, Elsa? It was reared by that Adamson woman.’
‘No sir,’ I said, ‘Unfortunately, I missed it.’
He glanced at his watch. ‘They’re repeating it this afternoon,’ he said, ‘so we’ll catch it, eh?’
So the greatest living biologist and I perched on upright chairs in front of the television and Huxley switched the set on. In silence we watched Joy Adamson chasing Elsa, Elsa chasing Joy Adamson, Joy Adamson lying on top of Elsa, Elsa on top of Joy Adamson, Elsa in bed with Joy Adamson, Joy Adamson in bed with Elsa, and so on, interminably. At lasy the show ended and Huxley ;eant fprward and switched off the set. He mused for a moment. I was silent.
‘D’you know what, Durrell?’ he asked suddenly.
I wondered what penetrating and lucid commentary on animal behaviour the greatest living English biologist was going to vouchsafe to me.
‘What, sir?’ I asked, and waited breathlessly for his answer.
‘It’s the only case of lesbianism I have ever seen between a human being and a lioness,’ he said, quite seriously.
After that, I felt that any further conversation would be an anti-climax, so I left."
Gerald Durrell was considering setting up his own conservation zoo on Jersey Island (now very successful) and was visiting various eminent figures for their advice. Among them was Sir Julian Huxley. This would have been in 1958 or 1959.
Quote from ‘The Ark’s Anniversary’ by Gerald Durrell.
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