To the island of Mannar - once an enchanted paradise, now polluted, its wildlife dead or dying - comes Sir Alexander Haye, zoologist and TV personality, determined to acquire one of the last of the island's elephants for London Zoo. A mother elephant and her calf are procured and the task of escorting them to the capital falls to Alexander's twin brother Max.
Sick at heart, his attachment to the beasts growing with each step of their journey, Max delivers them to their fate and retreats to his sanctuary, a fantastic island castle. There the malaria he has picked up in the jungle overcomes him and he plunges into fever and hallucination. When Alexander returns to the island, all the elephants are dead and the waves of violent anarchy that are sweeping through Mannar have reached even Max's haven.