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Gerald Durrell

7 January 1925
30 January 1995 (age 70)

Gerald Durrell was born in India on 7th January 1925 and he founded what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo.

Following the death of his father in 1928, Durrell’s family moved back to the UK. However, they soon returned to the island of Corfu, as they grew tired of the English weather.

In Corfu, Durrell explored his love of the animal kingdom with his tutor Dr Theodore Stephanides. Durrell had a very eccentric family, who featured in his most famous book ‘My Family and Other Animals’.

After the outbreak of the second world war, the Durrell family returned to England. Gerald continued to be fascinated by animals, and he undertook many different jobs from Pet shop Assistant to Odd Beast Boy at Whipsnade Zoo.

When Durrell turned 21, he inherited a small amount of money which fuelled his adventures of travel and zoology. On his travels he concluded that species everywhere were declining, so he created ‘a new kind of zoo’, which was to be more of a sanctuary that provided a reservoir for endangered species.

Durrell’s views were considered to be controversial at the time, and he searched for suitable zoo venues all over England.

His first wife Jacquie suggested that he continue his search on the Channel Islands, and within an hour of landing in Jersey, Les Augres manor was secured as the perfect venue.  Durrell worked tirelessly and by 1963, he had personally paid off the debts and had established the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.

The world is as delicate and as complicated as a spider’s web. If you touch one thread you send shudders running through all of the other threads. We are not just touching the web, we are tearing great holes in it.

Gerald Durrell.

In 1970s the trust became home to a silverback gorilla called Jambo, and Durrell gave a personal tour of the zoo to HRH Princess Anne. In the future, Princess Anne became the Royal Patron and a dedicated supporter. Jersey Zoo also held its inaugural conference on the breeding of endangered species, which attracted many world leaders in the field.

Durrell travelled to Mauritius where he began to work with the Mauritius Kestrel, which was a highly endangered species. The species numbers increased from four to hundreds - a great feat for Durrell.

In 1979, Durrell married Lee George, a young American zoologist and they worked together in the 1980’s. Durrell eventually began to release animals that had been bred in captivity to the wild, and established the Durrell Conservation Academy.

In the 1990s, Durrell went on an expedition to Madagascar to capture animals for breeding programmes. His health was beginning to decline, and he died on 30thJanuary 1995.