7th January 1925
Conservationist Gerald Durrell is born
Despite being born in Jamshedpur, India, Gerald Malcolm Durrell’s name became almost synonymous with Jersey thanks to the zoo he established in the island in 1959 and the important conservation work it undertakes to this day as part of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Durrell had three elder siblings, of whom the most famous was Lawrence, who made a name for himself as a novelist. Although the family moved to London when Durrell was just three, they left for Corfu in 1935, where Lawrence had already set up home, and they remained there for four years, until the outbreak of the Second World War. As depicted in the ITV drama series, The Durrells Gerald discovered his love of wildlife while on the Greek island. His experiences are recorded in several autobiographical books including the most famous, My Family and Other Animals.
A brief move to Jersey
In 1947, he took an expedition to Cameroon and brought back a variety of animals that he sold to zoos around the British Isles and, in 1951, the now married Durrell moved, briefly, to Jersey with his wife Jacquie.
Durrell had been having thoughts about setting up his own zoo on a more ethical basis than most zoos in existence at that time. Rather than being simply an attraction, it would conduct studies and help preserve endangered species. So, he took his penultimate expedition in 1957 and brought home the animals that would form the core of his own collection, which he set up at the 17th century Les Augres Manor two years later.
Durrell used the zoo as the centrepiece of a philanthropic organisation, establishing educational and preservation operations in Jersey and beyond. His influence reached as far as Madagascar.
Indeed, it was after a trip to Madagascar in 1990 that the strain of Durrell’s busy, active life started to show. He died, aged 70, in 1994, and his ashes a buried at Jersey Zoo.
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