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27 November 2014
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Gerald with tamarins, image © Durrell Wildlife.
Friend to the animals, Gerald Durrell

Happy Birthday Gerry!

January 7, 2005 marks 80 years since the birth of the founder of Jersey Zoo, Gerald Durrell.


January 2005 marks two important  Gerald Durrell anniversaries, the 7th would have been his 80th birthday, whilst on the 30th ten years will have passed since his death.

Without doubt the legacy of his life and work have continued to live on in the public consciousness through his numerous books, television appearances and of course Jersey Zoo. 

Dr. Lee Durrell
Lee Durrell

Almost a year ago, Gerald Durrell was the run away winner of the BBC's search for a South West Hero. In recent years he has also topped polls run by Channel Television and the Jersey Evening Post.

Speaking to BBC Radio Jersey on the 80th anniversary of his birth, Gerald's widow Dr. Lee Durrell described her late husband:

"Unlike most driven people he also had a great sense of fun, sense of humour and I just say there was great energy there and you know he'd wake up and a day would either be fun or challenging or "let's do something, let's just be really positive about something" and that's really what I remember most about him."

She also spoke of the importance of his hands-on methods in helping to get the Zoo up and running in the early years:

"His personal touch was vital and was the main thing that did form it in the very early days. But he was very very good at getting the best people to come and work for him, and so as time went on he built up a fantastic team here which we still have. So he kind of sat back from the day-to-day business of running the Zoo and the Trust but encouraged and nurtured his people to get on with this important job."

To listen to the full interview with Lee Durrell, just click on the audio link at the top right hand side of this page.

To mark Gerry's birthday we visited the Zoo early in January to photograph just some of the animals he worked to save from extinction. To view the gallery of images just click on the link at the right hand side of this page.

Gerald Durrell OBE 1925-1995

Gerald with chimps, image © Durrell Wildlife Trust
Zoo keeping can be fun!

Gerald Durrell was born in India on January 7 1925. His childhood was spent in India, England and Corfu, a period famously chronicled in his book 'My family and Other Animals'.

His passion for nature was evident very early in his life where his menagerie of pets caused his family much consternation.

Gerald with lemurs, image © Durrell Wildlife.
Gerald with his beloved Lemurs.

Gerald was eventually apprenticed as an animal keeper at Whipsnade Zoo. From here he progressed to animal collecting expeditions to Africa, at great personal risk and cost but these trips cemented his ambition to one day have his own Zoo which would concentrate on conservation rather than spectacle.

Eventually through a contact made by his publisher, Gerald was able to found his Zoo in the grounds of Augres Manor in Trinity, the year was 1959.

The Dodo was chosen as the Zoo's emblem, as a reminder of its mission that no other animal would follow the native flightless bird of Mauritius into extinction.

In the period since then the Zoo has concentrated on saving some of the most endangered birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the world.

Success with captive breeding and the sharing of their accumulated knowledge through the International Training Centre, which was established next door at Les Noyers, has put the Zoo on the map as one of the foremost conservation centres in the world.

Gerald Durrell died on January 30, 1995 after a lengthy illness.

last updated: 07/01/05
Have Your Say
Do you have a favourite memory of Gerald Durrell? Have your say here about the life and work of one of the world's greatest naturalists...
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The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Madelaine Schröer
I consider this man a model for the humanity. Few people have as much persistence in working in favor of its environment, living in harmony with all the other species. I am unconditional fan of it and I get the books that I can written for it.

AnneMarie
that Book! , my family and other animals will always stand out as my number one favourite. In malta where i am from we have alot of similarities to corfu and it is both exciting, humourious and intreging to read. My gratitute and respect goes to Mr. Durrell for all of his hard work and long lasting achievments

Tina
he is the best!ii'm from latvia,this is small country but here is so many animals.i love animals too.yor books are great and i think you are a great personality!!!greetings from my pets to you Gerald!

Belle
you are SO great! I So love you dude!! You are awesome!!! c-ya

Marie
Gerry is really my favourite writer, I a´m 13 and I live in Estonia, but after reading his books, I am like a new human.. After that, my biggest dream is to go to Korfu and when I grow bigger, I reallly want to give to this zoo some help and money

Leonard Jones
My prize for good work in the fourth year at secondry school in 1970 was Gerald Durrell's book The Drunken Forest. I was absolutely fascinated then, not only by the accounts of his adventures with the animals and birds, but also the beautiful descriptive power of his writing style. Thirty six years later I am re-reading the Drunken Forest and enjoying it even more!

Tasneem Yusuf
Of all the books i studied at school, My Family and other animals stands out. It gave me immense pleasure and the memory lingers on.

JULIE NEALE
Ever since reading My Family & Other Animals which was my GCE 'O' Level set book, I have had a great admiration for Gerald Durrell. I have since read most of his books and his Biography. I have visited Corfu and long to go back there. It still has a magical feel to it just as Gerald made it feel in his books. I am eternally grateful to my English teacher introducing me to such a wonderful author.

John S.
He's been dead 10 years! "Happy Birthday"? For goodness sake give him a break!

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