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.
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
|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 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.