February 19th, 2021 – You’ve all probably heard of David Attenborough who, we can say, is the most famous British naturalist of today and the host of various documentaries and shows about nature. However, only a few are familiar with Gerald Durrell, a British naturalist and advocate of wildlife conservation.
Although he has never been formally educated, he holds an honorary doctorate and has received many awards. His greatest legacy is the Jersey Zoo on the Channel Island of Jersey and the Durrell Wildlife Foundation, whose patron is Britain’s Princess Anne. The Foundation is still active in the conservation of wildlife, and Gerald Durrell wanted to establish a zoo in order to preserve endangered wildlife and provide them with safe conditions for reproduction and development.
As Yann Martel wrote in his book “Life of Pi”, animals cling to their familiar territory to fulfil two relentless imperatives of the wild: the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water. Therefore, each biologically correct zoo is just another animal territory. If we look at zoos that way, then they are not such bad places, of course with an emphasis on “biologically correct zoos”.
In addition to the zoo, Gerald Durrell became famous as a writer. His most famous book “My Family and Other Animals” is part of the trilogy about Corfu. Two TV series and one film were based on these books, the latest series being “The Durrells”. The book is written as a memoir and describes the real life of Gerald Durrell, who moved with his family to the island of Corfu when he was fourteen and lived there from 1935 until the beginning of World War II in 1939.
This period greatly influenced Gerald Durrell and especially because he there met his friend Theodore Stephanides, a Greek-British doctor and scientist, with whom he researched and collected the fauna of the island of Corfu. We can say that the idea of creating the zoo was born there. The book is characterised by Durrell’s special sense of humour, with which he describes his family adventures during that period and their mutual relations.
Other Durrell’s books are also related to his life, such as the book “A Zoo in My Luggage”, in which he describes how he collected animals for the Jersey Zoo and the problems he ran into with their transport. The book has also been translated into Croatian.
You can see more about Gerald Durrell’s work on wildlife protection and the creation of a zoo in a short documentary on YouTube: link
If you decide to read one of Gerald Durrell’s books or watch a film or TV series based on his books, it may inspire you to dedicate yourself to the protection of nature and the environment, and it may even motivate you to make your dreams come true.
Looking at the example of Gerald Durrell, all you need is love for something and the will to make it happen. Believe me, big things could happen.
Mia Vučevac, mag. iur.
Professional Associate at the Department of Environmental Law, Policy and Economics