Gerald Durrell

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Gerald ('Gerry') Malcolm Durrell (January 7, 1925 - January 30, 1995) was a naturalist, zookeeper, author, and television presenter, best known for founding what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1958, and for writing a number of books based on his animal-collecting expeditions, zoo-keeping, and conservation efforts.

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Gerald Durrell - founder of the Jersey Zoo and pioneer of captive breeding

Biography

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The Gerald Durrell Memorial VHS cover, with a self portrait

The Indian Years

Durrell was born in Jamshedpur, then Bihar Province, India on January 7, 1925. His parents had themselves been born in India but were of English and Irish descent. He was the fourth surviving and final child of Louisa Florence Durrell (nee Dixie) and Lawrence Samuel Durrell. Durrell's father was a British engineer, and as befitting family status, the infant Durrell spent most of his time in the company of the ayah or nursemaid. Durrell supposedly recalls his first visit to a zoo in India, and attributes his life-long love of animals to that encounter. The family moved to England after the death of his father in 1928.

The Corfu Years

The family moved to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935, where Durrell began to collect and keep as pets the local fauna. They stayed until 1939 : this interval was later the basis of the book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. Durrell was home-schooled during this time by various family friends and private tutors, mostly friends of his eldest brother Lawrence Durrell (later to be a famous novelist). One of them, the Greek doctor, scientist, poet and philosopher Theodore Stephanides would be Durrell's friend and mentor, and his ideas would leave a lasting impression on the young Durrell. Together, they would examine and Durrell would house Corfu fauna in everything from test tubes to bathtubs. The other big influence on Durrell during these formative years, according to Durrell, was the writing of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre.

The London Years and Whipsnade Zoo

The family moved back to England in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. Gerald found it impossible to start formal education at the age of 15. Difficult as it was in the war and post-war years to find a job, specially for a home-schooled youth, the enterprising Durrell worked as a help at an aquarium and pet store. Some reminiscences of this period can be found in Fillets of Plaice. His call-up for the war came in 1943, but he was exempted from military duty on medical grounds, and asked to serve the war effort by working in a farm. After the war, Durrell joined Whipsnade Zoo as a junior or student keeper in 1945. This move fulfilled a lifelong dream: Durrell claims that his first spoken word was "zoo". Beasts in My Belfry recalls events of this period.

The Early Animal Expeditions

Durrell left Whipsnade Zoo in May, 1946 in order to join wildlife collecting expeditions of the time, but was denied a place in the voyages due to his lack of experience. Durrell's wildlife expeditions began with a 1947 trip to the British Cameroon (now Cameroon) with ornithologist John Yealland, financed by a £3,000 inheritance from his father on the account of turning 21. The animals he brought back were sold to London Zoo, Chester Zoo, Paignton Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester). He continued for many decades, during which time he became famous for his work for wildlife conservation.

He followed this successful expedition up with two further ones with fellow Whipsnade zookeeper Ken Smith: a repeat trip to the British Cameroon, and to British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1949 and 1950 respectively. On the first of these trips, he met and befriended the enigmatic Fon of Bafut Achirimbi II, the autocratic West African chieftan, who would help him organize future missions.

Because of his dedication towards animals, Durrell housed and fed his animals with the best choices possible, never overcollected specimens, and did not collect animals with only "show value" which would fetch high prices. Such practices differed from other animal collecting expeditions of the time, and caused Gerald Durrell to be broke by the end of his third expedition. Further, due to a fallout with George Cansdale, superintendent of the London Zoo, Durrell was blackballed by the British zoo community and could not secure a job in most zoos, ultimately securing a job at the aquarium at Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester for some time.

On February 26, 1951, after an extended courtship, Durrell married Manchester resident Jacqueline ('Jacquie') Sonia Wolfenden - they eloped after opposition from the Jacquie Wolfenden's father. Jacquie would go on to accompany Durrell on most of his following animal expeditions, would help found and manage the Jersey Zoo, and would write two funny, bestselling memoirs on the lines of Gerald Durrell to raise money for conservation efforts. Durrell's work pressure, mood swings and drinking problem would ultimately lead to their divorce in 1979.

Based on encouragement from wife Jacquie, and advice from his elder brother and novelist Lawrence Durrell, Gerald Durrell started writing autobiographical accounts to raise money. His first book - The Overloaded Ark was a huge success, causing Durrell to follow up with other such accounts. While Durrell only made £50 for British rights (Faber and Faber), he obtained £500 from the U.S. rights (Viking Press) for the book, and managed to raise money for a fourth expedition to South America in 1954. This, however, ran into a political coup d'etat in Paraguay and was unsuccessful.

Foundations for the Jersey Zoo

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Durrell with chimpanzees from one of his African expeditions

The publication of My Family and Other Animals in 1956 caused Durrell to be well known as an author, and consequently as a naturalist for the first time. Royalties from the book, which made bestseller lists in the United Kingdom helped fund Durrell's next expedition.

Durrell's growing disillusionment with how zoos of the time were run, and his belief that zoos should primarily act as reserve banks of endangered species, caused him to contemplate founding his own zoo. His 1957 trip to Bafut for the third and last time was primarily to collect animals which would act as the core collection of his own zoo. This expedition was filmed as well, in Durrell's first experiment with filming his work with animals. The success of the film To Bafut with Beagles, together with a successful radio show documenting his memories Encounters with Animals, made Durrell a regular on the BBC Natural History unit for decades to come, as well as provide much needed funds for his conservation projects.

On return from Bafut, Durrell put up with his sister Margaret Durrell at her boarding house in the seaside resort of Bournemouth. The animals were housed in her gardens and garage on a temporary basis, while Durrell looked at prospective sites for a zoo. To his dismay, both Bournemouth and Poole municipalities turned down his ideas for a zoo.

The Zoo and the Trust

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Dodos stand guard at the gates of the Jersey Zoo

Durrell founded the Jersey Zoological Park in 1958 to house his growing collection of animals. The site for the zoo, a 16th century manor house, Les Augres Manor, came to Durrell's notice by chance after a long and unsuccessful search for a suitable site. Durrell leased the manor and set up his zoo on the redesigned manor grounds. Durrell undertook another, but more successful expedition to South America to collect endangered species for his zoo in 1958. The zoo was opened to the public in 1959.

As the zoo grew in size, so did the number of projects undertaken to save threatened wildlife in other parts of the world. Durrell was instrumental in founding the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, on July 6, 1963 to cope with the increasingly difficult challenges of zoo, wildlife and habit management.

The Trust opened an international wing, the Wildlife Preservation Trust International, in USA in 1971, to aid international conservation efforts in a better fashion. That year, the Trust bought out Les Augres Manor from its owner, Major Hugh Fraser, giving the zoo a permanent home.

Durrell's initiative caused the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society to start the World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species in Captivity as an Aid to their Survival in 1972 at Jersey, today one of the most prestigious conferences in the field. 1972 also saw Princess Anne becoming a patron of the Trust, an action which brought the Trust into media limelight, and helped raise funds.

The 1970s saw Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust become a leading zoo in the field of captive breeding, championing the cause among species like the Lowland Gorilla, and various Mauritian fauna. Durrell visited Mauritius several times and co-ordinated large scale conservation efforts in Mauritius, involving captive breeding programs for native birds and reptiles, ecological recovery of Round Island, training local staff, and setting up local in-situ and ex-situ conservation facilities. This ultimately led to the founding of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation in 1984.

Durrell met his second wife Lee McGeorge Durrell in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University, where Lee was studying for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death.

In 1978 Durrell started the training centre for conservationists at the zoo, or the "mini-university" in his words. As of 2005, over a thousand biologists, naturalists, zoo veterinarians, and zoo architects from 104 countries have attended the International Training Centre. Durrell was also instrumental in forming the Captive Breeding Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union in 1982.

Durrell founded Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada, now Wildlife Preservation Canada, in 1985. The official appeal Saving Animals From Extinction was launched in 1991, at a time when British zoos were not faring well and London Zoo was in danger of closing down.

1990 saw the Trust establish a conservation program in Madagascar along the lines of the Mauritius program. Durrell visited Madagascar in 2000 to start captive breeding of a number of endemic species like the Aye Aye.

Durrell chose the Dodo, the flightless bird of Mauritius that was mercilessly hunted to extinction in the 1600s, as the logo for both the Jersey Zoo and the Trust. The children's chapter of the Trust is called the Dodo Club. Following his death, the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust was renamed Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust at the 40th anniversary of the Zoo on 26th March, 1999. The Wildlife Preservation Trust International also changed their name to Wildlife Trust in 2000, adopted the logo of the Black Tamarin.

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Durrell with a Cottontop Tamarin, in his final years

Final Years

A hard, outdoor life, coupled with heavy drinking, led Durrell to health problems in the 1980s. He underwent a hip-replacement surgery in a bid to counter arthritis, but suffered from liver problems. His health deterioriated rapidly after the 1990 Madagascar trip. Durrell died of post-surgical complications following a liver transplantation, on January 30 1995. His ashes are buried under a memorial plaque with a quote by William Beebe in Jersey Zoo.

A memorial celebrating Gerald Durrell's life and work was held at the Natural History Museum, London on June 28, 1995. Participants included personal friends like the famous television presenter David Attenborough, and Princess Anne.

Durrell's policy for zoos

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Durrell with a baby gorilla

Gerald Durrell was ahead of his time when he postulated the role that a 20th century zoo should play, primarily in Stationary Ark. His idea relies on the following bases:

  • The primary purpose of a zoo should be to act as a reserve of critically endangered species which need captive breeding in order to survive.
  • They can serve the secondary purposes of educating people about wildlife and natural history, and of educating biologists about the animal's habits.
  • Zoos should not be run for the purposes of entertainment only, and non-threatened species should be re-introduced into natural habitat.
  • An animal should be present in the zoo only as a last resort, when all efforts to save it in the wild has failed.

Durrell's ideas about housing zoo animals also brings his priorities to the fore. The bases on which enclosures at Jersey are built:

  • Enclosures should be built keeping in mind - firstly, the comfort of the animal (including a private shelter), secondly for the convenience of the animal keeper, and finally for the viewing comfort of visitors.
  • The size of an enclosure should depend on how large their territories might be.
  • The companions of an animal should reflect not only ecological niche and biogeographic concerns, but its social abilities as well - how well it gets on with other members of its species and other species.
  • Every animal deserves food of its choice, sometimes made interesting by variation; and a mate of its choice; and a nice, and interesting environment.

Jersey Zoo was the first zoo to only house endangered breeding species, and has been one of the pioneers in the field of captive breeding. The International Training Centre, and the organization of the conference on captive breeding are also notable firsts.

Gerald Durrell initially faced stiff opposition and criticism from some members of the zoo community when he introduced the idea of captive breeding, and was only vindicated after successfully breeding a wide range of species. One of the most active opposition members was George Cansdale, superintendent of the London Zoo and Zoological Society of London, and wielder of considerable influence in the zoo community.

See also: Biogeography, Biogeographic Regions, Ecological niche,

Gerald Durrell's Books

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Durrell's popularity in Hungary and Eastern Europe is exemplified by this bust in a Hungarian zoo

Durrell's books, both fiction and non-fiction, have a wry, loose style that poked fun at himself as well as those around him. Perhaps his best-known work is My Family and Other Animals (1956), which tells of his idyllic, if oddball, childhood on Corfu. Later made into a TV series, it is delightfully deprecating about the whole family, especially elder brother Lawrence Durrell, who became a famous novelist. Despite Durrell's jokes at the expense of "brother Larry," the two were close friends all their lives.

Gerald Durrell always insisted that he wrote for royalties to help the cause of environmental stewardship, not out of an inherent love for writing. Gerald Durrell describes himself as a writer in comparison to his brother Lawrence:

The subtle difference between us is that he loves writing and I don't.To me it's simply a way to make money which enables me to do my animal work, nothing more.

However, he shows a surprising diversity and dexterity in a wide variety of writing, including:

  • autobiographical accounts: Most of his work are of such kind - characterized by a love for nature and animals, dry wit, crisp descriptions and humorous analogies of human beings with animals and vice versa. The most famous of these is the Corfu trilogy - My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods.
  • short stories: often bordering on the Roald Dahl-esque, like Michelin Man in Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium. Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium also has a well-acclaimed gothic horror story titled The Entrance. Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories also has a few short stories.
  • novel: Durrell's only two novels are Rosy is My Relative, the story about the bequeathed elephant which Durrell claimed is based on real life events; and The Mockery Bird, the fable based loosely on the story of Mauritius and the Dodo.
  • technical essay: The Stationary Ark is a collection of technical essays on zoo-keeping and conservation.
  • guide: The Amateur Naturalist is the definitive guide for a budding naturalist over the last 20 years.
  • stories for young adults: The Donkey Rustlers is an Enid Blyton-ish feel good novel, while The Talking Parcel is a fantasy novel for younger readers.
  • natural history books for children: The New Noah is a collection of encounters with animals from Durrell's previous expeditions, written with children in mind.
  • stories for children: Keeper, Toby the Tortoise, The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure, and the The Fantastic Flying Adventure are lavishly illustrated stories for young children.
  • board and picture books: the board book series Puppy Stories are for infants, and the picture book Island Zoo is for young children about the first animals in Jersey Zoo.

Durrell was also a regular contributor to magazines on both sides of the Atlantic like Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, and The Sunday Times Supplement. He was also a regular book reviewer for New York Times.

Durrell's works have been translated into 31 languages, and made into T.V. serials, and feature films. Outside United Kingdom, Gerald Durrell is however, not very well known as an author. However, he has a large cult following in Russia and Eastern Europe, in Israel and in various commonwealth countries, notably India.

The British Library houses a collection of Gerald Durrell's books, personally presented by him to Alan G. Thomas, as part of the Lawrence Durrell Collection.

Illustrators

Durrell was a talented artist and caricaturist, but worked with numerous illustrators over the years starting with Sabine Braur for The Overloaded Ark (published by Faber and Faber). Two of his most productive collaborations were with Ralph Thompson ( Bafut Beagles, Three Singles To Adventure, The New Noah, The Drunken Forest, Encounters with Animals, A Zoo in My Luggage, The Whispering Land, Menagerie Manor ) (published by Rupert Hart-Davis) and Edward Mortelmans (Catch Me A Colobus, Beasts in My Belfry, Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons) (published by Collins). The illustrations are mostly sketches of animal subjects. Ralph Thompson has even visited the Jersey Zoological Park in-house during the sketching period for Menagerie Manor.

Other illustrators who worked with Durrell were B.L.Driscoll who illustrated Two In The Bush, Pat Marriott who illustrated Look at Zoos, and Anne Mieke van Ogtrop who illustrated The Talking Parcel and Donkey Rustlers.

Gerald Durrell authored a number of lavishly illustrated children's books in his later years. Graham Percy was the illustrator for The Fantastic Flying Journey and The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure. Toby the Tortoise and Keeper were illustrated by Keith West. His Puppy board books were illustrated by Cliff Wright.

Honours

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Mauritius stamp set depicting rare geckos. The one on the top right depicts Durrell's Night Gecko.

Durrell received the Order of the British Empire in 1982.

The University of Kent started the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) in 1989, the first graduate school in the United Kingdom to offer degrees and diplomas in conservation and biodiversity.

The journal Biodiversity and Conservation brought out a special volume of the journal in tribute to Gerald Durrell, on the theme of "The Role of Zoos" in 1995, following his death.

The Gerald Durrell Memorial Funds, launched in 1996, are granted in the field of conservation by the Wildlife Trust every year.

The statue park in Miskolc Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world, created a bust of Gerald Durrell in 1998.

The BBC Wildlife Photography Awards gives the Gerald Durrell Award for the best photograph of an endangered species, starting from 2001.

The Durrell School in Corfu, established in 2002, offers an academic course and tours in the footsteps of the Durrells in Corfu. Famous botanist David Bellamy has conducted field trips in Corfu for the School.

The Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary in the Black River Valley in Mauritius, is the home of the Mauritius Wildlife Appeal Fund's immensely successful captive breeding program for the Mauritian Kestrel, Pink Pigeon and Echo Parakeet.

The Jersey Zoo has erected a bronze statue of Gerald Durrell by John Doubleday, cast along with a Ruffed Lemur at his knee, and a Round Island Gecko at his feet.

Jersey brought out stamps honouring the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, and Mauritius brought out a stamp based on a race of a rare gecko named after Durrell.

The de-rodentification of Rat Island in St. Lucia by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to create a sanctuary for the St. Lucia Whiptail lizard on the lines of Praslin Island has caused an official change in name for Rat Island. It is in the process of being renamed Durrell Island.

Species and races named after Durrell

Gerald Durrell has quite a few species and races named after him.

List of Major Expeditions

Major expeditions undertaken by Gerald Durrell
Year Place Primary Purpose Book Film Species in Focus
1947 / 1948 Mamfe, British Cameroon (now Cameroon) Independent animal collecting mission for British zoos The Overloaded Ark No movie Angwantibo, Giant Otter Shrew
1949 Mamfe and Bafut, British Cameroon (now Cameroon) Independent animal collecting mission for British zoos The Bafut Beagles No movie Galago, Hairy Frog, African Golden Cat, Flying mouse
1950 British Guiana (now Guyana) Independent animal collecting mission for British zoos Three Singles to Adventure No movie Giant Otter, Poison arrow frogs, Surinam Toad, Capybara, Brazilian Porcupine
1953 / 1954 Argentina and Paraguay Partially sponsored animal collecting mission The Drunken Forest No movie Burrowing Owl, Ovenbird, Anaconda, Rhea, Giant Anteater
1957 Bafut, British Cameroon (now Cameroon) Animal collecting mission for his own to-be zoo A Zoo in My Luggage To Bafut With Beagles Reticulated Python, Patas, Galago, Grey-necked Rockfowl
1958 Patagonia, Argentina Animal collecting mission for his own Jersey Zoo The Whispering Land Look (Argentinian Expedition) South American Fur Seal, Patagonian Hare, Vampire Bat, Magellanic Penguin
1962 Malaysia, and Australia and New Zealand Shooting of the BBC Nature series Two In The Bush Two in the Bush Two in the Bush Kakapo, Kaka, Kea, Tuatara, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Leadbeater's Possum
1965 Sierra Leone Animal collecting mission for Jersey Zoo to be made into a T.V. series by BBC Section of Catch Me A Colobus Catch Me A Colobus Colobus, African Leopard, Red River Hog, Potto
1968 Mexico Animal collecting mission for Jersey Zoo Section of Catch Me A Colobus No movie Volcano Rabbit, Thick-billed Parrot
1969 Great Barrier Reef, Northern Territory and Queensland, Australia Conservation fact-finding mission, with possible material for book never written No book No movie Great Barrier Reef species
1976 , 1977 Mauritius and other Mascarene Islands Two back-to-back in-situ conservation missions and animal collecting expeditions for local breeding and Jersey Zoo Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons The Mauritius Conservation Mission, The Round Island Project Pink Pigeon, Rodriguez Fruit Bat, Round Island Boa, Telfair's Skink, Gunther's Gecko, Mauritius Kestrel
1978 Assam, India and Bhutan In-situ conservation mission and filming for an episode in a BBC series No book Animals Are My Life episode in The World About Us series Pigmy Hog
1982 Mauritius and other Mascarene Islands and Madagascar In-situ conservation mission and animal collecting expedition for local breeding and Jersey Zoo to be filmed for a BBC T.V. series about the Trust's role in other countries Ark on the Move Ark on the Move Pink Pigeon, Rodriguez Fruit Bat, Round Island Boa, Telfair's Skink, Gunther's Gecko, Mauritius Kestrel, Indri, Madagascan Boa
1984 Russia Shooting of the Channel 4 T.V. series Durrell in Russia Durrell in Russia Durrell in Russia Przewalski's Horse, Saiga, Cranes, Russian Desman
1989 Belize As part of Programme for Belize - a conservation project which aimed to conserve 250,000 acres of tropical rain forest No book No movie Belizean rain forest species
1990 Madagascar In-situ conservation mission and animal collecting expedition for local breeding and Jersey Zoo The Aye-Aye and I To the Island of Aye-Aye Aye Aye, Indri, Ring-tailed Lemur, Alaotran Lemur, Tenrec

Bibliography

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1st edition cover of Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium
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1st edition cover of Catch Me A Colobus
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Cover of the Amateur Naturalist, which countless naturalists read growing up
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In his later life, Durrell wrote a number of beautifully illustrated books for children

Autobiographical

Non-fiction

Fiction

Books edited by Gerald Durrell

N.B. In case of simultaneous releases in many countries, the UK edition is referred to, except for companion books to T.V. series where both the UK and USA editions are referred to.

Reference books

Biographies and other references

  • Himself and Other Animals - A Portrait of Gerald Durrell, David Hughes (1976)
  • In The Footsteps of Lawrence Durrell and Gerald Durrell in Corfu (1935 - 1939), Hilary Whitton Paipeti (1998)
  • Gerald Durrell - The Authorized Biography, Douglas Botting (1999)
  • "Durrelliania": An Illustrated Checklist of Inscribed Books of Lawrence Durrell and Gerald Durrell and Associated Publications, Letters and Notes in the Library of Jeremy J.C. Mallinson, edited by Jeremy Mallinson (1999)

Jersey Zoo and Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust books

Companion books to TV series not co-authored by Durrell

  • Ourselves and Other Animals : From the T.V. Series with Gerald and Lee Durrell , Peter Evans (1987)

Books by family and friends

Radiography and filmography

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VHS cover of the 1989 version of My Family and Other Animals
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Sketches for the Talking Parcel

Featuring Gerald Durrell

  • Encounters With Animals, Radio series, BBC (1957)
  • To Bafut With Beagles, T.V. series, BBC (1958)
  • Look (Argentinian Expedition), Single episode in T.V. series, BBC (1961)
  • Zoo Packet, T.V. series, BBC (1961)
  • Animal Magic, Early episodes in T.V. series, BBC (1962 - 1983)
  • Two In The Bush, T.V. series, BBC (1963)
  • Catch Me a Colobus, T.V. series, BBC (1966)
  • The Garden of the Gods, T.V. series, BBC (1967)
  • Animals Are My Life, epsiode in the T.V. series The World About Us, BBC (1978)
  • Durrell's Ark, one hour documentary, BBC (1988)
  • Gerald Durrell - Himself and Other Animals, documentary, Green Umbrella Productions (1999)
  • Gerald Durrell - To the Island of the Aye-Aye, documentary, Green Umbrella Productions (1999)
  • Inside Jersey Zoo, re-release, UK PC Advisor magazine (2001)
  • The Round Island Project, re-release, UK PC Advisor magazine (2001)
  • The Mauritius Conservation Mission, re-release, UK PC Advisor magazine (2001)
  • A Day at the Zoo, documentary

On Gerald Durrell

  • A Memorial Celebration for the Life of Gerald Durrell (1995)

Book by Gerald Durrell

Screenplay by Gerald Durrell

Trivia

  • The movie Fierce Creatures was dedicated to him.
  • Gerald Durrell's book Fillets of Plaice is a pun on the name of the book Spirit of Place by elder brother Lawrence Durrell.
  • In the Discworld series of books, there is reference to a fictional book titled My Family and Other Werewolves - clearly a parody on My Family and Other Animals.
  • Two actual books punning the name are Simon Doonan's humorous memoir Nasty: My Family and Other Glamorous Varmints and Josephine Feeney's comic novel My Family and Other Natural Disasters.
  • Gerald Durrell's debut book The Overloaded Ark, and Lawrence Durrell's Reflections on a Marine Venus were published simultaneously by Faber and Faber, with an advertisement which read: Quests animal .. and human - a dual demonstration of the enviable art of Durrelling.
  • Whatever Happened to Margo was written by Margaret Durrell in 1951, but was only discovered in the attic by a granddaughter nearly 40 years later. It describes, among other things, Gerald Durrell's visit to her house in Bournemouth with a full menagerie of animals.
  • The film crew of Durrell in Russia were the first Western film crew from beyond the Iron Curtain granted permission to film in the erstwhile U.S.S.R. as part of Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost policies.
  • The titles of several of Gerald Durrell's books were changed for release in the USA, a policy similar to that followed for other British authors like Wodehouse, whereby words not common in the American parlance were changed - eg. Beasts in My Belfry was changed to A Bevy of Beasts. The Garden of the Gods title was changed because there is a location in the USA by the name Garden of the Gods.
  • The critically acclaimed "fight scene" between Durrell's pet gecko Geronimo, and a larger Praying Mantis was directed by the Assistant Producer Nigel Marvin in the BBC 1989 T.V. series My Family and Other Animals.
  • Gerald Durrell was voted "South West Hero" in a poll conducted by the BBC in 2004, ahead of other contenders like Sir Walter Raleigh, Albert Bedane and Billy Butlin. He was also voted the greatest ever Channel Islander by readers of the Jersey Evening Post in 2002.
  • Gerald Durrell quotes numerous raunchy limericks in his Corfu Trilogy, which have not been documented elsewhere, and it is probable that some of these owe their origins to Lawrence Durrell, Edward Lear and Theodore Stephanides. Gerald Durrell is himself the subject of a few limericks written later(see here).
  • A time capsule buried at Jersey Zoo in 1988 contains the following popular quote by Durrell, often used in conservation awareness campaigns:
We hope that there will be fireflies and glow-worms at night to guide you and butterflies in hedges and forests to greet you.
We hope that your dawns will have an orchestra of bird song and that the sound of their wings and the opalescence of their colouring will dazzle you.
We hope that there will still be the extraordinary varieties of creatures sharing the land of the planet with you to enchant you and enrich your lives as they have done for us.
We hope that you will be grateful for having been born into such a magical world.

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