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The Gerald Durrell Memorial VHS cover, with a self portrait

Gerald ('Gerry') Malcolm Durrell, OBE (January 7, 1925 – January 30, 1995) was a naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter. He founded what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo (now renamed Durrell Wildlife) on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1958, but is perhaps best remembered for writing a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast. He was the brother of the novelist Lawrence Durrell.


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 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 (nursemaid). Durrell reportedly 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. Back in England, the Durrells settled in the Upper Norwood - Crystal Palace area of South London.[1] Durrell was enrolled in Wickwood School, but usually stayed at home feigning illness.[2]


The Corfu years

The family moved to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935, where Durrell began to collect and keep the local fauna as pets. The family 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, plus a few short stories like "My Donkey Sally". Durrell was home-schooled during this time by various family friends and private tutors, mostly friends of his eldest brother Lawrence (later a famous novelist). One of Durrell's tutor's friend, the Greek doctor, scientist, poet, and philosopher Theodore Stephanides, became Durrell's greatest friend and mentor, and his ideas left a lasting impression on the young naturalist. Together, they examined Corfu fauna, which Durrell housed in everything from test tubes to bathtubs. Another major influence during these formative years, according to Durrell, was the writing of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre.

The London years and Whipsnade Zoo

Gerald, his mother, brother Leslie and their Greek maid Maria Kondos moved back to England in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. Difficult as it was in the war and post-war years to find a job, especially 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 on 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 in The Stationary Ark that the first word that he could enunciate with any clarity 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 Cameroons (now Cameroon) with ornithologist John Yealland, financed by a £3,000 inheritance from his father on the occasion of his 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 such excursions for many decades, during which time he became famous for his work for wildlife conservation.

He followed up this successful expedition with two others, accompanied by 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 shrewd and colourful Fon of Bafut Achirimbi II, an autocratic West African chieftain, who would help him organize future missions.

Because of his dedication, Durrell housed and fed his captives with the best supplies obtainable, never over-collecting specimens, never trapping animals having merely "show value", or those which would fetch high prices from collectors. These practices differed from those of other animal-collecting expeditions of the time, and, as a result, Durrell was broke by the end of his third expedition. Further, due to a falling-out 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 where he remained for some time.

On February 26, 1951, after an extended courtship, Durrell married Manchester resident Jacqueline ('Jacquie') Sonia Wolfenden — they eloped, due to opposition from her father. The couple initially lived in a small bedsitter in Durrell's sister Margaret Durrell's Bournemouth boarding house. Jacquie accompanied Durrell on most of his following animal expeditions, and helped found and manage the Jersey Zoo. She also authored two humorous, bestselling memoirs on the lines of Durrell's books, to raise money for conservation efforts.

With encouragement and assistance from Jacquie [3], and advice from elder brother Lawrence Durrell, Gerald Durrell started writing humorous autobiographical accounts to raise money, initially because he and Jacquie were broke after their wedding and Durrell didn't have a source of income, and then later to fund his expeditions and conservation efforts. His first book — The Overloaded Ark — was a huge success, causing Durrell to follow up with other such accounts. While Durrell only made £50 from British rights (Faber and Faber), he obtained £500 from the United States rights (Viking Press) for the book, and thus managed to raise money for a fourth expedition to South America in 1954. This, however, was undertaken during a political coup d'etat in Paraguay and was unsuccessful.

Foundations for the Jersey Zoo

Durrell with chimpanzees from one of his African expeditions

The publication of My Family and Other Animals in 1956 made Durrell a notable author, in addition, bringing him public recognition as a naturalist. Royalties from this book, which made bestseller lists in the United Kingdom, helped fund Durrell's next expedition.

Durrell's growing disillusionment with the way zoos of the time were run, and his belief that they should primarily act as reserves and regenerators of endangered species, made him contemplate founding his own zoo. His 1957 trip to Cameroon for the third and last time was primarily to collect animals which would form the core collection of his own zoo. This expedition was also filmed, Durrell's first experiment with making a cinematographic record of his work with animals. The success of the film To Bafut with Beagles, together with his popular and autobiographical radio programme Encounters with Animals, made Durrell a regular with the BBC Natural History unit for decades to come, as well as generating much-needed funds for his conservation projects.

On his return from Bafut, Durrell and wife Jacquie stayed with his sister Margaret at her boarding house in the seaside resort of Bournemouth. His animals were housed in her gardens and garage on a temporary basis, while Durrell sought prospective sites for a zoo. To his dismay, both Bournemouth and Poole municipalities turned down his suggestion for a zoo. This experience provided material for his book A Zoo in My Luggage.

The Zoo and the Trust

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. In the same year, Durrell undertook another, more successful expedition to South America to collect endangered species. The zoo was opened to the public in 1959 on Easter Sunday.

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 habitat management.

The Trust opened an international wing, the Wildlife Preservation Trust International, in U.S. 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 coordinated large scale conservation efforts in Mauritius, involving captive breeding programmes 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.

Jacquie Durrell separated from and then divorced Gerald Durrell in 1979, citing his increasing work pressure, associated alcoholism and mounting stress as causes.

Durrell met his second wife Lee McGeorge Durrell in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University, where she 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.

In 1989, Durrell and his wife Lee, along with David Attenborough and cricket star David Gower helped launch the World Land Trust (then the World Wide Land Conservation Trust). The initial goal of the trust was to purchase rain forest land in Belize as part of the Programme for Belize. Around this time Gerald Durrell developed a friendship with Charles Rycroft, who became an important donor of funds both for building works in Jersey (the Harcroft Lecture Theatre) and for conservation work in East Africa, Madagascar and elsewhere.

1990 saw the Trust establish a conservation programme in Madagascar along the lines of the Mauritius programme. Durrell visited Madagascar in 1990 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 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 March 26, 1999. The Wildlife Preservation Trust International also changed its name to Wildlife Trust in 2000, and adopted the logo of the Black Tamarin.

Final years

Durrell in his final years, with Cottontop Tamarins

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

"The beauty and genius of a work of art may be re-conceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."

(The Bird, 1906)

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

Policy for zoos

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 their natural habitats.
  • An animal should be present in the zoo only as a last resort, when all efforts to save it in the wild have 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 house only 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.

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.

Durrell's books

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, 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 works 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. The latter also has an acclaimed gothic horror story titled "The Entrance". Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories also has a few short stories.
  • novels: Durrell's only three novels are Rosy is My Relative, the story about the bequeathed elephant which Durrell claimed is based on real life events; The Mockery Bird, the fable based loosely on the story of Mauritius and the Dodo; and The Talking Parcel, a tale of children at large in a land of mythological creatures.
  • technical essays: The Stationary Ark is a collection of technical essays on zoo-keeping and conservation.
  • guides: 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. A number of excerpts and stories from his books were used by Octopus Books and Reader's Digest Publishing, including in the Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Durrell's works have been translated into 31 languages, and made into TV serials, and feature films. He has a large followings in northern and eastern Europe, Russia, Israel, and in various commonwealth countries, including India.

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


Durrell was a talented artist and caricaturist, but worked with numerous illustrators over the years starting with Sabine Baur 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 Barry 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 and legacy

Species and homages

  • Centrolene durrellorum: A glassfrog of the family Centrolenidae from the eastern Andean foothills of Ecuador, discovered in 2002 and described in 2005. This frog was named in honour of Gerald Durrell and his wife Lee Durrell "for their contributions to the conservation of global biodiversity" [5].
  • Clarkeia durrelli: A fossil brachiopod of the Order Atrypida, from the Upper Silurian age, discovered 1982 - there is presently no reference to indicate that this species was named in honour of Gerald Durrell
  • Nactus serpeninsula durrelli: Durrell's Night Gecko: The Round Island race of the Serpent Island Night Gecko is a distinct race and was named after both Gerald and Lee Durrell for their contribution to saving the gecko and Round Island fauna in general. Mauritius released a stamp depicting the race.
  • Ceylonthelphusa durrelli: Durrell's Freshwater Crab: A critically rare new species of Sri Lankan freshwater crab.
  • Benthophilus durrelli: Durrell's Tadpole Goby: A new species of tadpole goby discovered in 2004
  • Kotchevnik durrelli: A new species of moth of the superfamily Cossoidea from Russia

Major expeditions

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 Angwantibo, Giant Otter Shrew
1949 Mamfe and Bafut, British Cameroon (now Cameroon) Independent animal collecting mission for British zoos The Bafut Beagles Galago, Hairy Frog, African Golden Cat, Flying mouse
1950 British Guiana (now Guyana) Independent animal collecting mission for British zoos Three Singles to Adventure Giant Otter, Poison arrow frogs, Surinam Toad, Capybara, Brazilian Porcupine
1953 / 1954 Argentina and Paraguay Partially sponsored animal collecting mission The Drunken Forest 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, Kākā, Kea, Tuatara, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Leadbeater's Possum
1965 Sierra Leone Animal collecting mission for Jersey Zoo to be made into a TV 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 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 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, Rodrigues 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 "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 TV series about the Trust's role in other countries Ark on the Move Ark on the Move Pink Pigeon, Rodrigues Fruit Bat, Round Island Boa, Telfair's Skink, Gunther's Gecko, Mauritius Kestrel, Indri, Madagascan Boa
1984 Russia Shooting of the Channel 4 TV 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 (1000 km²) of tropical rain forest 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


1st edition cover of Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium
1st edition cover of Catch Me A Colobus
In his later life, Durrell wrote a number of beautifully illustrated books for children


  • The Overloaded Ark (Faber and Faber, 1953)
  • Three Singles to Adventure (Three Tickets to Adventure) (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954)
  • The Bafut Beagles (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954)
  • The New Noah (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955)
  • The Drunken Forest (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956)
  • My Family and Other Animals (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956)
  • Encounters with Animals (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958)
  • A Zoo in My Luggage (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1960)
  • The Whispering Land (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1961)
  • Menagerie Manor (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1964)
  • Two in the Bush (Collins, 1966)
  • Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (Collins, 1969)
  • Fillets of Plaice (Collins, 1971)
  • Catch Me a Colobus (Collins, 1972)
  • Beasts in My Belfry (A Bevy of Beasts) (Collins, 1973)
  • The Stationary Ark (Collins, 1976) (mainly non-fictional content)
  • Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons: A Journey to the Flora and Fauna of a Unique Island (Collins, 1977)
  • The Garden of the Gods (Fauna and Family) (Collins, 1978)
  • The Picnic And Suchlike Pandemonium (The Picnic and Other Inimitable Stories) (Collins, 1979) (with some fictional short stories)
  • Ark on the Move (Coward McCann, 1982)
  • How to Shoot an Amateur Naturalist (Collins, 1984)
  • Durrell in Russia (with Lee Durrell) (MacDonald (Publisher) (UK) / Simon and Schuster (U.S.), 1986)
  • The Ark's Anniversary (Collins, 1990)
  • Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories (Harper-Collins, 1991) (with some fictional short stories)
  • The Aye-Aye And I: A Rescue Journey to Save One of the World's Most Intriguing Creatures from Extinction (Harper-Collins, 1992)
  • The Best of Gerald Durrell (edited by Lee Durrell) (Harper-Collins, 1996)


  • Island Zoo: The Animals a Famous Collector Couldn't Part with (photographs by W. Suschitzky) (Collins, 1961)
  • Look At Zoos (Hamish Hamilton, 1961)
  • A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist (with Lee Durrell) (Hamish Hamilton (UK) / Alfred A. Knopf (U.S.), 1982)



  • Animal Pie, an unpublished book of lighthearted animal poems and caricatures, written in the 1950s [referenced in the official Douglas Botting biography]


  • Durrell, Lee (1986). State of the Ark: An atlas of conservation in action. Bodley Head. ISBN 0370307542.   (Foreword; the book is also dedicated to him.)
  • Wilkinson, Peter; Helen Gilks (1993). Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Portfolio 2. Fountain. ISBN 0863433065.   (Foreword)

Books edited by Durrell

In case of simultaneous releases in many countries, the UK edition is referred to, except for companion books to TV series where both the UK and U.S. 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

  • A Brush with Animals, Ralph Thompson (illustrations by author) (1963)
  • Okavango Adventure: In Search of Animals in Southern Africa, Jeremy Mallinson (1973)
  • Earning Your Living with Animals, Jeremy Mallinson (1975)
  • The Facts About a Zoo: Featuring the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, Jeremy Mallinson (1980)
  • State of the Ark: An Atlas of Conservation in Action, Lee Durrell (1986)
  • Travels in Search of Endangered Species, Jeremy Mallinson (1989)
  • Gerald Durrell's Army, Edward Whitley (1992)
  • Jambo: A Gorilla's Story, Richard Johnstone-Scott (1995)

Companion books to TV series not co-authored by Durrell

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

Books by family and friends

Selected articles

Radiography and filmography

VHS cover of the 1989 version of My Family and Other Animals

Featuring the subject

  • Encounters With Animals, Radio series, BBC (1957)
  • To Bafut With Beagles, TV series, BBC (1958)
  • Look (Argentinian Expedition), Single episode in TV series, BBC (1961)
  • Zoo Packet, TV series, BBC (1961)
  • Animal Magic, Early episodes in TV series, BBC (1962 – 1983)
  • Two In The Bush, TV series, BBC (1963)
  • Catch Me a Colobus, TV series, BBC (1966)
  • The Garden of the Gods, TV series, BBC (1967)
  • The Stationary Ark, TV series, Primedia (Canada) / Channel 4 (UK) (1975)
  • Animals Are My Life, episode in the TV series The World About Us, BBC (1978)
  • Ark on the Move, TV series, Primedia (Canada) / Channel 4 (UK) (1982)
  • The Amateur Naturalist, TV series, CBC / Channel 4 (UK) (1983)
  • Ourselves & Other Animals, TV series, Primetime Television and Harcourt Films (1987). Directed by Jeremy marre
  • Durrell in Russia, TV series, Channel 4 (UK) (1986)
  • Durrell's Ark, one hour documentary, BBC (1988)
  • A Day at the Zoo with Phillip Schofield, one hour episode featuring Durrell and Jersey Zoo (1989)
  • Gerald Durrell — Himself and Other Animals, documentary, Green Umbrella Productions (1999)
  • Gerald Durrell — Jambo the Gentle Giant, documentary, Green Umbrella Productions (1999)
  • Gerald Durrell — To the Island of the Aye-Aye, documentary, Green Umbrella Productions (1999)
  • Safe Hands in a Wild World, 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)
  • My Family And Other Animals, the film version of his autobiography as a child (2005)

On the subject

  • A Memorial Celebration for the Life of Gerald Durrell (1995)
  • World of Animals episode on Gerald Durrell and Jersey Zoo, Channel One, Moscow (2004)
  • The Wild Life of Gerald Durrell, BBC Four (December 2005)
  • Wildlife in a War Zone, using archival Durrell footage and examining the changes brought about by war in Sierra Leone, Animal Planet, May 2006
  • Archive Hour with Bridget Nicholls: Discover Your Inner Durrell, BBC Radio 4 (September 2006)[7]
  • Fierce Creatures, a 1997 comedic film about a zoo in peril of being closed written by John Cleese, starring Cleese, Jaime Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin, is dedicated to Gerald Durrell and British humorist Peter Cook in the closing credits, with their photographs and dates of birth and death.[8]


  • The Talking Parcel, Animated movie, directed by Brian Cosgrove, Cosgrove Hall (1979)
  • My Family and Other Animals, TV series, BBC (1989)
  • My Family and Other Animals, Radio drama, BBC Radio 4 (2001)
  • The Fantastic Flying Journey, Animated TV series, directed by Catherine Robbins and John Coates, Two Sides TV / TV Loonland (2001)
  • My Family and Other Animals (remake), BBC 2005 film broadcast in America on PBS - Masterpiece Theatre in 2006 (homepage)



Durrell quoted 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.[9]

Time capsule

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.


  1. ^ (Thomson 1998)
  2. ^ (McNiven 1998, pp. 79).
  3. ^ Jacquie Durrell, Beasts In My Bed, Fontana 1967
  4. ^ (Gruner 1998)
  5. ^ Cisneros-Heredia, D. F. (2007) A new species of glassfrog of the genus Centrolene from the foothills of Cordillera Oriental of Ecuador (Anura: Centrolenidae).. Herpetozoa, 20 (1/2), 27–34. (PDF available by clicking here)
  6. ^ Robin Balke, Paperback reviews, The Independent, October 13, 1996
  7. ^ 'Archive Hour with Bridget Nicholls: Discover Your Inner Durrell', BBC Radio 4 (September 2006)
  8. ^ 'Fierce Creatures' (1997).
  9. ^ see here


  1. Thomson, Ian (1998), "The man who thought he was too sexy for Britain", Evening Standard, London April 6
  2. McNiven, Ian S. (1998), Lawrence Durrell: A Biography, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-17248-2
  3. Gruner, Peter (1998), "Haven for the demure lemur", Evening Standard, London May 15

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Until we consider animal life to be worthy of the consideration and reverence we bestow upon old books and pictures and historic monuments, there will always be the animal refugee living a precarious life on the edge of extermination, dependent for existence on the charity of a few human beings.

Gerald ('Gerry') Malcom Durrell (1925-01-071995-01-30) was a naturalist, zookeeper, author, and television presenter, best known for founding what is know called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on the Channel Island of Jersey and for writing a number of books based on his animal-collecting and conservation expeditions. He was the brother of Lawrence Durrell.



There is no first world and third world. There is only one world, for all of us to live and delight in.
We have inherited an incredibly beautiful and complex garden, but the trouble is that we have been appallingly bad gardeners...
Does a creature have to be of direct material use to mankind in order to exist? By and large, by asking the question "what use is it?" you are asking the animal to justify its existence without having justified your own.
  • Right in the Hart of the Africn Jungel a small wite man lives. Now there is one xtrordenry fackt about him that he is the frind of all animals.
    • Written by Durrell at age ten (1935), from Gerald Durrell: An Authorized Biography by Douglas Botting (2000, ISBN 0-786-70655-4), p. 43

My Family and Other Animals (1956)

  • Halfway up the slope, guarded by a group of tall, slim, cypress-trees, nestled a small strawberry-pink villa, like some exotic fruit lying in the greenery. The cypress-trees undulated gently in the breeze, as if they were busily painting the sky a still brighter blue for our arrival.

    The villa was small and square, standing in its tiny garden with an air of pink-faced determination. Its shutters had been faded by the sun to a delicate creamy-green, cracked and bubbled in places. The garden, surrounded by tall fuschia hedges, had the flower beds worked in complicated geometrical patterns, marked with smooth white stones. The white cobbled paths, scarcely as wide as a rake's head, wound laboriously round beds hardly larger than a big straw hat, beds in the shape of stars, half-moons, triangles, and circles all overgrown with a shaggy tangle of flowers run wild. Roses dropped petals that seemed as big and smooth as saucers, flame-red, moon-white, glossy, and unwrinkled; marigolds like broods of shaggy suns stood watching their parent's progress through the sky. In the low growth the pansies pushed their velvety, innocent faces through the leaves, and the violets drooped sorrowfully under their heart-shaped leaves. The bougainvillaea that sprawled luxuriously over the tiny iron balcony was hung, as though for a carnival, with its lantern-shaped magenta flowers. In the darkness of the fuschia-hedge a thousand ballerina-like blooms quivered expectantly. The warm air was thick with the scent of a hundred dying flowers, and full of the gentle, soothing whisper and murmur of insects.

  • Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquillity, a timelessness, about it so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child's transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.
  • I said I liked being half-educated; you were so much more surprised at everything when you were ignorant.
  • We all travelled light, taking with us only what we considered to be the bare essentials of life. When we opened our luggage for Customs inspection, the contents of our bags were a fair indication of character and interests. Thus Margo's luggage contained a multitude of diaphanous garments, three books on slimming, and a regiment of small bottles each containing some elixir guaranteed to cure acne. Leslie's cases held a couple of roll-top pullovers and a pair of trousers which were wrapped around two revolvers, an air-pistol, a book called Be Your Own Gunsmith, and a large bottle of oil that leaked. Larry was accompanied by two trunks of books and a brief case containing his clothes. Mother's luggage was sensibly divided between clothes and various volumes on cooking and gardening. I travelled with only those items that I thought necessary to relieve the tedium of a long journey: four books on natural history, a butterfly net, a dog, and a jam jar full of caterpillars all in imminent danger of turning into chrysalids. Thus, by our standards, fully equipped, we left the clammy shores of England.
    • On the family's move from England to Corfu

Encounters with Animals (1958)

  • So, until we consider animal life to be worthy of the consideration and reverence we bestow upon old books and pictures and historic monuments, there will always be the animal refugee living a precarious life on the edge of extermination, dependent for existence on the charity of a few human beings.

Two in the Bush (1966)

  • Firstly what does conservation mean? It is not merely the saving from extinction of such species as the Notornis, the Leadbetters Possum or the Leathery Turtle; this is important work but it is only part of the problem. You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is not only vital for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself — a point that seems to escape many people.

    We have inherited an incredibly beautiful and complex garden, but the trouble is that we have been appallingly bad gardeners. We have not bothered to acquaint ourselves with the simplest principles of gardening. By neglecting our garden, we are storing up for ourselves, in the not very distant future, a world catastrophe as bad as any atomic war, and we are doing it with all the bland complacency of an idiot child chopping up a Rembrandt with a pair of scissors. We go on, year after year, all over the world, creating dust bowls and erosion, cutting down forests and overgrazing our grasslands, polluting one of our most vital commodities — water — with industrial filth and all the time we are breeding with the ferocity of the Brown Rat, and wondering why there is not enough food to go round. We now stand so aloof from nature that we think we are God. This has always been a dangerous supposition.

    The attitude of the average person to the world they live in is completely selfish. When I take people round to see my animals, one of the first questions they ask (unless the animal is cute and appealing) is, "what use is it?" by which they mean, "what use is it to them?" To this one can reply "What use is the Acropolis?" Does a creature have to be of direct material use to mankind in order to exist? By and large, by asking the question "what use is it?" you are asking the animal to justify its existence without having justified your own.

Rosie Is My Relative (1968)

  • An immensely tall, angular figure ... His gown hung round him in long folds like the wings of a bat, and his wig was perched slightly askew over a lantern jawed face with a blue chin, soulful spaniel-brown eyes and a turned-down mouth like a slit. But for his garb, you would have said that he was a dyspeptic undertaker in a town where nobody ever died.
  • His pen squeaking like a demented wren as he wrote copious notes.

The Stationary Ark (1976)

  • The purpose of keeping any collection of wild animals in confinement should be threefold; first, to conduct as complete as possible a biological study of every species, especially those aspects which are too difficult or too costly to study in the wild and which may help in the preservation of that species in its natural habitat; second, to aid severely endangered species by setting up, under ideal conditions, protected breeding groups and, eventually, a reintroduction programme, so helping to ensure their future survival; thirdly, by the display and explanation of this work to the public, to persuade people of the vital necessity and urgency for the overall conservation of nature.
  • You are not necessarily depriving him of his liberty, for territory is a form of natural cage and the word "liberty" does not have the same connotation for an animal as it does for a chest-beating liberal homo sapiens, who can afford the luxury of abstract ideas. What you are, in fact, doing is much more important, you are taking away his territory, so you must take great care to provide him with an adequate substitute, or you will get a bored, sick or dead animal on your hands.

    The thing that turns a cage into a territory may be something quite slight, but it need not be size. It might be the shape of the cage, the number of branches or the lack of them, the absence or presence of a pond, a patch of sand, a chunk of log, which could make all the difference. Such a detail, trivial to the uninformed visitor, can help the animal consider this area his territory, rather than simply a place where he ekes out his existence. As I say it is not necessarily size which is of prime importance. This is where people who criticise zoos go wrong, for they generally have little idea what circumscribed lives most animals lead.

The Garden of the Gods (1978)

  • "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present the famous escape artists, Krafty Kralefsky and his partner, Slithery Stephanides."

    "Dear God," said Larry, "who thought of those names?"

  • "Air! Air!" croaked Kralefsky, "Give me air!"

    "Interesting," said Colonel Ribbindane. "Saw a pygmy like that once in the Congo... been trapped in an elephant’s stomach. The elephant is the largest African quadruped.."

    "Do get him out," said Mother agitatedly. "Get some brandy."

    "Fan him! Blow on him!" shrilled Margo, and burst into tears. "He’s dying, he’s dying, and he never finished his trick."

    • On a magic trick shown by family friends

The Mockery Bird (1981)

  • The Mockery Bird regarded him with a roguish eye, head on one side, and took a few slow steps into the clearing. With its head on one side and its foot tentatively raised, it seemed like some sort of lanky, avian dancing master. It stepped forward among the guava stems with a mincing delicacy and then shuffled its wings like someone shuffling a pack of cards. He noticed that it had very long eyelashes which it raised and lowered over its large gaily-sparkling eyes. ... There was another complicated rustle and flurry in the undergrowth and then, projected into the clearing by its own nervous eagerness, came a female Mockery Bird making strange, peeting noises, which became a soothing babble when she caught sight of the male. She went up to her mate and briefly preened his throat feathers as an over-zealous wife will straighten the tie of her consort. ... Here in front of him, cossetting each other, were two birds which were thought to be extinct.

How to Shoot an Amateur Naturalist (1984)

  • The island [Corfu] lies like a strange, misshapen dagger in the blue Ionian Sea, midway along the Greek and Albanian coastlines.

    In the past, it has fallen into the hands of a dozen different nations, from all of which it has absorbed what it found good and rejected the rest, thus keeping its individuality. Unlike so many parts of Greece, it is green and lush, for when it was part of the Venetian empire they used it as their oil store, planting thousands of olive trees, so that now the bulk of the island is shaded by these carunculated giants with their wigs of silvery-green leaves. Between them run the admonishing fingers of black-green cypress, many planted in groves as dowries. All this creates a mystical landscape, bathed in sharp brittle sunlight, orchestrated by the knife-grinder song of the cicadas, framed in the blue, still sea. Of all the wonderful and fascinating parts of the planet I have been privileged to visit, Corfu is the nearest approach to home for me, since it was here, nurtured in sunlight, that my fascination for the living world around me came to fruition.

  • To say that Gannet City was busy would be an understatement. New York in the rush-hour would appear immobile in comparison. There were gannets incubating, feeding chicks, flirting, mating, preening and launching themselves into the air in effortless flight on their six-foot wings. With their creamy- white bodies, wing-tips black as jet and their orange-coloured nape and head they were impressive and immensely handsome.
  • Presently, however, we came to a small clearing and there, squatting at the mouth of its burrow was the musician responsible for the ringing, flute-like cry — a fat ground squirrel, wearing a tasteful suit of rust-red and grey fur. He sat as upright as a guardsman at the entrance to his home and his ribcage pumped in and out as he gave his musical warning cry. His big, liquid eyes stared at us with that intense, slightly inane expression that most squirrels wear, and his little paws trembled with his vocal efforts.

State of the Ark (1986)

  • There is no first world and third world. There is only one world, for all of us to live and delight in.
    • Introduction to State of the Ark by Lee Durrell, on why he had persuaded her to stop using the term Third World


  • If naturalists go to heaven [about which there is considerable ecclesiastical doubt], I hope that I will be furnished with a troop of kakapo to amuse me in the evening instead of television.
    • Said in 1989
  • My childhood in Corfu shaped my life. If I had the craft of Merlin, I would give every child the gift of my childhood.

About Gerald Durrell

  • Gerry Durrell was, to use the modern idiom, Magic. You imbibe it in his books, you feel it in his Zoo, you see it in the eyes of his trainees, and you hear it in even the most restrained tones of zoo directors, who may command budgets ten times the size that he ever did.

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