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Gerald Durrell

Gerald DurrellGerald Durrell OBE (7 January 1925 – 30 January 1995) was an English naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter. He founded what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo (now Durrell Wildlife Park) on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1958.

In 1950 he mounted an independent animal collecting mission for British zoos to British Guiana (now Guyana). With him on this expedition were Kenneth Smith and Robert Lowes. Three Singles to Adventure is Durrell's account of the expedition.

In 1989, Durrell and his wife Lee, along with David Attenborough and cricketer David Gower helped launch the World Land Trust (then the World Wide Land Conservation Trust). The initial goal of the trust was to purchase rainforest 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 17th century, 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 26 March 1999. The Wildlife Preservation Trust International also changed its name to Wildlife Trust in 2000, and adopted the logo of the black tamarin.
(Extract from Gerald Durrell, Wikipedia. Accessed 22 Jan 2017.)

Sources include Wikipedia and the 2009 edition of Three Singles to Adventure published by Summersdale Publishers Ltd., Chichester, Sussex.

(■ Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)


Gerald Durrell, Three Singles to AdventureThe 'Adventure' mentioned in the title of Durrell's book is a village located in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region of Guyana, on the Atlantic coast, at sea level, 1 mile south of Onderneeming. It is on the west bank at the mouth of the River Essequibo, and is linked to Parika by a ferry service. Parika is connected by road to the West Coast of Demerara, and Georgetown via the Demerara Harbour Bridge.

At the time of Durrell's expedition, there was a railway from Vreed-en-Hoop to Parika.

(■ More about the railway.)

Gerald Durrell wrote the Foreword to Julia Blackburn's Charles Waterton, Traveller and Conservationist.
"It was Waterton who warned that if we did not mend our ways and respect the world we live in and not ravage it, we would go to hell in a handcart.
He was a man who did no harm to the world he lived in but enhanced it by his presence and care of it. Would that we could all have a similar epitath."


Three-toed sloth.THE SLOTH

"The sloths have been subjected, since earliest times, to more gross misrepresentation than any other South American animals. They have been described as lazy, stupid, malformed, slow, ugly, in constant pain owing to their peculiar structure, and a host of other things."

Durrell cites Gonzalo Fernando de Oviedo (Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés) and Buffon as amongst those giving inaccurate accounts of the sloth, including 'living on air'. There was apparently an inability to consider how well the sloth lived its life in its natural habitat.

"... Oviedo, with an almost journalistic skill, give[s] a most inaccruate picture of the sloth.
   .............
The great Buffon launched a description of the sloth in his Natural History, and it was even worse than Oviedo's."

Durrell sets the record straight in his book Three Singles to Adventure. His side swipe at journalists will resonate with many!

[Extracts from Three Singles to Adventure, Chapter 3, 'Monstrous Animals and Sloth Songs'.]

Charles Waterton took the view that:

"Perhaps it was that by seeing him thus out of his element, as it were, that the Count de Buffon, in his history of the sloth, asks the question: "Why should not some animals be created for misery, since, in the human species, the greatest number of individuals are devoted to pain from the moment of their existence?" Were the question put to me I would answer, I cannot conceive that any of them are created for misery. That thousands live in misery there can be no doubt; but then misery has overtaken them in their path through life, and wherever man has come up with them I should suppose they have seldom escaped from experiencing a certain proportion of misery.

After fully satisfying myself that it only leads the world into error to describe the sloth while he is on the ground or in any place except in a tree, I carried the one I had in my possession to his native haunts. As soon as he came in contact with the branch of a tree all went right with him. I could see as he climbed up into his own country that he was on the right road to happiness; and felt persuaded more than ever that the world has hitherto erred in its conjectures concerning the sloth, on account of naturalists not having given a description of him when he was in the only position in which he ought to have been described, namely, clinging to the branch of a tree."

[From the Fourth Wandering]


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