Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Jersey Zoo: The Stationary Ark

In the 1995 Obituary of Gerald Durrell, the Independent wrote:

“Familiar to millions as a maker and presenter of zoological television programmes and as the author of entertaining and best-selling books on his life with animals, Gerald Durrell made an important contribution to his science in spotting and exploiting the role that zoos can play in active conservation.”

“The zoo world still sees itself largely as a living museum. Many zoos carry out fieldwork, but it remains a secondary part of their operations. But the zoo which Durrell founded on Jersey in 1959, dedicated to saving endangered animal species by breedingthem in captivity, has been one of the very few that have successfully mixed displaying animals to the public in a sensible and humane way with effective involvement in field conservation.”

After Gerald Durrell’s death, the Zoo was renamed Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1999. This was ostensibly in memory of its founder, but it always had a subtext that might have been construed as a rebranding activity by the executives in charge.

The Lemur News, 1999, Vol 4, noted that: “In honour of Gerald Durrell the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust has been renamed to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The name ‘Jersey Zoo’ will not be changed.”

And yet despite that statement, the marketing men went to work with a will, and the name Jersey Zoo was changed and became Durrell, and the word “Zoo” eradicated from the signs. Part of this may have been negative connotations of the word "Zoo", but I think that is too simplistic.

It is difficult to track down the history of that change. I know that Dr Mark Stanley-Price became Chief Executive of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey in 2001, and that seems to have been when the local site lost the name "Jersey Zoo". Stanley-Price wanted to launch "an updated image to help communicate the vision to a broader audience." There is no indication at this time in the news that I have read that it was because of negative image of the word "Zoo".

He said that: "As part of the strategic roll out, the previously named Jersey Zoo is realigning its brand to the international brand of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the only international charity based in Jersey."

The next CEO, Paul Masterman, who joined in 2003, seemed very much in favour of that name change. When asked "Do you think people still perceive Durrell as being Jersey Zoo?", he replied:

"Yes, but I don't get upset by this as long as we can create the understanding that Durrell is so much more – and that, at our core, we are a conservation charity. Having a visitor attraction is very important to us as it helps educate people about the pressures the natural world is under, and it is a significant income generator for us. But, fundamentally, Durrell isn't here to be a visitor attraction, it is here because of our conservation mission."

Now , however, a change has taken place. Dr Lesley Dickie, Chief Executive Officer, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has written a letter to members as follows:

I am writing to inform you that from 3rd April 2017 Durrell Wildlife Park will be changing its name to Jersey Zoo.

When Gerald Durrell founded Jersey Zoo in 1959, he was a pioneer in his belief that good zoos could do great things in conservation. Today Durrell continues that mission and we believe that we set an exemplary example of best in class zoo practice across animal husbandry, education, science and conservation.

At Durrell we are proud to be a zoo and the work we do both here in Jersey and in the wild all follows the same mission – to save species from extinction. Zoos are now the fourth largest funders of conservation in the world and we are pleased to be able to make a significant contribution. We are also proud that Jersey is our home and this name change re-affirms that.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust will not be affected by this change which only refers to the zoo.

The primary objective of the name change is making the zoo more visible to visitors to the island as well as staying true to the wishes of our founder.

Lee Durrell is very much in support of this change and comments:

Putting ‘zoo’ back into Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is something I welcome, for it reinforces what Gerald Durrell had been working towards all his life - to ensure that zoos are genuine and powerful instruments for conservation. Ten years ago, we made a conscious decision to avoid the word ‘zoo’, because of its perceived negative connotations.

Today we embrace “it, because modern zoos have made great progress in the service of conservation, both in the zoo setting and in the wild, through innovative research, professional training, inspirational public education and improvements in animal wellbeing. Gerry and his early team had pioneered much of this, and Durrell will continue its ground-breaking work through Jersey Zoo”.

It is worth, perhaps, finishing with some words about Gerald Durrell and Jersey Zoo that I found from a speech by David Attenborough at Gerald Durrell's memorial. In it he said:

"As a one man pressure group he was years ahead of anti-zoo propagandists and the international zoo community alike. In one of his last television interviews he was asked if he was pleased that more zoos were putting conservation first on the agenda, "I think its marvellous, wonderful", he said, paused, and then, sadly, "But why did it take so bloody long?".

And finally, from the letter that was placed by Gerald Durrell in a Time Capsule, a copy of which was read out by the Princess Royal at his memorial:

Many of us, though not all in this year of 1988, recognise the following things:

1. All political and religious differences that at present slow down, entangle and strangle progress in the world will have to be solved in a civilised manner.

2. All other life forms have as much right to exist as we have and that indeed without the bulk of them we would perish.

3. Overpopulation is a menace that must be addressed by all countries; if allowed to continue it is a Gadarene syndrome which will cause nothing but our doom.

4. Ecosystems are intricate and vulnerable; once misused, disfigured or greedily exploited they vanish to our detriment. Used wisely they provide boundless treasure. Used unwisely they create misery, starvation and death to the human race and to a myriad other lifeforms.

5. It is stupid to destroy things such as rainforests before we know how they function and what is in them, especially because in these great webs of life may be embedded secrets of incalculable value to the human race.

6. The world is to us what the Garden of Eden was supposed to be to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were banished, but we are banishing ourselves from our Eden. The difference is that Adam and Eve had somewhere else to go. We have nowhere else to go.

We hope that by the time you read this you will have at least partially curtailed our reckless greed and stupidity. If we have not, at least some of us have tried...

All we can say is learn from what we have achieved, but above all learn from our mistakes, do not go on endlessly like a squirrel in a wheel committing the same errors hour by hour day by day year after year century after century as we have done up to now.

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.

Gerald Durrell

No comments: