Much, much more than a zoo, Jersey’s Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is a Channel Island institution, famous worldwide for far reaching conservation work and a guardianship of endangered species.
Established by Gerald Durrell in 1959, Jersey Zoo was transformed into a charitable trust in 1963, and renamed the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Durrell works on many levels; as a conservation trust practising around the world, as a research and training centre in Jersey, and as a world-renowned attraction that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. The Durrell headquarters are situated at Les Augrès Manor in the Jersey parish of Trinity, and include an extensive wildlife park, visitor centre, cafes, organic farm, holiday accommodation, and the trust’s training centre.
The original Jersey Zoological Park was founded by Gerald Durrell, who was born in 1925. Gerald Durrell authored many popular books, including the massively successful My Family and Other Animals, detailing his childhood days in Corfu. Gerald Durrell died in Jersey in 1995, and in 1999 the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust was renamed the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in his honour.
Durrell carries out much valued conservation work overseas, including the safeguarding of species and research work in countries such as Madagascar, the Caribbean, India, and various locations in the Indian Ocean.
For visitors to Jersey, the trust’s work comes alive at their wildlife park headquarters. Visitors can explore the extensive grounds of the park for as long as they wish, from an hour to an entire day. Along the way you’ll be able to see, hear, and, in some cases, smell, Andean bears, gorillas, orangutans, otters, tamarins, lemurs, meerkats, fruit bats, poison frogs, Komodo dragons, flamingos, Jamaican boa snakes, and many, many more! The trust currently works with 48 species, so you’ll have no shortage of interesting and beautiful mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians to view throughout your visit.
Highlights include the fun and interactive meerkat enclosure, including a ‘pop-up’ bubble in which you can stand and view the meerkats as they go about their day. The orangutan’s home takes up a significant corner of the park, featuring all manner of bridges, platforms, hills, trees, and water features on which the friendly residents play. Catch them in the right mood and they’ll mimic your every move!
Possibly the most famous residents of Durrell’s park are the gorillas; gentle giants who happily spend their days in their huge enclosure. The gorillas at Durrell shot to international fame in 1986, when a young boy fell into the gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness. Jambo, the dominant male at the time, stood guard between the young boy and the rest of the gorillas, keeping him safe until his rescue and even stroking his head. Jambo passed away in 1992 and a bronze statue remembering him stands in the grounds of the wildlife park, close to the gorillas’ current home.
Durrell isn’t shy when it comes to preaching their conservation message, and the wildlife park is no exception. As well as behind-the-scenes displays and exhibits, the trust runs a wide range of training courses for conservation professionals, zoologists, keepers, and enthusiasts.
As well as experiencing the striking enclosures and beautiful scenery around the park, you’ll be in for a treat at Durrell’s Café Firefly and Café Dodo, the latter currently being renovated into a brasserie-style restaurant, due for completion later in 2012. The park also features a small organic farm and apple orchard, ideal for a relaxing break after a morning or afternoon of wandering the park. And on the way out, why not remember your visit or surprise a loved one with a gift from Durrell’s extensive visitor centre shop?
Whether you visit for a couple of hours or an entire day, there’s something for everyone at Durrell. You’ll go home with long-lasting memories of beautiful animals, interesting facts, and stunning scenery.
Durrell Wildlife Park is open every day of the year, excluding Christmas Day. For full visitor information and pricing, please click here.