Gerald Durrell was born in 1925 at Jamshedpur, India. In 1928 his family returned to England and then went to live on the Continent. They settled on the island of Corfu, and during this time he made a special study of zoology and kept a large number of local wild animals as pets. In 1945 he joined the staff of Whipsnade Park as a student keeper and in 1947 he financed, organized and led his first animal-collecting expedition to the Cameroons. He undertook numerous further expeditions, visiting Paraguay, Argentina, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Mauritius, Assam and Madagascar. His first television programme, ‘Two in the Bush’, was made in 1962 when he and his first wife travelled to New Zealand, Australia and Malaya. He went on to make seventy programmes out of his trips around the world. In 1959 he founded the Jersey Zoological Park, of which he was Director, and in 1964 he founded the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. He was awarded the OBE in 1982.
As a self-described ‘champion of small uglies’, Durrell dedicated his life to the preservation of wildlife, and it is through his efforts that creatures such as the Mauritius pink pigeon and the Rodrigues fruit bat have avoided extinction. Encouraged to write about his life’s work by his novelist brother Lawrence, Durrell published his first book, The Overloaded Ark, in 1953. It soon became a bestseller and he went on to write thirty-six other titles, including My Family and Other Animals, The Bafut Beagles, Encounters with Animals, The Drunken Forest, A Zoo in My Luggage, The Whispering Land, Menagerie Manor, The Amateur Naturalist, The Aye-Aye and I and, with Lee Durrell, Durrell in Russia.
Gerald Durrell died in 1995. Speaking about him to the Times Charles Secrett, Director of Friends of the Earth, said ‘He was one of the first people to wake the world up to what was happening to the environment. His books and programmes helped a whole new generation of environmentalists come into being.’