Thursday, June 23, 2016

A day at the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey

Gerald Durrell has been a hero of mine for quite a while.  In case you have never heard of him ( and sadly most North Americans haven't) Mr. Durrell was a conservationist, naturalist and author of many wonderful books.  Hands up if you own all of them - yes, that would be me.   He was dedicated to preserving endangered animals.  He grew up loving animals and first worked collecting species for the Whipsnade, London and other zoos around the world.  He was known for the great care and dedication he gave these animals.  However be became disillusioned about how zoos of that time were run and decided to start his own zoo as he believed they should act as reserves and regeneration for endangered species rather than entertainment.  Sales from his book and his expeditions for other zoos helped fund the new zoo which was opened in 1959.  In 1978 he started a training centre for zoologists at the zoo - well over a thousand students from all over the world have attended.  In the meantime he still wrote his books and using the profits for his beloved zoo.  Sadly he died in early 1995. What an impact this man has made on the world. If you want to read more about Gerald Durrell and his books click here. 

I visited the Wildlife park back in 1988 and absolutely loved it and in the past few years I have had a yearning to go back to Jersey that just would not go away.  In fact I ended up canceling what I had booked (time near Hadrians Wall in northern England) and booking to go to Jersey (while in the UK).  And I have no regrets!

 I like well run zoos that preserve threatened or endangered species.   Yes there are some crappy zoos out there that should be shut down but there are so many that do their job of breeding endangered or threatened species AND educating the publiC.  I think seeing and hearing these animals is so much more effective than looking at them in a book or on a video as people tend to say it should be now.   I have been to Africa and seen animals in the wild which was one of the best experiences of my life - but not many people can afford or choose to do that.

So off we go....I was lucky enough to get a direct bus from where I was staying in Gorey.  Let me tell you I did not dawdle and decided to visit the park my first day in Jersey.

My hero Gerald Durrell

I of course had to have my picture taken with this statue but I'll spare you the photo.   I so would have liked to have met him... there was a wonderful exhibition of his life which I thoroughly enjoyed.

So off we go to meet the animals!!!

Giant Madagascar Day Gecko

Lesser Antillian Iguana

Sumatran (Indonesia)  Orangatun - they love playing with blankets!  These beautiful creatures share 97% of the same DNA as humans and are born with the ability to reason and think.  In fact their name...orang means "person" in Malay and "utan" means forest.  People of the forest.  Fascinating creatures - more info is available here.   Sadly so many have been decimated through the development of Palm Oil plantations which of course leads to deforestation and the loss of the orangatuns' habitat.  It is estimated that approximately 6,000 are lost every year.   Palm Oil is used in over half of the products on supermarkets' shelves today.

Red Ruffled Lemur - from Madagascar

A Bali starling - absolutely beautiful.  It is critically endangered in the wild.

I can't remember what this guy is - but it's cute!

A pink pigeon from Mauritius.  Gerald brought 5 over in 1977 and they have been bred ever since. Once critically endangered but now downgraded to endangered.  There are approximately 500 birds near the field station in Mauritius but it has been a long struggle.  These are the only pigeons that have not become extinct in that country.  Gerald Durrell wrote a book  called "Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons" which talks about his visit to Mauritius.  Informative but amusing; always amusing.

Oriental Short-Clawed Otter - smallest of the world's otters from Asia.

And then we come to the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla...widescale trade in meat is bringing this majestic animal close to extinction.

And who doesn't love to see a "flamboyance" of flamingos..(yes that's the proper name...don't you love it?) These are Chilean flamingos. Flamngos' pink colour comes from the pigments in their food.

Love the pink "knees" and feet!!!

And last but definitely not least is the fabulous "Jambo".  Well a statue that is as sadly he passed away in 1992.  I was lucky enough to see him when I visited the zoo in 1988.  In recent events at the Cincinnati Zoo (don't get me started on that!) Jambo's name came up.  In 1986 a young boy fell into the enclosure and Jambo sat beside the unconscious child  protecting him from the other gorillas and gently stroking his back.  Another one of my heros!  I would dearly have loved to have had my picture taken with this statue but no one was around.  I tried doing some selfies...let's just say I'm not very good at selfies!

RIP Jambo - 1961 to 1992

Jambo came to the zoo in 1971 and lived until 1992..fathering 14 offspring with his progency at around 100 all over the world. He has become the symbolf of the Durrell Wildlife Park.

All in all a wonderful day.  The park has everything from creepy crawlies to gorillas.  You won't find any elephants, tigers or zebras here.  Instead you will find creatures you have never heard of  that are getting a second chance.  I would highly recommend visiting this fantastic wildlife park if you ever visit the beautiful island of Jersey. 

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