After writing my previous post ("My Struggle with Zoos Part Two: A Zoo that is good for Wildlife) I had a wonderful message from Rick Jones at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust which I wanted to share on this blog. For me it really underlines what Durrell is (whilst correcting some of my errors) and the incredible difference that they have made to our wild world. So read, enjoy and then visit Durrell Wildlife Park if you ever get the opportunity... I sure will when I can!
Thanks for the message and the blog post, and, also don't be sorry... you'll actually find that most of the staff here at Durrell also have 'a problem with zoos' - myself very much included.
We really aren't a 'zoo' - the closest thing to cages you'll see here are the internal structures in the gorilla and orangutan houses - and they are for climbing on, not constraining. Most of our animals - let's take mammals for an example - live in open plan areas of parkland, some with a fence to keep the public and them separated (macaques, various lemurs), some with a moat (bears, howler monkeys, coatis) and some with no constraint whatsoever (tamarins and marmosets - we use their natural territorial behaviour to manage where the groups go, the very best form of enrichment).
It's also worth mentioning that Ian Singleton is just one of over 3,500 conservationists from 135 countries to have passed through Durrell and now running their own conservation org. Yes, 3,500! The founders of IPE - http://bit.ly/14Ovrw4 are Durrell graduates, Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon, the WCS 'Gorilla Guardians' in Nigeria, untold Herpetologists and bird experts around the world - including Professor Carl Jones MBE and Dr. Glyn Young (the world's foremost duck species expert) all feed back their expertise and research, so we can train the people following them through Durrell's unique conservation facilitation system. We provide much of the research that is the foundation of many of the world's most critical species restoration projects, and we never charge any NGO to access any of it if they are carrying out important work.
As for the 'zoo' issue, Gerald Durrell's was the first ever animal collection set up with the express purpose of captive breeding species that could disappear. Other zoos commendably took that model, and a very recent example of it literally being lifesaving is the case of the Waldrapp or bald ibis (Geronticus eremita). Surveys of the original, wild population this year found only 1 bird. It would be functionally extinct, but the captive breeding program across several zoos (our wildlife park included) has allowed semi-wild reintroduction populations in Morocco and Northern Spain - traditional historical habitats of these once sacred birds.
If you ever have the chance to visit Jersey, I'd be delighted to show you around, and you'd be able to see for yourself what makes Durrell unique.