Saving threatened habitats worldwide

My Family and Other Animals - Behind the scenes with Lee Durrell

Gerry and Lee Durrell
Date and Time: 
7:30PM 20 Oct 2017
The Cut Arts Centre, Halesworth, Suffolk

Buy Tickets (£14.50)


Meet Lee Durrell, eminent zoologist, author and conservationist, to hear her talk of adventures in the wild, Jersey Zoo and, of course, her late husband Gerald Durrell.

Gerald Durrell was a wildlife conservationist who became a household name through the hilarious tales told in My Family and Other Animals. The Durrells moved to Corfu to escape the grey skies of England, and their unconventional life on the Greek island in the 1930s are coloured by the menagerie of local creatures who took over their family home.

The real characters in Gerry’s early life read as if they were conjured up by Roald Dahl’s wildest imaginings, from his pompous older brother Larry to their taxi driver and mentor Spiros Americanos, Quasimodo the walking pigeon and Achilles the tortoise.

It was some beginning for the naturalist Gerry was to become, and the family’s menagerie foreshadowed the collection of animals he amassed as an adult, eventually founding the Jersey Zoological Park. His zoo became the platform of numerous conservation projects around the world, and many of his subsequent missions are chronicled in his numerous books.

Meeting of the minds

Gerry met Lee when he was visiting Duke University to give a lecture, where she was working on her PhD studying the calls of mammals and birds in Madagascar. In an interview in 1992, Gerry recalled meeting her and consequently trying to figure out how to invite her to the zoo in Jersey. “Because I knew that if I could get her to Jersey she'd get hooked. Not on me. But on the project.”

“I'm the only man in history who's been married for his zoo.”
Gerald Durrell

“So I phoned her up and I said: 'I've just heard that a little old lady, a widow, has died and left me a small legacy - to me personally, not to the (Jersey Wildlife Preservation) Trust - to use as I see fit. I'd like to set up a studio of animal communication in Jersey. Would you like to do it?' Of course, there was no little old widow lady but I couldn't very well tell her I'd pay her way over myself. Anyway, she came, and after a couple of weeks she was hooked. So before she left I asked her to marry me. I'm the only man in history who's been married for his zoo.”

Gerry and Lee made a formidable team, for wildlife conservation and Gerry’s zoo. They were happily married for 16 years, during which Lee accompanied Gerry on his last three conservation missions, described in the books Ark on the Move, Durrell in Russia and The Aye-Aye and I, and collaborated on more than 50 TV programmes and books. After his death in 1995, Lee devoted herself to continuing his legacy and preserving Gerry’s beloved zoo.

A date for your calendar

Lee will be speaking at the Halesworth Arts Festival about Gerry’s extraordinary life, starting with his famous childhood and moving on to the incredible life he went on to have, dedicated to saving wildlife.

Join us for a unique opportunity to hear about the life of one of the world’s most celebrated conservationists from his wife and successor, Lee Durrell.

To buy tickets for this event (£14.50 each), visit the Halesworth Arts Festival website.

This is a fundraising event for WLT.

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