An update from our Board of Trustees
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, including Jersey Zoo, has adapted continually to change and today the charity’s conservation impact is greater than at any other time in its 64-year history. Exemplary animal husbandry will always be the priority at both Jersey Zoo and at our breeding centres around the world. As a leading zoo-based conservation organisation, with ten rewilding sites globally, that has trained over 6,000 conservationists, Durrell continues to evolve. This includes introducing new species to Jersey Zoo and diversifying into other areas to raise funds to allow our crucial conservation work to continue.
In 2022, Jersey Zoo brought in a total of 73 new animals, of which 59% are rated as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A balanced and exciting collection brings visitors and members to the zoo, which in turn funds work at our rewilding sites. A key part of our conservation strategy is to connect people with nature. Animals that inspire feelings of excitement, empathy, and curiosity are fundamental to this strategy. Species brought in for conservation breeding purposes, which may seem less appealing to visitors, can only be supported because of the presence of more charismatic animals.
The world’s biodiversity is in crisis, but Durrell continues to strive to do more, both here in Jersey and at our rewilding sites. For example, last year we released ten Critically Endangered pygmy hogs into Manas National Park in India and 55 Critically Endangered pochards onto Lake Sofia in Madagascar. During 2022, we trained 375 conservation practitioners and aspiring conservationists from around the world and restored 86 acres of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.
We are aware that a letter has been posted on social media by a former employee of Durrell in which concerns were expressed to the Board of Trustees regarding animal welfare and staff well-being. Following receipt of that letter, a full review of the alleged animal welfare and staff well-being concerns took place at a meeting of the Trust’s Audit and Risk Committee on 10 March 2023. That Committee includes independent experts in animal welfare, including the CEO of Marwell Zoo, a recently retired vet and two staff who serve as inspectors on the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (EAZA) accreditation programme. All Committee members were fully satisfied with the review’s conclusions and have no concerns with the welfare and management of these species or people at Jersey Zoo. The complainant was advised of these findings and previously invited by Durrell’s Chair of the Board of Trustees to meet and discuss these perceived issues. Unfortunately, this invitation was not acknowledged or taken up by the author.
The States Vet Animal Health and Welfare Team carry out inspections at Jersey Zoo frequently. They have found no concerns in terms of animal welfare. Durrell also invited the team to visit Jersey Zoo on 29 August 2023 for an additional inspection, following these claims online. They did not highlight any welfare concerns for sloths, goats and aardvarks, which are the focus of the author’s concerns. Durrell also has an in-house vet team, to continually monitor animal health and welfare.
As Jersey Zoo is based on an island, with a small catchment area and reduced tourist visitation post Covid, the zoo needs to be kept as an exciting place to visit with both new events and new species to raise the funds needed to carry out our vital conservation work. Today, Durrell is delivering better results in terms of conservation impact and commercial success than at any time in the Trust’s history, despite the challenges we have faced over recent years.
The Board of Trustees is fully supportive of the CEO and Senior Management Team and takes its responsibility for both the welfare of the animals and the well-being of the people that work and volunteer at Durrell extremely seriously. The Board deplores malicious or ill-founded accusations against individuals who care passionately for our animals, are united in their aim to make Durrell the pinnacle of conservation excellence, and who strive daily to continue our Founder’s legacy within a modern and forward-thinking framework.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Rob Kirkby – Chair, Dr Lee Durrell – Honorary Director, Sarah Cook, Gary Clark, Dr James Cretney, Mary Curtis, Simon Dickson, Matthew Hatchwell, Jonas Muller and Gerald Voisin.