Meet some of the inspirational women at Durrell

International Women's Day 2024


This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the incredible women working to save species from extinction at Durrell.


From our CEO and staff at Jersey Zoo to the field teams at our rewilding sites around the globe, 49% of our workforce is female.   

Some of their amazing achievements over the past year include:

  • Harriet Whitford, Jersey Zoo’s Curator of Birds, travelling to Mauritius’s Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary to prepare specialist aviaries for the upcoming pink pigeon breeding season. 
  • Rebecca Young, Conservation Scientist, helping to develop the IUCN Green Status of Species to be used alongside the IUCN Red List to assess species recovery.  
  • Violaine Colon, Senior Veterinary Officer, and Veterinary Support Manager, Theresa Ruellan, took on the challenge of removing a benign tumour from underneath an Aldabra giant tortoise weighing approximately 200kg. 
  • Bela Barata, Durrell’s Field Programme Officer, speaking to The Guardian about discovering “sky frogs” in Brazil.  
  • Rachel Cowen, Jersey Zoo’s Mammals North Team Leader, and Gale Glendewar, Conservation Knowledge Officer, took part in a workshop in Brazil to share and gain knowledge to solve issues for threatened tamarin and marmoset species, such as black lion tamarins. 


Hear from three of our inspirational staff members as they share glimpses into their careers working to protect nature in Madagascar, India and the UK:

Kaël Henintsoanirina
Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant, Madagascar 


What is your role at Durrell?    

My role as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant extends beyond simply collecting and analysing data to assess the effectiveness of our conservation programmes. I am also involved in communicating results clearly and concisely to inform decision-makers and guide our future actions. Much of my work takes place in the field, where I monitor and evaluate conservation activities and strengthen ties with local communities to ensure that our efforts to preserve wildlife are effective and sustainable. 

Kael Henintsoanirina (1) (1) 2

What achievement in your career are you most proud of?  

My greatest achievement has been contributing towards a new rural development project to preserve biodiversity and improve local communities' well-being. Observing the results firsthand allowed me to see how challenging the living conditions of local populations remain despite the project's intervention. It taught me that the residents share our commitment to environmental preservation, although their circumstances push them to expand their farming areas. My recommendations to support households while minimising environmental impact were validated and used as a guideline for future rural development projects in Madagascar, which fills me with immense pride and motivation. 

Have you overcome any obstacles in your career?  

Being a woman working in the field has challenges, such as energy and logistical and financial obstacles, which have sometimes hindered me. However, the most significant challenge is undoubtedly the insecurity caused by "dahalo," which are organised criminal gangs, especially in the very remote areas of Madagascar. In my previous position, before I joined Durrell, there were moments when I had to go into the field to assess projects. Unfortunately, at those times, frequent attacks by "dahalo," accompanied by murders, kidnappings, and death sentences, occurred in the districts I visited. Initially, facing these situations frightened me. However, my passion for my work, dedication, and vision for the future helped me discover a capacity for resilience and adaptation in the face of these adversities. 

Karishma Sharma Chamlagain
Field Biologist, India


What is your role at Durrell?    

I am a field biologist for the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) in Orang National Park, where I monitor the population of Bengal florican, a Critically Endangered bustard species. In the grasslands of Orang, PHCP also has habitat intervention work, and I am managing the ongoing uprooting and removal of invasive alien species. I am also involved in sign surveys, placing camera traps, pygmy hog releases, and radiotelemetry of the Critically Endangered species in Manas National Park. 

Karishma (1) 2

What advice would you give to women looking to get into a similar career?  

Go and grab such chances! It can be competitive but be persistent and push through challenges. You can build diverse skills by gaining hands-on experience like volunteer work, internships, or research opportunities. We have very few women working as bird guides in northeast India. It would be great to encourage local women into these roles as they have so much knowledge and a love for their rich heritage, and this line of work allows you to earn a good living. Listen to your mind and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. 

Are there any women role models who inspire you and why?

Many women from my family, my friends, women working in wildlife conservation, women in history and novels have left me with various impressions towards life. I have two main role models, my mum and granny, who inspire me greatly. I wish to be calm and work well under pressure with a happy face like my mother. I also want to be as brave and wise as my grandmother, who married awfully young and took on many responsibilities in a stranger’s house but managed to run a large family household perfectly. She has shown me that knowledge can be built and delivered without a formal education.

Lucy Groves
UK Programmes Manager


What is your role at Durrell?    

I am the UK Programmes Manager for Durrell.  This involves managing and coordinating our UK projects and staff, and working with partner organisations to ensure our programmes are a success. We are currently working on two projects in Wales and our newest venture on the Dalnacardoch Estate in Scotland. 

Lucy Groves (1)

What sparked your passion for wildlife?

I have always had a real love for animals, going back as far as I can remember. This has morphed over the years from wanting to be a vet, working with rescue animals, studying primates and working in a small zoo specialising in UK native animals, which grew into a passion for British wildlife and conservation. I love to hike and spend time in the countryside, and it is obvious that we have lost important species, and that the UK’s biodiversity is deteriorating at an alarming rate. I feel the work Durrell is now doing in the UK can have a huge impact on improving this and any way I get to play a part in this is wonderful.  

Have you overcome any obstacles in your career?

I’ve been through a few twists and turns to get to where I am today, with both highs and lows. The main obstacle I have had to deal with has mainly been my own lack of self-confidence and occasionally the odd challenging character along the way who knocked my confidence. Imposter syndrome is real! But remember that even the most confident of people doubt themselves at times, even if it doesn’t seem that way, so have faith in your own skills and abilities. Luckily, with the support of some fantastic managers and mentors, I am now able to face those difficulties and find the positives instead.  

Interested in joining the team? Check out our current vacancies!