The Durrell Lecture 2019: Rewild our Forests

At this year’s Durrell Lecture, held at the Royal Institution in London on Thursday 21st November, the Trust’s members and supporters were invited to an evening of fascinating talks about the world’s forests and the significance this diverse, precious ecosystem holds for people and wildlife globally. Often featured in myths and legends, forests have been central to childhood stories for generations and have helped to shape how we interpret our world.

Professor Miles Richardson, from the University of Derby, was the first speaker of the evening. Discussing our connectedness to nature, Miles gave a thought-provoking insight into how it affects our physical and mental happiness, and our likelihood to carry out behaviours, such as recycling, to help the planet. Nature connection is at the heart of Durrell’s ‘Rewild Our World’ strategy, and this was an inspiring introduction to the science behind it.

CEO of Durrell, Dr. Lesley Dickie, then gave a captivating presentation highlighting Durrell’s work with forests across their rewilding sites, including Madagascar, Saint Lucia, Mauritius, and the UK. However, the evening focused mainly on the charity’s work in Brazil with their local partner IPÊ, the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas.

Durrell’s connection to Brazil goes back many years due to the Trust’s expertise in the care, management, and conservation of callitrichids, such as the black lion tamarin. Thought to be extinct in the 1970s, black lion tamarins were rediscovered, and Jersey Zoo became the first establishment outside of Brazil to hold and breed this species. To this day, they continue to be the only zoo in Europe that keeps these highly threatened monkeys.

Deforestation of the black lion tamarin’s native habitat, the Mata Atlantica or Atlantic Forest, is happening at an alarming rate. Some 60 million years old, this extraordinarily lush rainforest is home to hundreds of animals and thousands of plants that are found nowhere else on Earth, yet only 12% of its original range persists, and in some regions only 3%. The destruction of this forest forces animals into small fragments of remaining habitat where they become isolated. Trapped here, many species face an increased risk of extinction due to inbreeding, insufficient habitat, and the increased dangers from roads, farms, and predators when attempting to move between fragments.

With the help of Durrell’s ‘Cans for Corridors’ scheme, which raises money through recycling aluminium cans, IPÊ has been planting tree corridors to connect remaining fragments of forest to the last stronghold of the black lion tamarin, the Morro do Diabo State Park. Durrell and IPÊ’s next step is to create a new tree corridor, connecting the Morro do Diabo State Park to isolated forest fragments to the north. Linking these small patches of rainforest will give threatened populations of black lion tamarin, puma, jaguar, and ocelot a chance to thrive once again.

Lesley also announced Durrell’s plans for their ‘Rewilding Carbon’ scheme for individuals and companies, which the Trust aims to launch in 2020. There is increasing evidence that tree planting has great potential to capture carbon. IPÊ and Durrell, while primarily focusing on building habitat and protecting biodiversity, have also been contributing to natural climate solutions. Growing evidence suggests that forests rich in wildlife with high numbers of animals are more efficient at absorbing carbon. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that in tackling the two great existential crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the work is combined.

The Durrell Lecture 2019 was kindly sponsored by Rathbones and Rathbone Greenbank Investments for the second year.

To find out more and support Durrell's work in Brazil, visit