My first month here at Durrell
It’s my first month here at Durrell – and what a month its’ been. Full of old and new faces, meeting our team at the zoo, welcoming our field, science and training teams from around the world and seeing Durrell pick up, not one, but two, prestigious awards. We also had a members’ event allowing me the opportunity to meet some of our most dedicated supporters, a key part of ‘Team Durrell’.
I have long been aware of the work at Durrell, and in fact I am a Durrell graduate myself, having undertaken training here in the early 2000’s. In April this year, it felt a little like the circle had been closed as I came to Jersey to teach at the Durrell Academy, little knowing that the next time I would return it would be as the new Chief Executive Officer. What a difference a summer makes.
No sooner had I arrived at the start of October than I was jetting off the following week to attend the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) annual conference in Puebla, Mexico. It was there that Durrell was awarded the first ever WAZA Conservation Award, with a citation making it clear that we were the obvious choice, such has been the quality, commitment and depth of our conservation work throughout our history. However it also recognised our influence on the wider world of zoos and aquaria in driving their own commitments to conservation, something Gerald Durrell would have been very proud to see.
The following day I got on more planes, from Puebla to Dallas then on to my next destination, Indianapolis, home to the eponymous Indianapolis Prize. The Indianapolis Prize is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for conservation, by far the most prestigious individual award given to a conservation practitioner. Myself, Lee Durrell and Rich Young, our Head of Conservation Science, were honoured to be able to attend the gala prize-giving evening, generously looked after by our friends at Indianapolis Zoo, who founded the prize. And who was the recipient of the prize? Professor Carl Jones, our Chief Scientist, a pioneer of the Durrell ethos of taking the skills of captive breeding out to the wild to save species.
Saving species is what Carl does – no fewer than nine bird and reptile species owe their very existence to Carl, a remarkable achievement. Then a week later the actual Nobel prizes were announced and Bob Dylan was noted as the Nobel Laureate for Literature – I like to think that Carl is our very own rock star, a rock star of conservation.
Back on Jersey our annual field staff week brought our teams from around the world back to Durrell HQ where we had a two-day symposium followed by two days of strategy development to plan our future. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about our field and science work, from the release of the chough on our home island, to the progress in saving the tiny pygmy hog in India (it really is well named and rather adorable looking). With so many of our team here we held a members event ‘Stories from the Field’ to share our remarkable work and from discussions with the attendees its clear the work we do is much appreciated.
I am honoured to be part of the team and excited about our future. What a month its’ been……..with so much more to come.
Posted 1 November 2016