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People Born in Jersey
Jersey in People's Lives
Gerald Durrell: My wife Jacquie and I moved here in 1958, after I finally found a location for my zoo - Les Augres Manor in the Trinity area of Jersey. I had been scouring England for a place to settle my menagerie of animals (for months staying in the garden of my sister's boarding house), but the long search had turned up nothing. I had stumbled upon the manor by chance, and moved my animals here. I busied myself setting up my zoo at the 17th Century manor, which I leased. I opened the zoo to the public in March of 1959. During the years that I oversaw my zoo, I continued to write hilarious books about my stories, and travel on wildlife conservation expeditions. The funds that the zoo made, I spent on efforts to save threatened and endangered animals. I founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1963 in order to better manage the increasingly large zoo. The trust grew as well, and became an international organization in 1971. Now far more powerful, it bought Les Augres Manor, in order to ensure that my zoo had a permanent home. I was also instrumental in helping to found and inspire the "World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species in Captivity as an Aid to their Survival," which was first held here in 1972 and is today the world's most prestigious conference of its field. Soon afterward, my zoo became a leading location for breeding endangered animals in captivity, particularly in the case of the Lowland Gorilla. In 1978, I added a training centre on to my zoo, which I dubbed a "mini-university." It was an enormous success and is still considered one of the most prestigious places of higher learning in zoology today. I became one of the most revered names in my field in the world, but my work did not come without its trials. I had enormous responsibility and a heavy workload, and was often stressed. I turned to drinking, frequently too much, to cope the stress. Due to this, my wife Jacquie divorced me in 1979. A few months after this, I married my second wife Lee, whom I had met two years earlier. Lee and I married in 1979 - I was 54, and she was 30. I continued to found many groups and conventions, all leading the way in wildlife conservation. Meanwhile, British zoos in general, particularly the famed London Zoo, was in danger of failing - the same zoos that had exiled me from their world decades ago. As I entered old age, my health began to fail, and I had a hip-replacement surgery to combat arthritis. I also discovered liver complications. Along with David Attenborough and my wife Lee, I helped to found the World Land Trust in 1989. Beginning in 1990, I was always in ill health. I had a liver transplant in 1994, and as a result of the surgery developed septicaemia. I died in Jersey General Hospital here in January of 1995, shortly after my 70th birthday. I requested that my ashes be buried at my zoo, which still thrives to this day.