Our History


The great British writer and conservationist, Gerald Durrell, was a visionary, a pioneer and a man with a mission. He believed that good zoos could do great things in conservation, and more than 60 years ago he set out to prove it.

Gerald created a small zoo on an island situated between England and France in the English Channel - the original Jersey for which New Jersey is named. There at Jersey Zoo he and his keepers began to breed the rarest of rare animals. He soon got scientists on board his 'ark' to study the species not only in the zoo, but also in the wild. Then teachers joined to train the people of the countries where the animals come from to breed and study them. Gerald's teams and the local people began to work together to protect these threatened species and their habitats and to help them recover.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization, was set up by Gerald in 1963 to carry out his conservation work all over the world.  He chose the extinct bird, the dodo, for its symbol, to show that the Trust’s mission is to prevent similar extinctions.  Usually just called "Durrell", the Trust’s headquarters are in Jersey at the zoo  started by Gerald for the breeding of rare species so that they don't disappear forever.

In the five years to 2014 Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust received more than a million dollars in grants and donations from America, thanks to the generosity of Americans and their belief in the importance of its work. Supporters include Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Turtle Conservancy, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, several zoos and more than 200 individuals.

American Friends of Durrell was established in 2014 to facilitate contributions to Durrell. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the purpose of which, as stated in our Bylaws, is to promote and support the programs and activities of Durrell in its mission to save species from extinction.