Latest from the Indian Ocean ... Refugees of the Lost Rainforest P14 Autumn / Winter 2013

Latest from the Indian Ocean
Refugees of the Lost Rainforest P14
Autumn / Winter 2013
help protect
our forests
Dear Members,
Our founder, Gerald Durrell, would always
refer to membership as “the backbone of
the Trust”, and never forgot how his life’s
work was made possible by the kindness
of those who shared his love of animals,
concern for the future and believed in
his vision.
Here at Durrell, we’ve not forgotten that
you, the Members, allow us to carry this
work and Gerald’s legacy into the future.
As ‘On The Edge’ is a ‘benefit’ of
membership, we truly hope that you
enjoy this magazine, and find that it’s an
informative snapshot of the work that your
kind provision allows us to carry out, both
home and away.
As such, we’d like to ask if you’d like to
continue to receive ‘On The Edge’ on
paper, or whether you’d prefer it online,
to save paper, and thus cut down the
environmental impact.
Of course ‘On The Edge’ is your
publication, and we’ll send it to you in
whichever format you choose, we’d just
ask that you please let us know via email:
or by writing to:
A word from the CEO
Durrell Times
In Brief
Farewell Wolfgang and Barbara
10 Animal training
14 Refugees of the Lost Rainforest
16 From the Front Line
18 Rebuilding habitats
20 Skink appeal update
21 Indian Ocean campus
22 Investing in our people
24 Introducing Jeff Dawson
26 The Lonely Dodo
28 Career start for threatened animals
29 I’m a Conservationist
30 Noticeboard
Photo and drawing credits
Estate of Gerald Durrell, Aardman Animations,
Paul Lewis, Gregory Guida, Phillip Coffey, Nik
Cole, Rouben Mootoocurpen, Dan Lay, Rick
Jones, James Underwood, Colm Farrington,
Gordon Hunt, Chris Clark, Colin Stevenson, Fi Marchant and Linda Scott.
I was lucky enough to join Durrell in June
this year and after a few of months am
beginning to understand the Trust, its
people, activities and challenges. It’s a
terrific organisation, doing important work
to recover wildlife from the very brink of
extinction, and with a unique combination
of skills. Our husbandry and breeding
knowledge in the Park helps us in our
overseas programmes when we rescue and
restore animals and both the Field and Park
hands-on experience allows us to teach
with real creditability. The lessons we have
learnt are multiplied when these students
and practitioners go out to put to work what
we have taught. We are dependent on the
generosity of donors for this, and I would
like to thank you for your support. Our work
would not be possible without you.
I have a commercial background and so do
tend to think about things in a business like
way! Until recently I was Chief Executive
at the Wine Society, a not-for-profit wine
retailer with about 200 staff, and a nonexecutive for a number of organisations
(the NHS, an insurance company, a
Sport England offshoot, a University….)
Previously I worked in companies who were
very much for profit – Denby, Mercedes-
Benz, Volvo, BAT – which included living
abroad and travelling quite widely. I was a
director of the National Forest Company,
which is re-foresting 200 square miles
of central England, and have an abiding
interest in trees, as well as the wildlife
they support. Back in the mists of time,
I studied Economics at Cambridge, and
was even lectured by Mervyn King, but am
completely innocent of recent events.
You can be sure I will be doing my upmost
to make the most of your support and
Gerald’s legacy.
Oliver Johnson
Autumn / Winter 2013
If you’ve been watching ITV show ‘The Zoo’
throughout this summer season, you may have
noticed that whilst the announcer introduces
the show, there are some rather cheeky meerkats
on the accompanying video clip. The audacious
animals surrounding the observation bubble are
none other than our resident ‘Discovery Desert’
dwellers, getting their five seconds of fame,
thanks to an ITV camera crew that visited us at the beginning of the year.
Cans for Corridors champions
The annual Insurance
Corporation Conservation
Awards came to Jersey in July,
and this year were held right at
Durrell Wildlife Park. Head of
Mammals Dominic Wormell
and Education Officer Sarah
Nugent were presented with
the Global Inspiration Award
for their work alongside Jersey’s
schoolchildren promoting the
‘Cans for Corridors’ scheme.
By helping them to recycle
aluminum cans, the children
fund planting of tree corridors
in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, in
the region where Durrell’s black
lion tamarins have been returned
to the wild.
See overleaf for more on recent
can collecting adventures.
Durrell’s maverick professor
nominated for top award
biggest accolade in
The Indianapolis Prize is perhaps the
ers include worldwinn
the conservation world
ife and nature such
changing, game-changing
Dr. Iain Douglasand
as polar bear expert Steve
Hamilton, lifelong champion
Prof. Carl Jones
For the second time running, Durrell’s own
his letter of
MBE has made the prest
recommendation written
Jane Goodall. Carl’s ‘outsi
– “species recovery drive
him return five bird speci
of his 60 years on
to viable populations. For more than half
itian islands,
earth, he’s been resto
literally from the ground
throughout Join us in wishing Carl the very best of luck
ves this deser
the process, we’re sure you’l
incredible affirmation.
Cans for Corridors
team of staff
Sarah and a
volunteers from
ic festival since
‘Jersey Live’ mus
rs’ empty ca
collecting revelle
s planted in Br
to the tota
est. 20
Atlantic rainfor
ction, with the
year for can colle
ed funding
empties collect
soil as
will restore the
saplings wh
they grow, conn
nfine local wild
that currently co
Tree corridor
Ca rl Jon es with radiated
I n dia n a polis L
ily Meda l
The ‘sea crow’ graces Jersey
again, 100 years later!
According to Gree
k mythology, the re
d-billed chough wa
on Calypso’s ‘blesse
s sacred, as it dwelt
d island’. In 2013,
er over a century
delighted to say th
of absence, we are
at the skies of ‘ou
r’ Island of Jersey
the wheeling flight
blessed again by
and raucous calls
of the ‘sea crow’.
The Birds on the Ed
ge programme, in
collaboration with
for Jersey, The St
The National Trus
ates of Jersey Depa
ent of Environme
Park, Cornwall, foc
nt and Paradise
uses on coastal resto
ration in the Islan
as the flagship spec
d, with the chough
ies. After tireless,
instaking work by
Dr. H. Glyn Young
Durrell biologist
and Senior Bird Ke
eper Liz Corry, th
captive-bred chou
first releases of
ghs finally occurred
at the end of Augu
Although there is
much work still to
be done, the initia
resisted attack by
l free-flying pair
a persistent pere
grine falcon, and
purposes acted lik
all intents and
e ‘wild’ choughs. Wa
tch this space for up
Durrell needs you - to
‘Ride London’.
Cycling in Britain’s capital city can often make
feel like endangere
er of obstacles.
traffic and delivery vehicles and all mann
Red-billed chou gh
inaugural event took place
This is why ‘Ride London’ was created. The
was the first ever largeon the 3rd and 4th of August this year, and
capital. The streets and
scale non-sporting cycle festival held in the
trians were safely routed
roads were closed to motor traffic, and pedes
er, safer city for those who
out of the cycle paths, allowing for a quiet
like self-powered transport.
on through Surrey, and
A highlight was the 100-mile race from Lond
supporters to help us out.
this is where we need two fit, keen Durrell
s for the aforementioned
For the 2014 event, we have reserved 2 space
much needed funds for supporters to race on our behalf, and raise
our mission.
Surrey with hundreds of
If you think speeding through London and
rity sounds like a great
like-minded cyclists and perhaps the odd celeb
-Marie on way to help our cause, then please call Anne
[email protected]
+44 (0)1534 8600
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Inevitably, when working with animals, there are highs and lows. Whilst 2013 was ushered
in by news of pregnancies and births amongst our iconic primates, in the case of another
pair of much loved Durrell icons, it was to be the end of an era.
With a heavy heart, we bid a fond farewell
to our big male Andean bear, Wolfgang, on
the morning of March 7th. ‘Wolfie’, as he
was known to many staff, volunteers and
visitors, had reached the impressive age
of twenty-eight years, and had spent over
twenty-five of those here at Durrell with his
partner Barbara, having both arrived in 1987.
Andean bears. ‘Babs‘ was lighter than
Wolfgang, and her movement seemed
easier to manage, but within a few months
the medication she was receiving began to
have less effect. By June an assessment
of Bab’s health and quality of life brought a
gloomy outlook. She was suffering, and as
with her partner, every available technique
had ceased to afford her any comfort.
Vet and keeper staff had been keeping
a close eye on Wolfgang’s age-related
arthritis, and were medically managing what
was obviously becoming an increasingly
debilitating condition. For staff, many of
whom had cared for the bears as long as
they’d been at Durrell themselves, seeing
him in obvious discomfort was very difficult,
and on the final morning, a sad realisation
came that his knee joints were making
normal movement for Wolfie impossible.
In a heartbreaking decision, borne of
kindness, our big bear was peacefully put to sleep.
On the morning of June 6th, Babs too was
put to sleep with many emotional staff
visibly feeling the loss. The pair bore seven
precious cubs during their time at Durrell,
an impressive contribution to the captive
population of their threatened species.
More than this, the effect they had on many
visitors cemented a life-long fascination and
fondness for their kind. They truly touched
many hearts, some local children having
‘grown up with them’.
On Facebook and in person, along with
touching tributes to his memory, many
visitors began to ask how Barbara was
faring without her life-long mate. She too
had been coping with arthritis and hair
loss, the latter common in captive female
New beginnings
Mark Brayshaw, now Head of Animal
Collection and formerly a bear keeper of 20 years here at Durrell, told us:
They were both incredibly
gentle and tender individuals
and, for myself and all their
other keepers over the years,
it was a privilege to have
worked with them.
On August 13th, after months of hard work re-perching and landscaping Barbara and
Wolfgang’s former home, we delightedly welcomed ‘Bahia’, a two year-old Andean bear
from Tierpark Berlin. As we speak, she is settling in to her new environment, and we hope
to update you on Bahia and Quechua who will join her from Emmen Zoo, in the next issue.
By Andrew Routh
Training animals – no sooner do I see the
words on the page than I know there will
be concerned readers wondering how this
affects the animals held at the Wildlife Park.
What are we up to?
Well – firstly, we are not training our animals
to perform tricks for our visitors.
But then, whether we like it or not, almost
all our animals are, by design or accident,
“trained”. I remember a few years ago
working at a zoo in the UK where, late one
day, a senior keeper told me he would not
have his zebra trained as it “wasn’t natural”.
So I took the feed bucket, rattled my keys
against it and called the zebra into the night
accommodation, where they tucked into
their evening meal – the same as every
evening. I was told that was cheating
because they knew that was the signal for
them to come in for the night. No – they
are trained zebra. My suggestion of going
to the Serengeti to see what happened if
we rattled keys in a bucket near wild zebra
to see what happened wasn’t taken in the
spirit I had hoped.
That’s training – for us, modifying
the animal’s behaviour using positive
reinforcement. They do something we want and get rewarded with something they want. There is no coercion involved.
What are the benefits? Well, as with the
zebra example, it can make things run
smoothly for everyone, almost without
any parties realising training has taken
place. For example, our free-ranging
tamarins have the benefit of a large area
of woodland, with us knowing we can get
them back as and when we need.
Perhaps the next step up is having an
animal that will station itself in one spot,
especially convenient if that spot happens
to be on top of a set of scales. Knowing
an animal’s weight can be invaluable, with
reference to both its diet and its health.
Obtaining that weight, on a routine basis
and with a very willing subject, takes our
husbandry several degrees higher.
And if this is what we are doing, then how are we doing it? Let’s start by reassuring everybody.
Firstly, as mentioned, only positive
reinforcement is used. The animals are
all voluntary participants and a staged
process is used. Each increment on a preplanned pathway to a desired behaviour is
rewarded, often by a small and desirable
piece of food. (Not surprisingly many of
our animals are very keen to join in the
training for a tasty morsel). Only the desired
behaviour is rewarded and other behaviour
is ignored. The training sessions are short
and build on previous sessions, planning
for each session to always finish on a high
note. As a behaviour becomes established
the pathway there becomes shorter and
quicker, with the reward being given only
when that final behaviour is completed.
By then it is often embedded into the daily
management routine.
continued overleaf
Komodo dragon
The next step is to develop specific training
programmes to facilitate, in particular,
veterinary procedures. At the Wildlife
Park we have a team of keen trainers,
led by Veterinary Nurse Mel, who assess
requirement and plan accordingly. (This
follows on from an inspirational workshop
earlier this year facilitated by a colleague
from Frankfurt Zoo). Why should we want
to do this? Let me give you a couple
of examples.
We recently have had a pair of orangutan
births, the latter one being very high profile.
In order to monitor the pregnancies keepers
and veterinary staff trained the mums-to-be
to be ultrasound scanned. With, initially,
a lot of patience and a few grapes both
would press their stomachs to a small
hole in the mesh, allowing us to scan them
and visualise their babies. “Dana” was
the one who worried us the most, having
had problems in her previous pregnancy
leading to a still-birth and a life-threatening
episode for her. With some persuasion,
(she hated the contact gel), we were able
to work with our medical colleagues to
scan and measure the baby in order to
determine both a projected birth date and
the orientation of the baby. And, as they
say, the rest is history and we have all seen
the remarkable, unique video footage of the birth.
Induction of general anaesthesia is always
a challenge. It is never without risk and
is always stressful, for all parties, even
when we use our top-notch dart gun. An
alternative is to train the animal to accept
being injected by hand. This is something
we are working on with several of our
primates. One of our priorities is our gorilla
“Bahasha” who, sadly, had a premature
baby several months ago. In order to plan
for her future breeding we will be working,
after the summer, again with our medical
colleagues to carry out a full reproductive
assessment of her.
Lola the red river ho
To the future. Blood samples may be
essential to check the health of an animal
but there is always the worry that a general
anaesthetic will not only affect the values
but also place the individual animal at risk.
Obtaining samples under trained behaviour
eliminates all these concerns and, in the
past, I have been part of teams collecting
blood from tigers, Komodo dragons and
giant pandas – all using trained behaviours.
And does training have a role to play in
our in-country programmes? The answer
is yes. We know that we must have our
animals fit for the wild, not only physically
but behaviourally. There may be concerns
that captive-bred individuals may not,
at release, have the full repertoire of
behaviours to enable them to survive that
initial, challenging, period in the wild. One
option is to provide a back-up food supply
by way of support. And they can be trained
to come for additional supplies without
compromising their other behaviours. We
have done it before, such as with the echo
parakeets in Mauritius, and are working on
the choughs that are soon to be released at
Sorel in Jersey.
Training, if used correctly, is an invaluable
tool in the care of our animals. It needs just a bit of equipment and a bit more time and patience.
The animals are all
voluntary participants and
a staged process is used.
The start of 2013 in Jersey was heralded
by a bleak, cold winter with unprecedented
snowfall, which saw many of the animals at
Durrell Wildlife Park huddled in the warmth
of their heated enclosures – not least our
family of Sumatran orangutans. With two
mums-to-be in the group, extra care was
being taken, especially as one – 25-yearold Dana – had a remarkable story that was
beginning to grow, alongside the infant she was carrying.
Across the world in Sumatra, Indonesia,
former Durrell Ape Keeper Dr. Ian Singleton,
his Sumatran Orangutan Conservation
Programme (SOCP) and the orangutans
in his care faced much warmer weather,
but an altogether bleaker outlook. His
rescue centre in Jantho, in Aceh, was full
of orphaned young apes, as the forest
continued to disappear around them,
converted to single rows of palm oil plants to satisfy global demand for the ingredient.
One morning whilst the snow melted
on the roof of Les Augrès Manor, Sarah
Scriven, a Senior News Editor for the
local BBC station, called Durrell’s Press
Office, to see if we had ‘any news’. The
conversation that followed was to set
in motion a project that would unite the
leton Director of
L to R. I an Si ng
Deputy head of m
Gordon Hunt, ou r
stories of Dana and Ian’s orangutans,
take Deputy Head of Mammals Gordon
Hunt to Sumatra and culminate with
groundbreaking footage of a ‘miracle baby’
being born.
Dana had joined Durrell in 2009 from
Hannover. Within months of her arrival, she
had become pregnant by dominant male
Dagu. This was great news, as Dana is a
genetically important female for the captive
population of Sumatran orangutans. Joy,
however, would prove short-lived, and
almost rendered Dana the same. A full term
delivery of a still-born female infant left
Dana fighting for her life - losing masses
of blood and resulting in blocked fallopian
tubes that led experts to declare that she
had been left infertile by the tragedy.
Gordon Hunt led a
reporter from the BBC
through Sumatran jungle
and rows of rescued
ape cages
mam mals
This year, to Dana and our other expectant
mum Anette had undergone training (see
page 12), to facilitate regular ultrasound
scanning, allowing Jersey General Hospital
Consultant Obstetrician Neil McLaughlin
to monitor both babies’ development
throughout the pregnancies. Neil had a
vested interest in Dana’s baby, having
‘cleared’ Dana’s fallopian tubes – a world
first – to allow her to conceive against the odds.
During Dana’s pregnancy, Deputy Head of
mammals Gordon Hunt led a reporter from
the BBC through Sumatran jungle and
past rows of rescued ape cages, as the
events on both sides of the world were carefully captured on BBC
and Durrell cameras.
Then, late on Sunday 9th of June, Dana
smoothly delivered her baby girl as a
newly returned Gordon with Head Vet
Andrew Routh and a small team of Durrell staff monitored and filmed the
whole process.
The footage made it into the incredible
film ‘The Refugees of the Lost Rainforest’,
which aired on Sunday 14th of July to great
acclaim and national media inclusion. We
hope to be able to share the full film with
you soon, so please do watch this space.
Watch the birth:
There isn’t such a thing as a
typical day in the field.
Nik Cole
Nik Cole
For the last 11 years, Durrell’s Dr. Nik Cole
has spent much of his time marooned on
desert islands in the Indian Ocean. Whilst
Robinson Crusoe or Bear Grylls may
have placed their own survival first and
foremost however, Nik’s mission is the
survival of the many unique reptiles native
to the Mascarene Islands. It all started over
thirty years ago with the removal of other
‘castaways’ that threaten the whole habitat.
Nik describes Mauritius and its surrounding
islands as a ‘reptile hotspot’. Prior to human
settlement, the only mammals found in the
area were bats, save for maybe some now
absent dugongs or passing dolphins and
whales. This meant the land belonged to
lizards and snakes, who not only filled the
niches within the ecosystems, but shaped
them to become the beautiful palm covered
islands of mariners’ tales.
Said mariners, however, brought some
unwelcome guests in the form of rats,
goats, cats and other ‘alien’ mammals, all
of whom found Mascarene reptiles poor
competition, or rather easy prey. A deadly
combination of overgrazing and loss of
seed dispersing reptiles meant that in
the 1970s, Gerald Durrell found barren,
denuded wastelands with the remaining
reptiles facing certain extinction.
At that time, the entirely unique Round
Island boa, once the apex predator of
these Islands, was deemed too vulnerable
and was brought into a captive breeding
programme here in Jersey. The charismatic
Telfair’s skink, a favoured prey item of the
boa was also brought to Jersey, having
been completely extirpated on all but the
uninhabited Round Island itself.
By 1995, on the nearby Island of Gunner’s
Quoin, Nik’s predecessors had removed
the rats, rabbits and hares, but at this point
all of the larger native reptiles had already
become extinct. Populations of the smaller
lizards, such as Durrell's night gecko
(Nactus durrelli), had begun to bounce
back, especially impressive as Nactus
were thought to have become extinct around 1995.
Te lfa ir’s s kin k
Geckos and the smaller Bojer’s skink are
prey items for the larger Telfair’s skink, and
with these smaller lizard populations now
at or approaching carrying capacity, Nik
and his team from the Mauritian Wildlife
Foundation and National Parks and
Conservation Service prepared to restore
Telfair’s skink populations on the island.
Importantly, the Telfair’s skink is also a
key seed disperser, crucial to many of the
much depleted plant species that are found
nowhere else in the world.
In 2007, 250 captive-bred skinks were
released onto Gunner’s Quoin, radio
tagged and subsequently monitored. The
skinks performed their role admirably,
and one critically endangered species of
aloe plant enjoyed a 20% regeneration
with now approximately 20,000 plants!
Current estimations of Telfair’s skink
numbers on Gunner’s Quoin sit around
5,000 individuals, and this could potentially
impact another, smaller yet equally crucial
relative, the ‘orange-tailed skink’, as well
as make existence tough for the Telfair’s
themselves, as they begin to compete
for resources. With this in mind, and
importantly, with plenty of newly grown
thick vegetation in place, it was time to put
the next predator in place - the long absent
Round Island Boa.
By October 2012, Nik and the team,
assisted by the Forestry Service, began
their careful release. Flying in by helicopter
with 60 radio tagged boas, they released
them into suitable habitat, and monitored
closely to assess their health and their
effect on the population of their prey.
The movement of boas from Round Island
was only made possible because of the
removal of introduced goats and rabbits
in the 1970s and ‘80s. Without these
damaging herbivores, Round Island’s
habitat started to recover allowing the
smaller reptiles and the Telfair’s skink
population to increase, subsequently
leading to a larger number of snakes
than were there when Gerald Durrell first
visited. Thanks to the efforts on Gunner’s
Quoin, the island could also now support
boas that it lost in the mid-1800s. The rest
isn’t history... it’s a future, and in a region
that became famous for extinctions, it’s a
triumphant one so far.
Gerald Durrell
with Telfair’s sk
From Nik Cole, Ile aux Aigrettes
The collapse of the Telfair’s skink’s hatchery
roof in August 2012 was proving to be a
major set-back for the conservation of this
threatened lizard on Ile aux Aigrettes. The
timing could not have been worse, as the
roof’s failure coincided with the onset of the
skink’s breeding season. Fortunately, your
donation has made a substantial difference,
allowing us not only to rebuild a new secure
roof, but also to add doors and windows to
what was once a shell of a building in the
centre of the nature reserve island.
Soon after your donation came through we
were ready to start. We had everything in
place: an agreed plan of action; a reliable
contractor; all materials sourced; the lorries,
boats and labour force in place to transport
materials and equipment; and the work
team ready to demolish and remove what
remained of the old roof and rebuild the
new one, and fit new windows and doors.
This may all sound straightforward, but
doing this on a small and biologically
sensitive island with limited resources took
some planning. However, not all quite went
to plan as the island’s Critically Endangered
Olive white-eyes and Endangered Mauritius
fodles started nesting within meters of the
building. There was little we could do but
wait for the chicks to fledge before building
work could resume.
Ile autxes
It was not until February 2013 that the birds
finished nesting in the vicinity of the building
and the chicks had fledged. Building
therefore started and was completed within
two weeks. Given the delays, the building
came into use the day it was completed.
By the end of April 2013 and the end of
the breeding season we had managed to
hatch 161 Telfair’s skinks and also establish
a robust colony of several invertebrate
species to feed the growing skinks.
The building was completed just before
a very large cyclone (approx. 600km
in diameter) called Imelda approached
Mauritius in April. Fortunately, the island
was relatively unaffected, but had the
building not been completed we would
have lost our juvenile skinks to the heavy
rains and strong winds. At this time
fledgling seabirds being hand-reared for
release were also threatened by Imelda and so the building also became their
temporary home.
Thank you for your help. Our newly restored
and secure skink hatchery and invertebrate
breeding room are being used at full
capacity and within the next few months
the hatchery will start to refill with the next
generation of skinks.
By Jamie Copsey
Gerald Durrell’s wish to recruit the first
trainee for the launch of his ‘mini-university’
from the land of the Dodo, was one of the
reasons that first took him to Mauritius in
the mid-seventies. This visit led to the start
of our first sustained overseas programme
and record numbers of species recovered,
providing textbook case studies of how to
save even the most critically endangered
species from extinction.
We are now embarking on one of our most
exciting, challenging ventures since! We are
in the process of establishing a ‘campus’ of
Durrell Conservation Academy in Mauritius.
With more than 100 EDGE (Evolutionarily
distinct and Globally Endangered) and
approximately 40 AZE (Alliance for Zero
Extinction) vertebrate species found within
the five islands of Madagascar, Comoros,
Mauritius, Seychelles and La Réunion
alone, the Indian Ocean represents a
globally significant centre of conservation
concern. Durrell’s on-going field projects
in the region and our long-standing
partnerships in the islands place us in an
ideal position to help build capacity for
species conservation.
Our focus will be on developing
collaborations within the Indian Ocean,
supporting our own field projects and those
of our partners. We also hope to bring the
region together, encouraging the exchange
of skills and experience between the Indian
Ocean islands and reaching further into the
East-African mainland and South-East Asia.
Indian Ocean
Mauritius &
Ja mie Copsey with Te lfa ir’s
Gilbert Rakotoarisoa, Director of Madagascar’s national
zoo Parc Tsimbazaza, was the first Malagasy to do
a DESMAN with Durrell after being invited by Gerald
Durrell in 1984. On returning to Madagascar he applied
what he had learned to his work and was successful
in breeding the aye-aye in captivity. Since then, 20
Malagasy professionals have taken part in courses at
the Durrell Conservation Academy.
By Kitty Brayne
Capacity building has become a bit of a
buzz-word in conservation. But what we’re
really talking about is recognising that a
sustainable approach to saving species
hinges on having the right people with the
right skills in the right place. And this means
investing in people over the long-term.
Throughout Durrell’s 50 year history,
capacity building has been a core aspect of
our work. As we set up field programmes
we also supported local conservationists
to develop their skills. This is no different
in Madagascar, where our approach
focuses on the Durrell team, conservation
professionals from other organisations,
students and people from the communities
who are working to manage their natural
resources and protect biodiversity.
Gilbert R a kotoa risoa
Our work on capacity building in
Madagascar was significantly scaled up in
2004 when we co-founded the Network of
Conservation Educators and Professionals
(REPC) as part of a consortium of
environmental NGOs. The network’s aim is
to fill the gap between academic training
in biology and the need for practical
conservation skills in Madagascar.
But ensuring professionals have the skills
they need is only part of the equation.
Durrell’s vision for conservation involves
engaging communities and supporting
them to become active managers of their
natural environments. Education and local
management structures are chronically
under-funded in Madagascar, one of the
poorest countries in the world, so we
The REPC network now links up over 1000 people from
185 different organisations. Leading professionals have
developed more than 80 training modules specific to
Madagascar, delivered in courses all over the country.
na h
(Je rsey) Olive r John son, JoDurre ll.
R atzi m ba zafy an d Lee
Th e R EPC network
recognise that for this to happen investment
is needed, both in the education system for
the next generation of leaders, and through
supporting community management
associations with tailored training and
on-going advice and support. Durrell has
also extended the scope of the REPC
project to focus on developing courses in
environmental and resource management
for community leaders, delivered entirely in
local dialects of Malagasy.
Hen ri ra dio tra ckin g
We supported Henri Rakotosalama to complete
a Masters degree research project monitoring the
ploughshare tortoise reintroduction. In total Durrell has
supported over 50 Malagasy students to complete
Masters and PhDs.
Jeff Dawson recently joined Durrell to help coordinate what is perhaps one of the most critical
projects in conservation, currently. Amphibians the world over face enormous pressure, and
many species could disappear before they are even studied in any detail.
However, if there’s one thing Gerald Durrell proved, it’s that passionate people, given the right
support, can overcome seemingly impossible odds to save species from extinction.
Enter Jeff!
“I’d always been interested in wildlife, right from a very early age, with a fascination in all
types of animals. Back in the days before the internet, the only path to working with animals
seemed to involve becoming a vet, but around sixth-form I changed my mind. I went on to do
a Behavioral Science degree, zoology and psychology, and having enjoyed an anthropology
module, went on to take an MSc. in paleobiology, the study of extinct flora and fauna.
I always had a really broad range of interests, but decided that I’d rather do something
practical than become an academic, and conservation seemed the best way to accomplish
this. I volunteered in Tanzania, before heading to Madagascar to undertake biodiversity
surveys, including lots of herpetology work - frogs and lizards. After a brief spell back in the
UK, I spent two years in Papua New Guinea carrying out the first biodiversity surveys in the
Waria Valley, eventually becoming Project Manager.”
Jeff has worked extensively with local communities around the world, and says the
longest he’s lived anywhere other than his parents’ house was in a traditional home in the
aforementioned Papua New Guinea. A long-term admirer of Gerald Durrell’s work, he first
visited the Wildlife Park here in Jersey at around nine years old, and was working for the
RSPB in Montserrat when Durrell’s first mountain chicken frog releases were underway
on the island.
“As (Durrell) were working at night, and my work was during the day, I helped out as much as
possible. Frogs and other amphibians are awesome creatures, and I really enjoyed lending a
hand”. Based in Bath, along with Durrell’s Dr. Richard Young, he says he’s “looking forward to
the challenges ahead, and starting new projects in conjunction with other organisations, that
based on solid science, will acheive great results.” We’re very glad to have Jeff on board, and
happy that our ongoing amphibian conservation work is in such good hands!
new friends for Durrell
If you received the last edition of On the
Edge, you may have noticed the rather
endearing character you see here taking
pride of place on the inside cover. If you
are a new Member, and this is your first
time reading On the Edge, the chances
are that this buoyant blue-grey bird
needs no introduction, as he brought you to us personally!
In either case we’re delighted formally to
introduce ‘The Lonely Dodo’. Of course,
Durrell has been represented by a dodo
since Gerald Durrell personally selected it
as the symbol of the then Jersey Wildlife
Preservation Trust back in 1963, its fate
a stark reminder of why the mission of
‘saving species from extinction’ was, and
is, so very necessary.
This dodo, however, was created by
Academy Award winning cartoonists
Aardman Animations in collaboration
with The Frameworks and a handful of
Durrell staff who really wanted to help
people comprehend just what extinction
must be like for the last members of
a species. The loneliness, and the
natural, overwhelming drive to find a
mate becoming a more and more frantic
struggle, leading ultimately to despair,
is a situation we all hate to imagine any
living being having to face.
This empathy led to Durrell’s founding,
and likeminded people, such as
yourselves, have allowed us to spare
many species from going the way of
the dodo in our 50 year history. The fact
remains that nature needs friends more
than ever, and so who better to tell that
story than a dodo who’s on a mission to
find a friend?
In the sad absence of a real bird, we had
to call in top impressionist and long-time
conservation supporter Alistair McGowan
to give our determined dodo a voice.
With such an important story to tell, we
left it to a frog. This frog, however, has
the rich sonorous tone and inflections
of none other than multi-talented
multimedia star Stephen Fry!
With such an all-star cast giving their time
for free, along with Aardman’s awesome
animation, we knew the message; ‘it’s
too late for the dodo, but doesn’t have to
be too late for other animals’, would hit
home. Sure enough the YouTube video
at The Lonely Dodo’s very own website
launched in March, and has so far been
viewed by more than 260,000 people!
Our dodo has been nominated for two
awards so far, and his plight has brought
much needed new support for our
growing number of conservation projects
around the world.
If you’d like to meet our lonely bird
yourself, or even become a member of
‘The Lonely Dodo Crew’, please go to – we
value your company, and so will he!
Tsanta Fiderana Rakotonanahary loved
animals from an early age, growing up in
the countryside not far from Madagascar’s
capital Antananarivo. But if you’d told her
then she would become a specialist in the
world’s rarest tortoises and ducks, she
would have been a little surprised.
Durrell’s hands-on approach to
conservation integrates breeding some of
the most endangered species in the world
in captivity. So we need people with the
skills to care for these animals until they
can be released into the wild. Setting up a
breeding programme for the ploughshare
tortoise was our first project in Madagascar
over 25 years ago, but Malagasy vets with
the right experience were in short supply,
so we relied on veterinary support from the
reptile specialists at the Wildlife Park. Being
home to countless weird, wonderful and
threatened endemic animals, Madagascar
needs specialist wildlife vets. When we
started a new captive breeding programme
for the Madagascar pochard we decided to
invest in training a Malagasy vet to become
part of the Madagascar team.
When Durrell offered the opportunity of
an internship to veterinary students at the
University of Antananarivo, Tsanta jumped
at it. Tsanta worked on all aspects of animal
health within the Madagascar programme
and spent six months in Jersey on the
*DESMAN course in captive management.
She soon proved herself invaluable
in caring for confiscated ploughshare
tortoises seized after trafficking attempts,
which has unfortunately greatly increased
in recent years. She played a major role
in developing our quarantine programme
which aims to ensure foreign diseases don’t
infect the captive and wild populations.
When ploughshare tortoises were seized in
Thailand this year, Tsanta was the natural
person to choose to travel to Bangkok and
help with their care, and she is now working
to ensure the surviving tortoises return to
Madagascar in good health.
We are delighted that in August Tsanta
successfully qualified as a vet and became
a full-time member of the Durrell team.
*Durrell Endangered Species Management
Graduate Certificate
Tsanta with a baby plo
sponsored by
As we’ve discovered, blend students
from a local school, some modern
communications technology, kind
sponsorship from Natwest and a
selection of Durrell conservation experts,
and you end up with a pretty effective
platform to reach younger people.
‘I’m a Conservationist’ introduced pupils
from Year 8 at Grainville School, Jersey,
to field biologists and animal experts
around the world who work to save
species from extinction. More than 100
pupils used social media, such as Skype
and blogs, to communicate directly
with the conservationists for one week,
learning what the people in the field were
doing, how and why. At the end of the week, the pupils
voted for the conservationist they felt
was making the biggest difference to
receive £500 for their species. The
eventual winner was Lance Woolaver,
for the ploughshare tortoise project in
Madagascar. Along the way, the students
learned more about the different species
as well as the techniques, challenges
and science-in-action aspects of
conservation. Moreover, for both pupils
and conservationists, it was a friendly,
fun competition that hopefully inspired
future champions of endangered species.
Th an ks for the help, Natwe st
“It was a great experie nce”
Your family...
and other animals!
This Christmas, how about sharing lucky,
plucky lemur ‘Stumpy’, primate Prince
‘Badongo’ or even aptly-named
amphibian ‘Bluey’ the poison frog with
the animal lover in your life!
Many of our adoptees animals are
threatened in the wild, so as an
adopter, you become ‘one-in-a-million’,
and demonstrate that you truly care.
You’ll love them just as much as we do.
Please visit:
to find the perfect match for the
animal lover in your life.
Join Lee Durrell on a vo
land of red apes and drag ge to the
The Ultimate Travel Com
pany have lived up to the
name and put together the
expedition of a lifetime, to
be held in October 2014.
Following the ancient spi
ce trade route to the my
and exotic islands of Ind
onesia, MV Orion – a pur
built expedition cruise shi
p – will take participants
to where the wildest reside
nts of Borneo and
Sumatra still reign, and
on to where they can wit
conservation in action, for
a better future for all.
Our Honorary Director, Dr.
Lee Durrell, will be among
the guest speakers, and
the opportunity to visit idy
coral reefs, a floating ma
rket, an orangutan rescue
centre and to walk in the
territory of huge Komodo
dragons will all add up to
what can only be called a
once in a lifetime experienc
To download a full brochu
re, please visit
A lasting legacy
In 1947, a you
ung man named Gerald Durrell received an
inheritance from his father, to mark his ‘coming of age’...
... the gift funded many animal collecting trips for zoos,
but it created an awareness in the young man that the
world was changing...
Gerald in 1947 1959, Gerald Durrell had resolved to do his best to
change the zoological world...
...and he vowed to leave a legacy that would change the
wider world for the better, by saving species from extinction.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has not only kept
Gerald Durrell’s life’s work, legacy and wishes alive, but
also many species that would otherwise have left this
world a poorer place for future generations.
Gerald with N’pongo
Just like you, we’d like to see a happy, healthy future for
those we’ve invested our lives in...
...we’d like to ensure a lasting legacy, a richer world and
the ability to thrive, together.
Jambo in pensive mood
When making your will, we want you to take care of your
loved ones first and foremost, but if you’ll entrust us with
your legacy too, together, we’ll hand on a better world for
them all.
r further information on
leaving a gift to Durrell in your Will,
60 93
M iie on 01534 8
please contact Anne-Mar
Jambo and N’pongo’s
gran dson Indigo