The Stationary Ark: A Warm, Wise, and Funny Account of His Struggles to Create the Perfect Zoo
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Gerald Durrell was a zoo maniac from the age of two when he starting collecting everything alive, from minnows to woodlice. In this book he writes about setting up the Wildlife Preservation Trust in Jersey - a a place of entertainment, research and eduction.
was a student keeper, which grandiose title meant that I was an odd-job boy, who was shoved on to any section that needed a helping hand with the dirty work. In many ways it was ideal training, for it taught me (if nothing else) that, for the most part, animal work is hard, dirty and very unglamorous, but it gave me contact with a host of lovely creatures, from emus to elephants. On leaving Whipsnade, I spent the next ten years animal collecting: financing and leading ten major expeditions to
look-out to see how one can improve on what one is giving the creatures. This is one of the beauties of being able to build a series of cages or enclosures specifically for one group of animals. In the old days, a monkey house would contain anything from a marmoset, the size of a rat, to a gorilla weighing 25 stone. Worse, the small mammal house would contain everything from an anteater to a rat, from an armadillo to a wallaby. Obviously, it was impossible to provide ideal accommodation for
dead, he would then eat it with relish. Of course, when animals develop a great liking for some particular thing, you have to be careful, for they will sometimes start consuming it to the exclusion of everything else. One of the great things in keeping animals is to try to prevent them growing bored of their diets. Thus one is constantly trying out new things, introducing new sights, colours and smells into the diet to relieve the monotony. A grape, for example, contains nothing more nutritious
kicked and wriggled convulsively, uttering loud giggling squeaks of pleasure. It gave us great pleasure to see the tubby babies playing so exuberantly with their parents, but it was sobering to remember that, from the day I first wrote to Nell Bourke on the subjects of Hutias, it had taken us three years to achieve this wonderful breeding success. Of course, on occasions, one may not be doing anything wrong. It might well be that the species in question takes a long time to settle down and
of the different species that surround them. This makes them feel that their territory is threatened and so, frantically, they mark their cages twice as much, but to no effect. If, in the future, a great proportion of the world’s wild life will exist only in the zoos, then it is of the utmost importance that we should solve, or at least try to solve, as many of these problems as possible. At such a time zoos will be handling even rarer species and, with these remnants, we cannot afford to take