Lee Durrell - Ambassador Corfu Butterfly Conservation
Lee McGeorge Durrell was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on 7th September 1949. As a child she filled empty doll boxes with collections of animals. She studied philosophy at Bryn Mawr College before enrolling in a graduate programme at Duke University to study zoology in 1971. Lee became fascinated by animal communication and conducted research for her PhD on the calls of mammals and birds in the forests of Madagascar.
Lee met Gerald Durrell, famous author and founder of Jersey Zoo and Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, during one of his lecture tours in America, and they married in 1979. She became involved with the conservation work of the Trust and was instrumental in re-opening Madagascar to western scientists during the early 1980’s. She later influenced the development of new overseas projects for the Trust, notably in Madagascar where she launched a recovery programme for the world's rarest tortoise. ‘The State of the Ark’, Lee’s first book, was a comprehensive review of species conservation, published in 1986.
Lee and Gerry travelled, wrote books and presented several television series together, basing the series on the books or vice versa. These included 'Ark on the Move', 'The Amateur Naturalist' and 'Durrell in Russia'. In 1990 they led a four-month expedition to Madagascar to collect several endangered animal species for breeding programmes in Jersey. An hour-long television special entitled 'To the Island of the Aye-Aye' won the Gold Award at the New York International Film and Television Festival.
Gerry’s health deteriorated after the trip and he passed away, aged 70, in January 1995. Lee succeeded him as Honorary Director of the Trust, which was re-named Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. She maintains a deep interest in the Trust’s work both in Jersey and overseas and plays an important role as ambassador and fund-raiser. In 1999 Lee learned to fly light aeroplanes and assisted the Trust for a number of years by flying animals to and from Jersey for breeding programmes.
Lee was awarded the MBE in recognition of her services to biodiversity conservation in 2011.
In 2018 Lee bought an old, abandoned house in central Corfu with her partner, Colin Stevenson. They named it Villa Louisa, after Gerry’s mother, and are lovingly restoring it, with the help of two boisterous dogs and three demure cats.