Why are you interested in wildlife? Why do you support conservation?
Nature is an inspiration in itself. I remember being excited by wildlife from a very young age and being encouraged to explore and discover more. Whether that was playing with friends in the local woods, going on a walk in the countryside or visiting a zoo – all experiences that added to my enjoyment and love of nature.
However, there are, in everyone’s life, people who make a difference too. This week UK TV channel ITV launched a new series ‘The Durrells’ based on the books by Gerald Durrell and his early life on Corfu. Gerry was perhaps the most influential ‘famous person’ in my life. I began reading his books aged about 10 and soaked them up page by page, imagining and picturing the scenes. Whilst ‘My Family and Other Animals’ is a favourite, over the years I loved his animal collecting tales and zoo stories, and appearances on TV. I consider myself very lucky to have met him and to have been ‘persuaded’ by a conversation with him, that working in zoos/conservation was something I could do. I hope that the new TV adaptation inspires and brings more people to his work and especially to the work of the Trust he established in Jersey and now called Durrell www.durrell.org
This weekend also saw the 82nd birthday of another very inspiring person, Dame Dr Jane Goodall whose work initially on chimpanzee behaviour has taught us all not only about these amazing animals but about ourselves. However, Jane’s contribution to science, whilst very significant, may be eclipsed by her humanity and recognition of the importance of people and education for survival of our planet, its wildlife and ourselves. This is epitomised by her roots and shoots initiative www.rootsandshoots.org.uk . I was delighted to meet Jane on a few occasions, perhaps the most significant being in Budongo Trail, the chimpanzee exhibit at RZSS Edinbugh Zoo which I helped to design the interpretation for – and in which we used some National Geographic clips of her work in Tanzania.
So, who will inspire the next generation? Gerald Durrell sadly died at the age of 70 in 1995, Jane Goodall is now 82, Sir David Attenborough is 90 this year… with the internet there are many more minor ‘stars’ and ‘celebrities’ influencing and communicating, and therefore there are many more opportunities … I hope that each of us inspires someone, and as an educator I am reminded of this quote from Henry Adams: “A teacher affects eternity, he never knows where his influence stops”