Tag Archives: inspiring

Inspiration & Optimism – DESMAN 2018

There is hope for the future. Conservation is often depicted as a battle and struggle, full of responding to ‘bad news’ and events – which undoubtedly it is. However, we should also be optimistic and celebrate the good news and success stories too. No conservation project, no matter how well conceived, planned and intentioned, will fully succeed unless it has the support of the people. Thankfully there are some amazing, inspiring and dedicated people around the world, working to conserve, protect and develop our understanding of nature. Some of these people are the participants in the Durrell Conservation Academy DESMAN course.

It was an honour and privilege to be invited to speak and lead a few days workshops for the DESMAN in Jersey once again; the third year I have done this. My education and communication ‘course’ was well received and I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with this year’s students who came from: Armenia, Brazil, Canada, China (Hong Kong), India, Nigeria, Samoa, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, & UAE.

Whilst, I was able to inspire and enthuse the participants and demonstrate a diversity of communication and education techniques, I was also inspired and enthused by them too. It’s always good to meet people who are committed to, are doing and will do, great work and to be a small part of their development and conservation activity. Their feedback was also very much appreciated, with some great comments, such as:
“thank you for making it so fun, informative and inspiring”; “I got many new experiences about new techniques of education and awareness programmes – very useful”; and “inspired me to do more in the field of conservation education and community conservation”.

It was of course also great to return to Jersey Zoo, HQ of Durrell and enjoy time in the Zoo – not least the brilliant bat flight enclosure – which in itself has a great community and recycling story in its construction.  We also enjoyed reviewing and critiquing the education for visitors, by observing talks, signs and discussing education programmes. One of the great aspects of the DESMAN is that the diversity of participants may have specific field projects and focus, but they get to understand endangered species management in general and the multi-faceted approach needed for conservation to succeed – including through education and communication.

I am optimistic that this year’s DESMAN participants, along with previous students, WILL go MAD and Make A Difference!

Thanks to Durrell Conservation Academy and to the participants and staff. (Links on social media twitter: @ZooStephen and featured on @Durrell_Academy and on facebook.)


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.

myfamilybookHowever, 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.IMG_2530

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”