Gerald "Gerry" Malcolm Durrell OBE (7 January 1925 30 January 1995) was an English naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. Obsessed with animals, he devoted his life to the conservation of endangered species, and founded the Jersey Zoo and the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (now called Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in his honour).
He was the author of many books, mostly autobiographical works about his childhood in Corfu and his expeditions to various places in the world, as well as some humourous novels and children's books. His recurring themes are animals with loveable personalities, eccentric and unusual people, and the fragility of nature. He was also the presenter of a handful of radio and television programmes.
His notable works include:
- The Overloaded Ark: first expedition to Cameroon.
- Three Singles To Adventure: expedition to British Guyana.
- The Bafut Beagles: second expedition to Cameroon.
- The Drunken Forest: expedition to Paraguay.
- My Family and Other Animals: part 1. of the "Corfu Trilogy", retelling his childhood adventures on the island of Corfu.
- A Zoo In My Luggage: third expedition to Cameroon.
- The Whispering Land: expedition to Argentina.
- Menagerie Manor: founding of the Jersey Zoo.
- Two In The Bush: expedition to Australia and New Zealand.
- Birds Beasts And Relatives: part 2. of the "Corfu Trilogy".
- Fillets Of Plaice: one of his very few books not focusing on animals, it's a collection of humorous stories about eccentric people he met.
- Beasts In My Belfry: working at Whipsnade Zoo as an apprentice zookeeper.
- The Garden Of Gods: part 3. of the "Corfu Trilogy".
- The Picnic And Suchlike Pandemonium: short stories (including some fictional stories, such as a Gothic Horror story called "The Entrance").
- Durrell In Russia: expedition to Russia.
- The Aye Aye And I: expedition to Madagascar.
- The Donkey Rustlers: children's book, taking place on a Greek island.
- Rosie Is My Relative: story of a man inheriting an elephant.
- The Talking Parcel: fantasy novel; later adapted into an animated film.
- The Mockery Bird: story of a man discovering a thought-to-be-extinct bird on a remote island.
- The Fantastic Flying Journey: story of three children travelling around the world with their eccentric uncle.
- The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure: sequel to The Fantastic Flying Journey: the children and their uncle travel in time to the age of dinosaurs.
Tropes associated with him:
- Cloudcuckoolander: Almost all people in his books are portrayed as eccentric.
- Derailed for Details: In his "Corfu Trilogy", he relates that this was the only way he was able to learn history. His tutor told him all about Lord Nelson's butterfly collection and the names of Hannibal's elephants.
- Friend to All Living Things: He was obsessed with animals of all size and shape.
- Genre Adultery: His books are usually comedic stories about animals and eccentric people. However, he also wrote "The Entrance", a straightforward, non-comedic Gothic Horror story, as well as The Talking Parcel, a fantasy book for children.
- Green Aesop: The conclusion of most of his books and shows is that nature is beautiful, fragile, and the most important thing a man can do is to protect it.
- Hilarity in Zoos: Many of his books (most notably, Menagerie Manor and Beasts in my Belfry) take place in a zoo, where a lot of amusing things happen. (A Zoo in my Luggage, despite its title, is not an example: it is about an expedition to Cameroon.)
- I Was Beaten by a Girl: In The Overloaded Ark, local boys whom Durrell was paying for catching animals often brought them badly wounded. It took a lot of lecturing to teach them better, but the case that finally worked was when, right in the middle of such a lecture, a girl brought him three birds in pristine condition. Durrell then proceeded to invoke the trope by explaining this girl is a better hunter than the boys, since these are birds he would buy, and at a very good price. Once they saw how much he paid the girl, wounded catches became a rare exception.
- Pet Baby Wild Animal: He kept a lot of them as a child.
- Unreliable Narrator: His books may be autobiographical, but many details, incidents and scenarios depart from an objective account.
- Voice for the Voiceless: He often presented himself as the voice for endangered animals.
- Fair for Its Day: His accounts of foreign expeditions are laced with a rose-tinted view of the British Empire and a condescending attitude to non-white locals.