Gerard Durrell’s wife on how her late husband’s life inspired ‘The Durrells in Corfu’

The Durrells in Corfu returns to US screens next month with six new episodes.

Set in Corfu in the 1930s, the British family drama series is based upon Gerald Durrell’s classic trilogy of Corfu memoirs, telling the story of Louisa Durrell (Upstairs Downstairs star Keeley Hawes), who decides to uproot her family from Bournemouth to start a new life in Corfu.

Here, Lee Durrell – Honorary Director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust – chats about her late husband’s legacy…

“An enchanted childhood in Corfu in the 1930s, surrounded by his beloved animals and nurtured by the affection of his mildly eccentric family, made Gerald Durrell famous.

“His book about that period, My Family and Other Animals, became a set book for schools in the UK in the ‘60s and ‘70s, earning Gerry a warm place in the hearts of a generation. He wrote two more books about his Corfu experiences, and together the three have inspired the ITV series The Durrells.

“But what happened to the little boy when he grew up? His life could have taken any number of paths – he was a talented writer, he loved the world of film-­‐making, he yearned for exotic climes. But his deepest desire, from the age of 12, was to live a life with animals, and his strongest commitment as an adult was to save them from extinction.

“Gerry was one of the first to sound the alarm about endangered species. He wrote, filmed and spoke about the threats facing animals all over the world as humans infiltrated their wild home habitats.

“He felt his most important contribution would be to provide a haven for animals in the security of a zoo setting until the day it was safe to try to re-­‐establish them in the wild.

“Gerry started his zoo nearly 60 years ago, but it was not like other zoos of the day, which were mostly menageries paying lip service to conservation, if they even bothered. Gerry’s zoo in Jersey, Channel Islands, became a beacon of hope for endangered species.

“Today it is not only a centre for innovative research, professional training, inspirational public education and improvements in animal wellbeing, but also the headquarters of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“‘Durrell’, as the Trust is known, is an international charity which manages Jersey Zoo and a worldwide network of activities devoted to saving threatened species and their habitats. Whatever his age, Gerry always claimed he felt like he was 12 years old inside.

“Please help that 12-­year-­old boy to fulfil his commitment to saving species from extinction! Please join Durrell now!”

The Durrells is available on DVD on Amazon.