Groundhog Day/World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day occurs on February 2, every year to mark the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called Ramsar Convention, on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997 and made an encouraging beginning. Each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.

From 1997 to 2007, the Convention’s Web site has posted reports from more than 95 countries of WWD activities of all sizes and shapes, from lectures and seminars, nature walks, children’s art contests, sampan races, and community clean-up days, to radio and television interviews and letters to newspapers, to the launch of new wetland policies, new Ramsar sites, and new programmes at the national level. On February 2010 World Wetlands day was held in Korea under the Ramsar support. The day is really important, to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of wetland habitats and the wealth of wildlife which these environments support.

GROUNDHOG DAY

Groundhog Day (Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is celebrated annually on February 2nd. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks. Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.

In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge,social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g’spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken, with the money put into a bowl in the center of the table. The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition,received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and starred Bill Murray, Andie McDowell and Punxsutawney Phil

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National Bird Feeding Month

February has been designated National Bird-Feeding Month. This celebratory month was created to educate the public on the wild bird feeding and watching hobby. Because of National Bird-Feeding Month, February has become the month most recognized with wild bird feeding promotions and activities. The month is an ideal time for promoting and enjoying the bird feeding hobby, which is home-based and nature-oriented. February was proclaimed National Bird-Feeding Month in, 1994 after John Porter (R-Il) entered the following resolution into the Congressional Record

“February is one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds (it’s difficult for wild birds everywhere), During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing wild bird’s natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one third of the U.S. adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards. In addition, backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults.

Bird feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds — nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.Young children are naturally drawn to the activities involved in feeding wild birds, which can serve as excellent educational tools. Children can identify different species of birds with a field guide and can learn about the birds’ feeding and living habits. These observations can then provide excellent research opportunities for school projects and reports.Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start and need not overtax the family budget. It can be as simple as mounting a single feeder outside a window and filling it with bird seed mix. For many people, the hobby progresses from there. They discover the relationship between the type and location of feeders, and the seeds offered in them, and the number and varieties of birds attracted. Parents can challenge an inquisitive child’s mind as they explore together these factors in trying to encourage visits by their favorite birds.”

John James Audubon

French American Ornithologist, naturalist, hunter and Painter John James Audubon (Jean-Jacques Audubon) sadly died at his family home on January 27, 1851. He was born April 26, 1785 in Les Cayes in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). He is famous for having painted, catalogued, and described the birds of North America in a manner far superior to any before him. From his earliest days, Audubon had an affinity for birds. His father encouraged this interest in nature. Once in America Audubon went to a boarding house run by Quaker women. They taught him English, and He traveled with the family’s Quaker lawyer to the Audubon family farm Mill Grove, near Philadelphia. Audubon lived with the tenants in what he considered a paradise. “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment, Studying his surroundings, Audubon quickly learned the ornithologist’s rule, which he wrote, “The nature of the place—whether high or low, moist or dry, whether sloping north or south, or bearing tall trees or low shrubs—generally gives hint as to its inhabitants.”

His father hoped that the lead mines on the property could be commercially developed, as lead was an essential component of bullets. This could provide his son with a profitable occupation. Audubon met his neighbor William Bakewell, the owner of the nearby estate, whose daughter Lucy he married five years later. The two young people shared many common interests, and early on began to spend time together, exploring the natural world around them. Audubon then set about studying American birds with the goal of illustrating his findings in a more realistic manner than most artists did then. He began conducting the first known bird-banding on the continent: he tied yarn to the legs of Eastern Phoebes and determined that they returned to the same nesting spots year after year. He also began drawing and painting birds, and recording their behavior. Audubon continued his bird studies and created his own nature museum, perhaps inspired by the great museum of natural history created by Charles Willson Peale in Philadelphia. Peale’s bird exhibits were considered scientifically advanced. Audubon’s room was brimming with birds’ eggs, stuffed raccoons and opossums, fish, snakes, and other creatures. He had become proficient at specimen preparation and taxidermy. With his father’s approval, Audubon sold part of his farm, including the house and mine, as they deemed the mining venture too risky. He retained some land for investment, then went to New York to learn the import-export trade, hoping to find a business to support his marriage to Lucy. The protective Mr. Bakewell wanted to see the young Frenchman established in a solid career before releasing his daughter to him.

On October 12, 1820, Audubon went to Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in search of ornithological specimens. He traveled with George Lehman, a professional Swiss landscape artist. The following summer, he moved upriver to the Oakley Plantation in the Felicianas, where he taught drawing to Eliza Pirrie, the young daughter of the owners. After a short stay in Cincinnati to work as a naturalist and taxidermist at a museum, Audubon traveled south on the Mississippi. By this time He was committed to find and paint all the birds of North America for eventual publication. His goal was to surpass the earlier ornithological work of poet-naturalist Alexander Wilson, whose work he used to guide him whenever he had access to a copy. Audubon called his future work “Birds of America”. He attempted to paint one page each day. Painting with newly discovered technique, he decided his earlier works were inferior and re-did them. He hired hunters to gather specimens for him. Audubon realized the ambitious project would take him away from his family for months at a time. In 1824 Audubon returned to Philadelphia to seek a publisher for his bird drawings. He was rebuffed by many publishers, although he did meet Thomas Sully, one of the most famous portrait painters of the time and a valuable ally, and had earned the enmity of some of the city’s leading scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He took oil painting lessons from Sully and met Charles Bonaparte, who admired his work and recommended he go to Europe to have his bird drawings engraved.

So in 1826 Audubon took his growing collection of work to England, taking a portfolio of over 300 drawings. With letters of introduction to prominent Englishmen, Audubon gained their quick attention.The British could not get enough of his images of backwoods America and its natural attractions. He met with great acceptance as he toured around England and Scotland, and was lionized as “the American woodsman.” He raised enough money to begin publishing his Birds of America. This monumental work consists of 435 hand-colored, life-size prints of 497 bird species, made from engraved copper plates of various sizes depending on the size of the image. They were printed on sheets measuring about 39 by 26 inches (660 mm). The work contains just over 700 North American bird species. The pages were organized for artistic effect and contrasting interest, as if the reader were taking a visual tour. The first and perhaps most famous plate was the Wild Turkey, which had been Benjamin Franklin’s candidate for the national bird. It lost to the Bald Eagle. Audubon also sold oil-painted copies of the drawings to make extra money and publicize the book.

Audubon soon had many fans including King George IV was also a subscriber to his book. London’s Royal Society recognized his achievement by electing Audubon a fellow. He followed Benjamin Franklin, who was the first American fellow. While in Edinburgh to seek subscriptions for the book, Audubon gave a demonstration of his method of propping up birds with wire at professor Robert Jameson’s Wernerian Natural History Association. Student Charles Darwin was in the audience. Audubon also visited the dissecting theatre of the anatomist Robert Knox. Audubon was a hit in France as well, gaining the King and several of the nobility as subscribers. Audubon returned to America in 1829 to complete more drawings for his magnum opus. He also hunted animals and shipped the valued skins to British friends. He was reunited with his family. After settling business affairs, Lucy accompanied him back to England.

He followed Birds of America with a sequel Ornithological Biographies. This was a collection of life histories of each species written with Scottish ornithologist William MacGillivray. The two books were printed separately to avoid a British law requiring copies of all publications with text to be deposited in Crown libraries, a huge financial burden for the self-published Audubon. Both books were published between 1827 and 1839. During the 1830s, Audubon continued making expeditions in North America. During a trip to Key West, a companion wrote in a newspaper article, “Mr. Audubon is the most enthusiastic and indefatigable man I ever knew…Mr. Audubon was neither dispirited by heat, fatigue, or bad luck”. he would draw during the day before returning to the field in the evening, a routine he kept up for weeks and months. In 1833, Audubon set forth from Maine accompanied by his son John, and five other young colleagues to explore the ornithology of Labrador. On the return voyage, the Ripley made a stop at St.George’s, Newfoundland and Audubon and his assistants documented 36 species of birds. In 1839 having finished the Ornithological Biography, Audubon returned to the United States with his family. He bought an estate on the Hudson River (now Audubon Park). In 1842, he published an octavo edition of Birds of America, with 65 additional plates. It earned $36,000 and was purchased by 1100 subscribers. Audubon spent much time on “subscription gathering trips”, drumming up sales of the octavo edition, as he hoped to leave his family a sizable income. Audubon went West to record Western species he had missed, but his health began to fail, Until In 1848, he manifested signs of senility, his “noble mind in ruins.”

Audubon is buried, close to the location of his home, in the graveyard at the Church of the Intercession in the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum at 155th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. There is an imposing monument in his honor at the cemetery, which is the center of the Heritage Rose District of NYC. Audubon’s final work was on mammals, the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, prepared in collaboration with his good friend Rev. John Bachman of Charleston, South Carolina. Bachman supplied much of the scientific text. The work was completed by Audubon’s sons and son-in-law and published posthumously. His son John did most of the drawings. Audubon’s influence on ornithology and natural history was far reaching. Nearly all later ornithological works were inspired by his artistry and high standards. Charles Darwin quoted Audubon three times in On the Origin of Species and also in later works. Audubon’s field notes were a significant contribution to the understanding of bird anatomy and behavior. Birds of America is still considered one of the greatest examples of book art. Audubon discovered 25 new species and 12 new subspecies. He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Linnaean Society, and the Royal Society in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to Natural history.

Nicholas Steno

Often considered the father of geology and stratigraphy, Danish Catholic bishop and scientist Blessed Nicolas Steno was born 11 January in 1638 in Copenhagen. His pioneering research in both anatomy and geology has led to a greater understanding in both, and he was also beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. He was the son of a Lutheran goldsmith who worked regularly for King Christian IV of Denmark, but grew up in isolation during his childhood, because of an unknown disease. In 1644 his father died, after which his mother married another goldsmith. Across the street lived Peder Schumacher (who would later offer Steno a post as professor in Copenhagen). After completing his university education, Steno set out to travel through Europe, In the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany he came into contact with prominent physicians and scientists. These influences led him to use his own powers of observation to make important scientific discoveries. At a time when scientific questions were mostly answered by appeal to ancient authorities, Steno was bold enough to trust his own eyes, even when his observations differed from traditional doctrines.

He studied anatomy focusing again on the Lymphatic system and discovered a previously undescribed structure, the “ductus stenonianus” (the duct of the parotid salivary gland) in sheep, dog and rabbit heads. Steno’s name is associated with this structure. Within a few months Steno moved to Leiden, where he met the students Jan Swammerdam, Frederik Ruysch, Reinier de Graaf, Franciscus de le Boe Sylvius, a famous professor, and Baruch Spinoza. At the time Descartes was publishing on the working of the brain, and Steno did not think his explanation of the origin of tears was correct. Steno studied the heart, and determined that it was an ordinary muscle.

He later travelled to Saumur and Montpellier, where his work was introduced to the Royal Society. In Pisa, Steno met the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who supported arts and science. Steno was invited to live in the Palazzo Vecchio, he also went to Rome and met Alexander VII and Marcello Malpighi. As an anatomist in the hospital Steno focused on the muscular system and the nature of muscle contraction. He also became a member of Accademia del Cimento in Florence. Like Vincenzio Viviani, Steno used geometry to show that a contracting muscle changes its shape but not its volume.

Steno also dissected a sharks head and noted that the shark’s teeth bore a striking resemblance to certain stony objects, found embedded within rock formations. at the time these were known as glossopetrae or “tongue stones” by Ancient authorities, such as the Roman author Pliny the Elder, who had suggested in his book Naturalis Historia that these stones had fallen from the sky or from the Moon, while Others thought, that fossils grew natuarally in the rocks. Fabio Colonna, however, had already shown in a convincing way that glossopetrae were shark teeth and Steno added to the discussion on the differences in composition between glossopetrae and living sharks’ teeth, arguing that the chemical composition of fossils could be altered without changing their form, using the contemporary corpuscular theory of matter.

This led him to the question of how any solid object could come to be found inside another solid object, such as a rock or a layer of rock. The “solid bodies within solids” that attracted Steno’s interest included not only fossils, as we would define them today, but minerals, crystals, encrustations, veins, and even entire rock layers or strata. He published his geologic studies in De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus, or Preliminary discourse to a dissertation on a solid body naturally contained within a solid in 1669. Steno was not the first to identify fossils as being from living organisms; his contemporaries Robert Hooke and John Ray also argued that fossils were the remains of once-living organisms.

Steno, in his Dissertationis prodromus is credited with three of the defining principles of the science of stratigraphy: the law of superposition, the principle of original horizontality and the principle of cross-cutting discontinuities. These principles were applied and extended in 1772 by Jean-Baptiste L. Romé de l’Isle. Steno’s landmark theory that the fossil record was a chronology of different living creatures in different eras was a sine qua non for Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Despite Having been brought up in the Lutheran faith, Steno also questioned its teachings, and After making comparative theological studies, and by using his natural observational skills, he decided that Catholicism, rather than Lutheranism, provided more sustenance for his constant inquisitiveness. Steno converted to Catholicism. In 1675 Steno was ordained a priest. Athanasius Kircher expressly asked why Steno had left science and became one of the leading figures in the Counter-Reformation.

In 1684 Steno moved to Hamburg and became involved in the study of the brain and the nerve system with an old friend Dirck Kerckring. Steno was invited to Schwerin. To test his theory Steno dressed like a poor man in an old cloak and drove in an open carriage in snow and rain. Living four days a week on bread and beer, he became emaciated. When Steno had fulfilled his mission, he wanted to go back to Italy. Sadly though Steno died whilst in Germany on 5th December 1686, His corpse was shipped by Kerckring to Florence and buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo close to his protectors, the De’ Medici family. In 1953 his grave was discovered, and the corpse was reburied after a procession through the streets of the city.

The Steno Museum in Århus, Denmark, is named after Steno, and holds exhibitions on the history of science and medicine, and also has a planetarium and a medicinal herb garden. Impact craters on Mars and the Moon have also been named in his honour. In 1950 the “Niels Steensens Gymnasium”, a Catholic preparatory school, was founded on a Jesuit monastery in Copenhagen. The Steno Diabetes Center, a research and teaching hospital dedicated to diabetes in Gentofte, Denmark, was also named after Nicolas Steno and The Istituto Niels Stensen, in Florence, is also dedicated to his memory.

Gerald Durrell

British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. Gerald Malcolm Durrell, OBE was born 7 January 1925 in Jamshedpur, India. He was the fourth and final child of Louisa Florence Dixie and Lawrence Samuel Durrell. Durrell’s father was a British engineer and, as was commonplace and befitting the family status, the infant Durrell spent most of his time in the company of an ayah (nursemaid). Durrell reportedly recalled his first visit to a zoo in India and attributed his lifelong love of animals to that encounter. The family moved to Britain shortly before the death of his father in 1928 and settled in the Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace area of South London Durrell was enrolled in Wickwood School, but frequently stayed at home feigning illness.

Mrs. Durrell moved with her three younger children (Leslie, Margaret and Gerald) to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935, joining her eldest son, Lawrence, who was living there with his wife. It was on Corfu that Durrell began to collect and keep the local fauna as pets. The family lived on Corfu until 1939. This interval was later the basis of the book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, plus a few short stories such as “My Donkey Sally”. Durrell was home-schooled during this time by various family friends and private tutors, mostly friends of his eldest brother Lawrence (who later became a successful novelist).

Theodore Stephanides, a Greek doctor, scientist, poet, philosopher and a friend of one of Durrell’s tutors, became Durrell’s greatest friend and mentor, his ideas leaving a lasting impression on the young naturalist. Together, they examined Corfu’s fauna, which Durrell housed in a variety of items including test tubes and bathtubs. Stephanides’ daughter, Alexia Mercouri (born 1927), accompanied the two on their field trips. Another major influence during these formative years, according to Durrell, was the writing of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre.

In 1939 Gerald, his mother, his brother Leslie and their Greek maid Maria Kondos moved back to Britain. However It was difficult to find a job during the Second World war and post-war years, especially for a home-schooled youth, but the enterprising Durrell worked as a helper at an aquarium and pet store. His call-up for the war came in 1943, but he was exempted from military duty on medical grounds, and asked to serve the war effort by working on a farm. After the war, Durrell joined Whipsnade Zoo as a junior or student keeper fulfilling a lifelong dream. Durrell left Whipsnade Zoo in May 1946 in order to join wildlife collecting expeditions of the time, but was denied a place in the voyages due to his lack of experience.

Durrell’s wildlife expeditions began with a 1947 trip to the British Cameroons (now part of Cameroon) with ornithologist John Yealland, financed by a £3,000 inheritance from his father on the occasion of his turning 21. The animals he brought back were sold to London Zoo, Chester Zoo, Paignton Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester). He continued such excursions for many decades, during which time he became famous for his work for wildlife conservation. He followed this successful expedition with two others, accompanied by fellow Whipsnade zookeeper Ken Smith: a repeat trip to the British Cameroon, and to British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1949 and 1950 respectively and met and befriended the shrewd and colourful Fon of Bafut Achirimbi II, an autocratic West African chieftain, who helped him organise future

Durrell was dedicated to looking after the animals he collected and housed and fed his captives with the best supplies obtainable, never over-collecting specimens, never trapping animals having merely “show value”, or those which would fetch high prices from collectors. Unfortunately Durrell and George Cansdale, superintendent at London Zoo, fell out and Durrell was blackballed by the British zoo community and could not secure a job in most zoos, ultimately securing a job at the aquarium at Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester where he remained for some time. Gerald Durrell married Jacqueline (‘Jacquie’) Sonia Wolfenden in 1951 after eloping due to opposition from her father They moved to Durrell’s sister Margaret’s Bournemouth boarding house. Jacquie accompanied Durrell on most of his following animal expeditions and helped found and manage the Jersey Zoo. With encouragement and assistance from Jacquie, and advice from elder brother Lawrence, Gerald Durrell started writing humorous autobiographical accounts to fund his expeditions and conservation efforts. His first book The Overloaded Ark was such a success, he wrote others including My Family and other Animals, A Zoo in My Luggage, Beasts in my Belfry, The Stationary Ark, Garden of the Gods. He visited South America again in 1954 however this was abandoned due to political unrest in Paraguay.

The publication of My Family and Other Animals in 1956 made Durrell a notable author and brought him public recognition as a naturalist and also helped to fund Durrell’s next expedition. Durrell’s disliked the way zoos were run, and believed that they should primarily act as reserves and regenerators ro conserve of endangered species, this made him contemplate founding his own zoo. So in 1957 he journeyed to Cameroon for the third and last time to collect animals which would form the core collection of his own zoo. This expedition was also filmed, as “To Bafut with Beagles”, this together with his autobiographical radio programme Encounters with Animals, made Durrell a regular with the BBC Natural History unit. On returning from Bafut, Durrell and wife Jacquie stayed with his sister Margaret at her boarding house in Bournemouth. His animals were housed in her gardens and garage on a temporary basis, while Durrell sought prospective sites for a zoo. This experience provided material for his book A Zoo in My Luggage.

In 1959 Durrell founded the Jersey Zoological Park (now Durrell Wildlife Park) to house his growing collection of animals. The site for the zoo, was a 17th-century manor house, Les Augres Manor, which Durrell leased to set up his zoo on the redesigned manor grounds. In the same year, Durrell undertook another, more successful expedition to South America to collect endangered species. The zoo was opened to the public in 1959. Both The zoo and the number of projects undertaken to save threatened wildlife in other parts of the world expanded and Durrell was instrumental in founding the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (now Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust), on 6 July 1963 to cope with the increasingly difficult challenges of zoo, wildlife and habitat management.

In 1971 The Trust opened an international wing, the Wildlife Preservation Trust International, in the United States, to aid international conservation efforts in a better fashion. That year, the Trust bought out Les Augres Manor from its owner, Major Hugh Fraser, giving the zoo a permanent home. Durrell’s initiative caused the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society to start the World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species in Captivity as an Aid to their Survival in 1972 at Jersey, today one of the most prestigious conferences in the field. In 1972 Princess Anne also became a patron of the Trust. During The 1970s Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust became a leading zoo in the field of captive breeding, championing the cause among species like the lowland gorilla, and various Mauritian fauna. Durrell visited Mauritius several times coordinating large scale conservation efforts in Mauritius with conservationist Carl Jones, involving captive breeding programmes for native birds and reptiles, ecological recovery of Round Island, training local staff, and setting up local conservation facilities and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation was founded in 1984.

Sadly Jacquie Durrell separated from and then divorced Gerald Durrell in 1979. Durrell married his second wife Lee McGeorge Durrell whom he had met in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University, where she was studying for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death. In 1978 Durrell started the training centre for conservationists at the zoo, As of 2005, over a thousand biologists, naturalists, zoo veterinarians and zoo architects from 104 countries have attended the International Training Centre. Durrell was also instrumental in forming the Captive Breeding Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union in 1982. In 1985 Durrell founded Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada, now Wildlife Preservation Canada, and launched The official appeal Saving Animals from Extinction in 1991.

In 1989, Gerald and Lee Durrell, along with David Attenborough and cricketer David Gower helped launch the World Land Trust (then the World Wide Land Conservation Trust). In order to purchase rainforest land in Belize as part of the Programme for Belize. Around this time Gerald Durrell developed a friendship with Charles Rycroft, who donated funds towards building works in Jersey (the Harcroft Lecture Theatre) and worldwide conservation work in East Africa and Madagascar. In 1990 the Trust established a conservation programme in Madagascar similar to the Mauritius programme. Durrell visited Madagascar in 1990 to start captive breeding of a number of endemic species like the aye aye. Durrell chose the dodo, the flightless bird of Mauritius that was hunted to extinction in the 17th century, as the logo for both the Jersey Zoo and the Trust.

Sadly The hard, outdoor lifestyle gave Durrell health problems in the 1980s. He underwent hip-replacement surgery in a bid to counter arthritis, but he also suffered from alcohol-related liver problems. His health deteriorated rapidly after the 1990 Madagascar trip. Durrell had a liver transplant in King’s College Hospital on 28 March 1994, but sadly died of septicaemia on 30 January 1995, shortly after his 70th birthday in Jersey General Hospital. His ashes are buried in Jersey Zoo, under a memorial plaque bearing a quote by William Beebe.

A memorial celebrating Durrell’s life and work was held at the Natural History Museum in London on 28 June 1995. Participants included personal friends such as David Attenborough and Princess Anne. Following his death, the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust was renamed Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust at the 40th anniversary of the zoo on 26 March 1999. The Wildlife Preservation Trust International also changed its name to Wildlife Trust in 2000, and adopted the logo of the black tamarin.

Durrell always intended writing books to help environmental causes and as a means to raise funds for his conservation work. Durrell’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, have a wry, loose autobiographical style that pokes fun at himself as well as those around him and are characterised by a love for nature and animals, dry wit, crisp descriptions, and humorous analogies of human beings with animals. A good example is the Corfu trilogy — My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods which tells of his idyllic, if oddball, childhood on Corfu. The Corfu trilogy was also Later made into a TV series. Gerald Durrell also wrote short stories, like “Michelin Man”, Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium, “The Entrance”. His book Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories also has a few short stories. Rosy is My Relative, is a story about a bequeathed elephant which Durrell claimed is based on real life events, and The Mockery Bird, the fable based loosely on the story of Mauritius and the dodo. The Stationary Ark is a collection of technical essays on zoo-keeping and conservation while The Amateur Naturalist is the definitive guide for budding naturalists. The Donkey Rustlers is set on a Greek island, and The Talking Parcel is a tale of children at large in a land of mythological creatures. Durrell also wrote many books for young children including The New Noah which recounts encounters with animals from Durrell’s previous expeditions, Puppy Tales, Island Zoo, Keeper, Toby the Tortoise, The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure and The Fantastic Flying Journey which are all lavishly illustrated. Durrell’s works have been translated into 31 languages and made into TV serials and feature films. He has large followings in Northern and Eastern Europe, Russia, Israel and in various Commonwealth countries, including India. The British Library houses a collection of Durrell’s books, presented by him to Alan G. Thomas, as part of the Lawrence Durrell Collection. Durrell was also a regular contributor to magazines like Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, and the Sunday Times Supplement and his novels are included in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.He was also a regular book reviewer for the New York Times.

During his life Gerald Durrell received many honours in recognition of his huge contribution to wildlife cnservation; In 1981 Durrell was awarded the Order of the Golden Ark by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and also became a founding member of the World Cultural Council. In 1982 Durrell received the OBE. Durrell featured in the United Nations’ Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement in 1988, becoming part of 500 people (“Global 500”) to be given this honour in the period 1987–92. The University of Kent started the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) in 1989, the first graduate school in the United Kingdom to offer degrees and diplomas in conservation and biodiversity. In 1995 The journal Biodiversity and Conservation brought out a special volume of the journal in tribute to Gerald Durrell, on the theme of “The Role of Zoos”. The Gerald Durrell Memorial Funds, were launched in 1996 by the Wildlife Trust to help conservation projects financially. The statue park in Miskolc Zoo, created a bust of Gerald Durrell in 1998. Whipsnade Zoo also unveiled a new island for housing primates dedicated to Durrell in 1998. From 2001 The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife, has given the Gerald Durrell Award for the best photograph of an endangered species. In 2002 The Durrell School in Corfu, was established offering an academic course and tours in the footsteps of the Durrells in Corfu. Botanist David Bellamy has conducted field trips in Corfu for the school.

Gerald Durrell has also been recognised in many other ways. In 2006 The town hall of Corfu announced that it would rename Corfu Bosketto (a park in the city of Corfu) Bosketto Durrell, after Gerald and Lawrence Durrell as a mark of respect. Wildlife Preservation Canada also established the Gerald Durrell Society in 2006 as recognition for individuals who have made legacy gifts. The Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary in the Black River Valley in Mauritius, is the home of the Mauritius Wildlife Appeal Fund’s immensely successful captive breeding programme for the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon and echo parakeet.The Durrell Wildlife Park has a bronze statue of Gerald Durrell by John Doubleday, cast along with a ruffed lemur at his knee and a Round Island gecko at his feet. Jersey brought out stamps honouring the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and Mauritius brought out a stamp based on a race of a rare gecko named after Durrell. The de-rodentification of Rat Island in St. Lucia by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to create a sanctuary for the Saint Lucia whiptail lizard on the lines of Praslin Island has caused an official change in name for Rat Island. It is in the process of being renamed Durrell Island. The Visitors’ Centre at the Belize Zoo is named the Gerald Durrell Visitors’ Centre in honour of Durrell.

Many rare animals born in captivity have been named “Gerry” or “Gerald” as homage to Durrell, among them the first Aldabra giant tortoise born in captivity. Cornwall college Newquay’s centre for applied zoology has two buildings, one the Durrell Building, opened by his wife Lee Durrell in 2007. Many Species of rare and endangered animal have also been named in honour of Gerald Durrell such as:
Salanoia durrelli: a relative of the brown-tailed mongoose, from Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. Centrolene durrellorum: A glassfrog of the family Centrolenidae from the eastern Andean foothills of Ecuador, Clarkeia durrelli: A fossil brachiopod of the order Atrypida, from the Upper Silurian age, Nactus serpensinsula durrellorum: The Round Island race of the Serpent Island gecko is a distinct subspecies and was named after both Gerald and Lee Durrel, Ceylonthelphusa durrelli: Durrell’s freshwater crab: A critically rare new species of Sri Lankan freshwater crab, Benthophilus durrelli: Durrell’s tadpole goby, Kotchevnik durrelli Yakovlev: A new species of moth of the superfamily Cossoidea from Russia and Mahea durrelli Kment: A new species of shield bug of the family Acanthosomatidae from Madagascar.

Beatrix Potter

English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist Beatrix Potter sadly passed away 22 December 1943 near Sawry. She was Born 28th July 1866 and is best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life. She was born into a privileged Unitarian family, and along with her younger brother, Walter Bertram, grew up with few friends outside her large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Beatrix and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. Summer holidays were spent in Scotland and in the English Lake District where Beatrix developed a love of the natural world which was the subject of her painting from an early age.She was educated by private governesses until she was eighteen. Her study of languages, literature, science and history was broad and she was an eager student. Her artistic talents were recognized early. Although she was provided with private art lessons, Potter preferred to develop her own style, particularly favouring watercolour. Along with her drawings of her animals, real and imagined, she illustrated insects, fossils, archeological artefacts, and fungi. In the 1890s her mycological illustrations and research on the reproduction of fungi spores generated interest from the scientific establishment.

The Tale of Mister Tod http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RSHGpAlCt00

After illustrating cards and booklets, Potter wrote and illustrated The Tale of Peter Rabbit publishing it as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Co. Potter then went on to write many other books (such as The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, about the local shop in Near Sawrey and The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, a wood mouse) which reflected her increasing participation in village life and her delight in country living. Between 1902 & 1922 Potter Wrote, illustrated and designed spin-off merchandise based on her children’s books for Warne and published over twenty-three books.With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, Potter bought Hill Top Farm Near Sawrey, a tiny village in the English Lake District near Ambleside in 1905. Over the next several decades, she purchased additional farms to preserve the unique hill country landscape. Realising she needed to protect her boundaries she sought advice from Solicitors W.H. Heelis & Son. With William Heelis acting for her she bought contiguous pasture. In 1912 Heelis proposed and Beatrix accepted and The couple moved immediately to Castle Cottage, the renovated farm house on Castle Farm. Hill Top remained a working farm but was now remodelled to allow for the tenant family and Potter’s private studio and work shop.

Potter settled into country life with her solicitor husband and his large family, her farms, the Sawrey community. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten are representative of Hill Top Farm and of her farming life, and reflect her happiness with her country life. Potter also became a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a prosperous farmer keenly interested in land preservation. She also established a Nursing Trust for local villages, and served on various committees and councils responsible for footpaths and other country life issues, Potter had been a disciple of the land conservation and preservation ideals of her long-time friend and mentor, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, the first secretary and founding member of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. She supported the efforts of the National Trust to preserve not just the places of extraordinary beauty, but those heads of valley and low grazing lands that would be irreparably ruined by development. She was also an authority on the traditional Lakeland crafts, period furniture and stonework and restored and preserved the farms that she bought or managed, making sure that each farm house had in it a piece of antique Lakeland furniture. Potter was interested in preserving not only the Herdwick sheep, but the way of life of fell farming.

In 1930 the Heelises became partners with the National Trust in buying and managing the fell farms included in the large Monk Coniston Estate. The estate was composed of many farms spread over a wide area of western Lancashire, including the famously beautiful Tarn Hows. Potter became the de facto estate manager for the Trust for seven years until the National Trust could afford to buy most of the property back from her. Her stewardship of these farms earned her wide regard. She was notable in observing the problems of afforestation, preserving the intake grazing lands, and husbanding the quarries and timber on these farms. All her farms were stocked with Herdwick sheep and frequently with Galloway cattle. Following her death Beatrix Potter left almost all her property to the National Trust including over 4,000 acres (16 km2) of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep.

Potter is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park and left almost all the original illustrations for her books to the National Trust. The copyright to her stories and merchandise was given to her publisher Frederick Warne & Co, now a division of the Penguin Group. Hill Top Farm was opened to the public by the National Trust in 1946 her artwork was displayed there until 1985 when it was moved to William Heelis’s former law offices in Hawkshead, also owned by the National Trust as the Beatrix Potter Gallery. Potter gave her folios of mycological drawings to the Armitt Library and Museum in Ambleside before her death. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is owned by Frederick Warne and Company, The Tailor of Gloucester by the Tate Gallery and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by the British Museum. The largest public collection of her letters and drawings is the Leslie Linder Bequest and Leslie Linder Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In the United States, the largest public collections are those in the Special Collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Lloyd Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University. To this day Potter’s books continue to sell throughout the world, in multiple languages, and Her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.

Monkey Day

Monkey Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated internationally on December 14th. While the holiday is mainly about monkeys, it also celebrates other non-human primates such as apes, tarsiers, and lemurs. The holiday was started in 2000 when artist Casey Sorrow, then an art student at Michigan State University, jokingly scribbled Monkey Day on a friend’s calendar, and then first celebrated the holiday with other MSU art students. It gained notoriety when Sorrow and fellow MSU art student Eric Millikin began including Monkey Day in their artwork and Fetus-X comic strips, and began promoting it online along with other artists. Since then, Monkey Day has been celebrated internationally, across countries like the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

It is described it as the “one day when monkey business is actually encouraged.” The holiday is primarily celebrated with costume parties intended to help draw attention to issues related to Primates including medical research, animal rights, and evolution.

A primate is a mammal of the order Primates (Latin: “prime, first rank”) primates include two distinct lineages, strepsirrhines and haplorhines. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment. Most primate species remain at least partly arboreal. Most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia. They range in typical size from Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, which weighs only 30 g (1 oz), to the eastern gorilla, weighing over 200 kg (440 lb). Based on fossil evidence, the earliest known true primates, represented by the genus Teilhardina, date to 55.8 mya. An early close primate relative known from abundant remains is the Late Paleocene Plesiadapis, c. 55–58 million years old. Molecular clock studies suggest that the primate branch may be even older, originating near the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary or around 63–74 mya.

The order Primates was traditionally divided into two main groupings: prosimians and anthropoids (simians). Prosimians have characteristics more like those of the earliest primates, and include the lemurs of Madagascar, lorisoids, and tarsiers. Simians include monkeys and apes. More recently, taxonomists have preferred to split primates into the suborder Strepsirrhini, or wet-nosed primates, consisting of non-tarsier prosimians, and the suborder Haplorhini, or dry-nosed primates, consisting of tarsiers and the simians.

Simians are divided into two groups: catarrhine (narrow-nosed) monkeys and apes of Africa and Southeast Asia and platyrrhine (“flat-nosed”) or New World monkeys of South and Middle America. Catarrhines consist of Old World monkeys (such as baboons and macaques), gibbons and great apes; New World monkeys include the capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys. Humans are the only extant catarrhines to have spread successfully outside of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia, although fossil evidence shows many other species were formerly present in Europe. New primate species are still being discovered. More than 25 species were taxonomically described in the decade of the 2000s and eleven have been described since 2010.

Primates exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some primates (including some great apes and baboons) are primarily terrestrial rather than arboreal, but all species possess adaptations for climbing trees. Locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree, walking on two or four limbs, knuckle-walking, and swinging between branches of trees (brachiation). Primates are characterized by large brains relative to other mammals, as well as an increased reliance on stereoscopic vision at the expense of smell, the dominant sensory system in most mammals. These features are more developed in monkeys and apes and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Three-color vision has developed in some primates. Except for apes, they have tails. Most primates also have opposable thumbs. Many species are sexually dimorphic; differences include body mass, canine tooth size, and coloration. Primates have slower rates of development than other similarly sized mammals and reach maturity later, but have longer lifespans. Depending on the species, adults may live in solitude, in mated pairs, or in groups of up to hundreds of members.

During Monkey Day there are competitions to see who has the best costumes, who can act like a monkey the longest, or speed knitting of monkey dolls. The holiday cuts across religious boundaries and provides opportunities to share monkey stories and contemplate our simian relatives. Other Monkey Day activities include going on shopping sprees for Paul Frank “Julius the Monkey” fashions, eating Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, and spending the day at the zoo.In 2005, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was released on the fifth anniversary of Monkey Day. King Kong and Planet of the Apes films are popular at Monkey Day parties. Monkey-themed songs, such as Major Lance’s “The Monkey Time”, are also part of Monkey Day festivities. Often, celebrations involve raising money for primate-related issues. In 2008, the official Monkey Day celebrations included an art show and silent auction to benefit the Chimps Inc. animal sanctuary; the show and auction included art by human artists as well as paintings from chimps Jackson and Kimie, residents of the sanctuary. The Biddle Gallery in Detroit also celebrated Monkey Day in 2008 with an annual Monkey Day art sale that included a free banana with each purchase.