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Crunch vote tonight on future of Jersey Zoo

Crunch vote tonight on future of Jersey Zoo

Thursday 02 May 2024

Crunch vote tonight on future of Jersey Zoo

Thursday 02 May 2024


Durrell members are tonight set to vote on whether the charity's board should resign and an independent investigation be carried out into the management of Jersey Zoo.

An extraordinary general meeting was called after a group of members, a loosely-assembled collective calling itself 'We Love The Zoo', canvassed the 60 signatures needed to call for it.

They are due to vote on a single motion that proposes two things: for the current Board of Trustees to step down, and for a review to look into the way Jersey Zoo is being run. 

The motion reads:  

The members have lost confidence in the ability of the Trustees to protect and maintain the legacy of Gerald Durrell. We call for the resignation of the board and an independent investigation into all aspects of the current and recent management’s running of the zoo. 

If the motion is unsuccessful, former head of mammals Dominic Wormell has said that members of We Love The Zoo would continue pushing for change and bring a new motion to the next AGM, due in September or October this year. 

Though the We Love The Zoo group has described itself as not having a leader, a number of former staff and Durrell devotees have been involved with it. These include former animal records keeper Joya Ghose and former HR director Kiley Henley, as well as a number of volunteers and former volunteers. Mr Wormell has said he supported the group.

Quentin Bloxam, a former Director of Conservation Management who worked at Durrell for 45 years, penned an open letter earlier this week supporting We Love The Zoo. He was joined today by Professor Julia Fa, another former Director at the charity.

Carl Jones MBE, Durrell's Chief Scientist and a winner of the Indianapolis Prize - the Nobel Prize for Conservation - defended the current Zoo management in a response to Mr Bloxam.

Lee Durrell, the widow of founder Gerald Durrell and an Honorary Director of the charity, has also condemned the "negative impact" of concerns raised with the charity, asking rebel members to stop using her husband's name to justify themselves.

Watch: As part of a series of videos published by the charity ahead of tonight's vote, Lee Durrell spoke out in support of Durrell.

Members who are not able to attend Thursday’s event were given the option to use an online proxy, with a deadline on Saturday 27 April.  

After some raised concerns that they had missed the online voting deadline and tickets for the in-person event were sold out, Durrell released some more tickets.  

The charity added that members had been told of the EGM date and the deadline for appointing an online proxy was clearly communicated. Express has asked how Durrell was handling members living abroad. 

After Mr Wormell left the Zoo in August 2023 after a 34-year career, former records keeper Joya Ghose posted publicly about her concerns for the welfare of animals and staff, as well as the selection of animals. 

A story in the Times reported donor concerns and, in September, Durrell’s CEO, Dr Lesley Dickie, resigned. Chair of the Trustee Board, Robert Kirkby, left in autumn. 

Watch: Interim CEO Rebecca Brewer took over the reigns after Lesley Dickie's departure

In February, mediation between some members of the We Love The Zoo group and Durrell collapsed.  

The background to the talks were members’ concerns about animal welfare, raised by former staff, volunteers, and Durrell devotees involved with the group. But the key demands made were the departure of Director of Operations, Graeme Dick, the resignation of Chair of the Board of Trustees, Matthew Hatchwell, and an independent review of the Zoo's operations and finance.  

Durrell said the amount of money that the zoo has spent dealing with this group has been "extremely high" – and that the group attempted to "coerce" the charity into accepting two of its own members onto the board.  

Soon after, Graeme Dick, the Zoo’s Director of Operations, left “by mutual consent”.

Interim CEO Rebecca Brewer has said that the charity is now focusing on better communication between senior management and its board and staff, and has reiterated that staff, as well as animal welfare, is being taken seriously by the charity.

What happens next?

At the EGM tonight, members who have not voted online will hear speeches and vote on the motion.

The event is ticketed and Durrell have said access would be members-only.

Express will be at the event, and reporting on all the latest breaking updates – sign up to our FREE newsletter here to make sure you don't miss an update.

READ MORE 

"Stop using Gerald's name and legacy", Lee Durrell urges Zoo critics

INSIGHT: Who are the campaign group behind the push to shake up Jersey Zoo and what do they want?

Durrell urges members to vote against rebels as EGM confirmed

OPEN LETTER: Zoo campaign group "threatening Durrell's very existence"

Durrell devotees speak out ahead of charity vote

Cost of dealing with rebel zoo members has been "extremely high"

INSIGHT: Key resignation and campaigner concerns pile pressure on Jersey Zoo

FOCUS: Sloths, social media posts and 'snubbed' staff... The drama before Dr Dickie's departure from Jersey Zoo

Pictured - top: Jersey Zoo gorilla, Badongo (Rob Currie)

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