Durrell members vote against trustees stepping down

Entrance to Jersey Zoo monkey statue
A total of 1,985 members voted for its board of trustees to stay in place [BBC]

Members of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have voted against its board of trustees resigning.

An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) was held on Thursday over concerns over how Jersey Zoo was being run.

Former employees and current members of the trust said concerns revolved around staff and animal welfare.

Jersey Zoo denied any wrongdoing, including a suggestion it had replaced endangered species with more crowd-pleasing animals.

Out of a total 16,000 eligible voting members, 1,985 voted against the proposal that the trustees resign while 710 supported it.

Jersey Zoo is the headquarters of the charity, founded by the late author and naturalist Gerald Durrell.

Members were invited to attend the meeting in person, or to appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf.

The proposition stated: "Because the members have lost confidence in the ability of the Board of Trustees of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to protect and maintain the legacy of Gerald Durrell, the Board of Trustees should resign and an independent investigation should be carried out into all aspects of the current and recent management's running of the zoo."

Matthew Hatchwell, who chairs the board of trustees, asked the group who brought the vote to respect the outcome, saying "the turmoil of recent months must end here."

Analysis: Ammar Ebrahim, Jersey Political Reporter

Jersey Zoo is one of the island's most treasured institutions and when members spoke to the board of trustees, who were all sat on a stage, the strength of feeling and emotion behind this fall-out was plain to see.

The unprecedented nature of the meeting was summed up early on by Lee Durrell, the wife of the late Gerald Durrell, when she said: "I've seen this zoo through highs and lows but I've never seen anything like the events that have led to this meeting today."

Those who wanted the board to resign pointed to how reports of staff being bullied and animal welfare concerns, had been ignored.

Others talked about how long serving staff felt like they had no choice but to leave.

One member, Stacey Powis, spoke directly to the board and said: "How have you let this happen?"

In recent weeks voices critical of the board have been the loudest, but at the EGM several people spoke passionately against the resolution.

One current member of staff said she was "very happy working for Durrell" and that she and other staff who wanted to speak against the resolution felt they couldn't because they were "bombarded by the other side".

Another employee of the zoo said she "had never been bullied and was pushed to be the best I can be".

When the votes were announced there was visible relief for the board and Lee Durrell told me she was confident that with "better communication and better dialogue" this shouldn't happen again.

The question now is if the zoo can move forward in a united way and recover from a very damaging chapter in its history.

Matthew Hatchwell, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Durrell, thanked members for support "during this difficult time".

He said: "The EGM was an opportunity for us to hear from our members in a more formal setting, and directly address any concerns or questions they may have.

"The board respects the result of this EGM as a democratic process. We expect everyone else to do the same - as we would have done had we lost the vote.

"The turmoil of recent months must end here.

"We have listened to, and will continue to listen to, feedback about Jersey Zoo and are open and receptive to change."

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