Jersey Zoo members call for board to be ousted in 'Extraordinary Meeting' amid welfare allegations

  • ITV Channel presenter Jess Dunsdon questions the Chair of Trustees at Durrell following these allegations

More than 100 members of Durrell's Wildlife Conservation Trust have called for Jersey Zoo's board of trustees to be ousted amid allegations about the poor treatment of animals, staff bullying and concerns over the direction of the charity.

Some of the allegations shared with ITV News include that nocturnal animals were put on show in the daytime and woken up for cuddles on VIP visits, and goats were put in an inappropriate environment that led to them getting footrot.

In response, Matthew Hatchwell, Chair of Trustees at Durrell, says: "Animal welfare is and has always been Durrell's priority.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying. The picture that's being painted to my mind, as far as it's possible to tell as a Trustee, is not representative of the attitude to the Trust among employees as a whole."

Members have collected enough signatures for an 'Extraordinary General Meeting' which could see senior figures pushed out and prompt an investigation into the running of the zoo.

Mr Hatchwell adds: "The requisition for an Extraordinary General Meeting has come from less than 1% of the membership, we don't believe that they're representative of the 20,000 or so members that we have around the world and we welcome the opportunity to speak to both the supporters and the critics when the time comes."

Unite the Union's Jersey office confirmed on social media that concerns about the zoo have been raised with them over "the past year or more".

It added: "Unite will do anything in its power to support and protect the membership and staff in this long-standing employer from the treatments reported to us."

Three high-profile managers have also resigned from the organisation since August 2023.

Mr Hatchwell explains: "Some important colleagues have moved on in recent months and of course, we miss anybody but that's the same with any organisation.

"Despite those departures, Durrell still has a fabulous team of committed and professional staff managing an outstanding zoo in Jersey."

Allegations of a "toxic culture" and unsafe conditions made public by a former employee in August 2023 saw the board issue a statement saying it "deplores malicious or ill-founded accusations" and that a committee including independent experts had no concerns.

Addressing the issues raised over recent months through a public statement, Honorary Director Lee Durrell says: "The concerns raised, albeit well-intentioned, have infused the debates with diverse agendas and unyielding opinions, which have had a negative impact on stability and morale at Jersey Zoo.

"I therefore ask those people to stop using Gerald Durrell’s name and legacy to justify their criticisms. Whatever outcomes they seek, Gerry would have been deeply saddened to see the damage done to the Trust to which he gave his name and dedicated his life."