Dr Lee McGeorge Durrell, Chairman, was born 7th September 1949 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. She studied philosophy at Bryn Mawr College for a B.A. before enrolling in the zoology graduate programme at Duke University in 1971. Lee studied animal communication and completed her PhD on the calls of mammals and birds in the forests of Madagascar.
Lee married Gerald Durrell, founder of the Jersey Zoo and Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (later renamed Durrell Wildlife Park and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, respectively) in 1979. She became involved with the conservation work of the Trust and was instrumental in re-opening Madagascar to western scientists during the early 1980’s. She later influenced the development of new overseas projects for the Trust, particularly in Madagascar where she launched a recovery programme for the world's rarest tortoise.
‘The State of the Ark’, Lee’s first book, was a comprehensive review of species conservation, published in 1986. Lee and Gerald wrote books and presented several television series together, basing the series on the books or vice versa. These included 'Ark on the Move', 'The Amateur Naturalist' and 'Durrell in Russia'. In 1990 they led a four-month expedition to Madagascar to collect several endangered animal species for breeding programmes in Jersey.
An hour-long television special entitled 'To the Island of the Aye-Aye' won the Gold Award at the New York International Film and Television Festival. Gerald’s health deteriorated after the trip, and he died in January 1995, Lee succeeding him as Honorary Director of the Trust. She maintains a deep interest in the Trust’s work both in Jersey and overseas and plays an important role as ambassador and fund-raiser. In 1999 Lee learned to fly light aeroplanes and assisted the Trust for a number of years by flying animals to and from Jersey for breeding programmes.
In 2011 Lee was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her services to biodiversity conservation.