Nestled among them is Jer-Sea, a richly-imagined silverback gorilla created by Suffolk-based artist Anne-Marie Byrne, who’s no stranger to public art trails. Symbolising the abundance of wildlife surrounding the Channel Islands, the sea comes alive as seals, dolphins, jellyfish, anemones and shoals of mackerel and cod swim across Jer-Sea’s body.
Situated in French Lane, RBC Wealth Management chose and adopted this particular gorilla as part of the Go Wild Gorillas sculpture trail that celebrates 60 years since the Jersey Zoo opened. It also helped kick off a fundraising drive by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to build a new £5 million home for the zoo’s growing gorilla family.
“We wanted to mark the (60th anniversary) occasion with a project that involved the whole community and got people out and about exploring our beautiful island,” says Dr. Lesley Dickie, chief executive of the Trust.
“Go Wild Gorillas combined art with conservation and got people out and about enjoying more wild time with family and friends.”
Inspired by similar public art trails in the UK, the team at Durrell began planning in 2017 and officially launched the project in partnership with Wild in Art a year later. With the help of sponsors, 40 colourful, life-size silverback gorillas were transplanted across the island—a trail that covers more than 50 miles.
“Sponsors have been vital to supporting the trail,” says Dickie.
RBC Wealth Management is a long time supporter of Durrell, whose mission is to save species from extinction, and was one of the first organizations involved in this initiative.
There are also 45 ‘young’ gorillas spread throughout the island as schools and community groups raised money to be a part of the trail. The school gorillas will be returned to their owners when the event ends.
Maurice, one of the young gorillas, was brought to life by Youthful Minds, an organisation that works closely with RBC and focuses on supporting mental health for children and young adults.
Jer-Sea, along with the other silverback sculptures, will go to auction on Nov. 6 to kickstart fundraising efforts.
“Every pound really is important to ensure the best future for these precious apes,” says Dickie, highlighting the efforts of Will Highfield, a Durrell staff member and volunteer gorilla keeper, who’s on track to raise £26,000 by running the Jersey Marathon in a gorilla suit.
Dickie hopes the new home will be completed by 2022. The new environment will be almost four times the size of the gorillas’ existing home, she says, providing a large comfortable indoor living space and improved public viewing areas as well.
“It will have natural bark flooring and be flooded with sunlight,” Dickie explains. “It will allow keepers to manage the group more easily, and also allow us to keep an additional individual or small group separate from the main family if that’s required.”
“We want to provide the best care possible .”
Overall, £1,146,500 was raised for the Jersey Zoo, with RBC sponsored Jer-Sea being auctioned for £25,000 that contributed to this fantastic total.