Tortoises follow the hare in Durrell auction

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SLOW and steady doesn’t always win the race…

It was the ‘Love to Run’ hare sculpture that generated the highest bids at the Tortoise Takeover auction – with the top bidder hopping home with the two-metre sculpture for a whopping £100,000.

The auction, which was held at The Royal Yacht hotel on Thursday 21 September, marked the conclusion of the public art trail, which saw giant tortoise sculptures decorated by local and international artists take up residence in iconic locations around the Island throughout the summer.

While the trail has served to raise awareness of Durrell’s world-leading conservation work all over the world, the key aim of the sculpture auction is to raise money for a new reptile enclosure to house the many endangered species that are looked after at Jersey Zoo.

The improvements to the facilities will also support Durrell’s team working at rewilding sites around the world, who are undertaking vital research and providing frontline care to these species on the brink.

A total of 49 giant tortoise sculptures, the ‘Love to Run’ hare sculpture, and a few special young tortoise sculptures were all up for grabs last night.

Bidding started at £3,400 for giant tortoises but many sold for at least £10,000, with the auction raising a grand total of £720,500.

Despite the hare breaking Jersey’s record for most expensive Durrell sculpture – previously held by Jersey Sandman Andy Coutanche’s avant-garde gorilla sculpture ‘The Space Between Us’, which sold for £72,000 four years ago – the Tortoise Takeover auction total fell over £400,000 short of the £1,146,500 raised at the ‘Go Wild Gorillas’ auction in 2019.

Jersey Zoo chief executive Dr Lesley Dickie, whose resignation was announced recently and who will remain in post until November, opened the evening saying that ‘tortoise mania’ had ‘spread across the Island this summer’, with 11,000 app downloads proving that ‘the Island understood the mission’ of the trail.

She also spoke about Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise hatched in 1832, who is the world’s oldest living land mammal at 190 years old.

Dr Dickie spoke about how much the world had changed during Jonathan’s lifetime, highlighting the climate events and many species which have gone extinct since he was born.

The star of the show was local artist Nick Romeril’s ‘Love to Run’ hare, which Dr Dickie explained had been nicknamed ‘Stan’ when its existence was still a secret.

The chief executive admitted that she was initially unsure about Mr Romeril’s plans to decorate the hare in a naturalistic way, but said that the painted sculpture ‘brought tears to [her] eyes’ when she first saw its finished design.

This high praise was echoed by buyers who eagerly bid for the hare, pushing the price up to the record-breaking £100,000 total.

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