Well, I suppose it was inevitable, but the global pandemic finally made it’s way to the quaint little island of Jersey. One day it was business as usual, with the noted exception of watching several YouTube tutorials on proper had washing techniques. The next day, after listening to Trudeau tell Canadians abroad, “it’s time to come home” and consulting with friends and family in Canada, I found myself trying to book one of the few remaining flights back to Toronto. After a couple hectic hours I had managed to get myself a seat home in two days time. 

Perhaps Jersey, being an island, forms its own sort of bubble from the outside world; or maybe we were all just too focused on our coursework; but many of us were caught off guard by the urgency to get home. Students from around the world were looking for information on travel restrictions to their home countries and our instructors, Tim and Helen did everything they could to help through this unprecedented situation.

Despite the gorgeous sunny weather and the scent of spring blooms wafting through the air, the mood was tense and you could tell people were on edge.

With two days before my flight, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Jersey.

Gerry Durrell & I. Both equally disappointed in me having to leave Jersey early.

In these stressful times, we all needed a distraction. Enter our guest lecturer, Carl Jones. As the chief Scientist at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the current scientific director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the man is a treasure trove of conservation stories. He is probably best known for his leading role in the recovery of the Mauritius kestrel, bringing the species back from just four individuals in 1974, to an estimated 400 today.

Jones applied the techniques he developed for the kestrel to six other species of critically endangered bird species in the Mascarenes: the pink pigeon, the echo parakeet, the Rodrigues fody, the Rodrigues warbler, the olive white-eye, and the Mauritian fody. He has been an influential member of the team dedicated to restoring Round Island, my once home away from home, and it all likelihood, has probably saved more species from extinction than any other individual.

Some of the DESMAN crew with the man, the myth, the legend, Carl Jones. Photo taken pre-social-distancing guidelines.

At the beginning of each lecture, Carl would tell us to stand up, stretch your arms out, and embrace the world. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s just what we needed in such stressful times.

Looking around at my classmates (all of whom were at a safe distance from each other), you could see grins start to appear and anxious faces relax. Carl’s ability to shape a rich story took us away from the stresses of the moment and transported us around the world. My last few days were spent discussing conservation issues over dinner (again, from across the room at a safe distance) and talking about how we’d work to protect the biodiversity of our home countries when we managed to get home.

Although it wasn’t the end I imagined for my journey as Canada’s New Noah, the connections I made both at Durrell and in Mauritius are invaluable and ultimately, what made this a once in a lifetime experience.

– Eric Jolin, Canada’s 30th New Noah 

Note: This post was published after Eric’s safe return to Canada. Eric is currently practising self-isolation at home in accordance with government regulations.

One of 4 passengers on an empty flight leaving Jersey. At least it meant I got an upgrade!

Waving goodbye to my little island home of Jersey! It’s going to be strange to be living on a mainland for the first time in 9 months.