MARWELL Zoo has announced the death of its founder and paid tribute to the ‘great innovator’.
Dr John Knowles, who opened the Hampshire zoo specifically for the breeding of endangered species, died on Saturday following a short illness, the zoo said.
He purchased Marwell Hall and the surrounding 417 acres of land in September 1969 and, despite difficulties with planning permission and transporting animals, it opened to the public on May 22 1972.
Within in a few years, it became an important breeding centre for several endangered species.
Early residents of the zoo were Przewalski's horses, scimitar-horned oryx and Grevy's zebra.
Dr Knowles founded the non-profit biodiversity conservation NGO Marwell Zimbabwe Trust (now Dambari Wildlife) in 1997, before he retired as zoo director in 1998.
He retired from the zoo fully in 2006.
Marwell Wildlife's chief executive James Cretney said: ‘John Knowles was a great innovator.
‘His pioneering approach in the 1970s did much to change the outlook and perception of the sector. He implemented many changes to the operations of zoos and conservation, and we have a lot to thank him for.
‘Our deepest sympathies go out to Dr Knowles' family.’
In 1991, Dr Knowles was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours' List for his services to conservation, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Southampton in 2001.