A LARGE number of mourners attended the funeral last week at Wessex Vale Crematorium of Dr John Knowles, OBE, 90, the founder of Marwell Zoological Park and an early pioneer of animal conservation.

It took the form of celebration of his life and it was a reflection of the immense esteem and affection in which he was held that so many people came from far and near.

They included many past and present zoo staff, from both the animal management field and the educational and administrative side and several zoo volunteers. The feeling of respect and sadness at his passing was palpable.

An appreciation of Dr Knowles’s life was given by Jeremy Mallinson, a former director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, who described the many contributions made by the work of Marwell over the years, notably the return of sable and roan antelope to Swaziland where the latter had become extinct and now flourish.

Other representatives of Britain’s zoo world included Dr Jo Gipps, former director of London and Bristol zoos, Peter Stevens, former director of Paignton Zoo and Peter Wilson, former director of Dublin Zoo.

Family members paid tribute to this truly unique and dedicated individual. Without his remarkable vision and energy Marwell Zoological Park , near Colden Common, would not have come into existence and continue to be a leader in the fight to preserve the world’s endangered wildlife and to educate future generations about this urgent need.

It is hoped that a memorial to Dr Knowles will be created in the near future.