TRIBUTES have been paid to a beloved internationally renowned veterinarian who served Colchester Zoo for more than 30 years.

John Lewis started working at the Maldon Road facility in the 1980s, providing care and treatment to all the zoo's species.

He was also a founder of Wildlife Vets International, specialising in Amur tigers and leopards, which are native to the Russian Far East.

A spokesman for Colchester Zoo said: "We are extremely sad to learn of the tragic death of our long standing veterinarian, John Lewis.

"John began working with Colchester Zoo in the 1980s, and has played a central role in the health and wellbeing of our animal collection.

"John was also the founder and veterinary advisor for Wildlife Vets International.

"Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild has been a proud supporter of John’s work with Wildlife Vets International, particularly with Amur tigers and leopards in the Russian Far East.

"On behalf of all at Colchester Zoo, we pass on our sincere condolences to John’s family during this very sad and difficult time."


  • John Lewis treats a deer at Colchester Zoo

Mr Lewis graduated from Cambridge University Veterinary School and went on to study a PhD in Oncology at the University of London.

He worked at zoos across the globe, including at Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates and ZSL London Zoo before becoming a International Zoo Veterinary Group partner in 1988.

He then took on the role as full-time vet for Colchester Zoo, where he worked for decades.

Mr Lewis was a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's cat specialist group and principal veterinary advisor to the Amur leopard and tiger Endangered Species Breeding Programmes.

He was recognised internationally for his work on carnivore reintroduction techniques and the development of veterinary resource manuals for conservation projects.


  • John Lewis with an Amur leopard at the zoo

Wildlife Vets International paid tribute to Mr Lewis on Twitter.

They said: "It is with great sadness that we announce that WVI Founder and Veterinary Advisor Dr John Lewis passed away yesterday (Saturday.

"We are all devastated to have lost a good friend and colleague.

"John's family, IZVG and WVI are setting up a condolence book. Details to follow."