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Meet the Norfolk animal lover who ranks alongside Prince Philip, Sir David Attenborough and the Emperor of Japan

PUBLISHED: 14:47 20 June 2014 | UPDATED: 16:55 20 June 2014

Ken Sims, Director of Thrigby Hall.

Picture: James Bass

Ken Sims, Director of Thrigby Hall. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

A Norfolk conservationist who has dedicated his life to animals has been awarded a prestigious honorary fellowship from the Zoological Society of London.

Ken Sims, director of Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Filby, with an American bull alligator. Picture by Joe Blossom. Ken Sims, director of Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Filby, with an American bull alligator. Picture by Joe Blossom.

Ken Sims, director of Thrigby Hall Wildlife Garden in Filby, joins an exclusive group as only 25 honorary fellows have been made since the Zoological Society was founded in 1826 by Sir Stamford Raffles.

Existing fellows include Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Emperor Akihito of Japan, Sir David Attenborough and animal behaviour expert Dr Desmond Morris.

The fellowship is awarded to “those who are distinguished in zoology or who have promoted the aims of the society, a limited number to be admitted”.

Speaking about the recent recognition, Ken said: “To receive the honorary fellowship of the Zoological Society of London is very special for me.

Other ZSL Honorary Fellows:

• 1975 Professor Jean Anthony, Professor Jean Dorst

• 1977 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

• 1990 Professor Knut Schmidt-Nielsen

• 1991 Emperor Akihito of Japan

• 1998 Sir David Attenborough

• 2003 Professor Sir Brian Follett

• 2006 Professor Sir John Lawton

• 2007 Professor John Beddington

• 2012 Dr Desmond Morris

“In addition to running two of the world’s finest zoos, the society is the world leader in its work for education, research and international conservation.

“I am grateful that I have been allowed to help support the teams of dedicated professional staff in their effort to conserve and protect wildlife wherever it is endangered.

“The team effort at the society has paid off in that both London Zoo and Whipsnade are enjoying very strong increases in attendance and revenue, in sharp contrast to the early 1990s when the closure of London Zoo was a real possibility.”

Ken first became involved with the Zoological Society of London in the 1960s, supplying animals when he was working on a rubber plantation in Malaya. After returning to the UK and opening Thrigby Hall Wildlife Garden in 1979, he became more closely involved serving on committees and working with London and Whipsnade Zoos through the British Zoos’ Federation.

He became a trustee of the Zoological Society in 1994, has been vice president three times and also chaired the London Zoo Board and the Zoos’ Advisory Committee. Ken is a former chairman of the British Zoos’ Federation and has represented the federation on the committee of the European Association of Zoos.

Having worked as a rubber planter, poisonous snake farmer and a crocodile keeper, he said he was inspired to open a wildlife garden in the ground of historic Thrigby Hall by the first David Attenborough television shows and the early writings of Gerald Durrell.

He has been a stalwart conservationist since his plantation work and travels in South East Asia gave first hand insight into the dramatic loss of habitats, particularly of the rainforests.

Earlier this year, Ken sold Cromer’s Amazona Zoo, which he opened in 2008, to the site’s landlord, Benjie Cabbell-Manners of Cromer Hall, so he could focus more on Thrigby and keep an eye on retirement.

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