Tributes have been paid to the founder of Linton Zoo who has died following a battle with motor neurone disease.
Len Simmons died on Thursday (December 11) with family members by his side. He had been suffering from motor neurone disease for three years. He was 78 years old.
Members of the community and visitors to the zoo have expressed their sadness at Len’s death and their admiration for his life’s work, with many people taking to social media to praise Len for his conservation work as well as his sense of humour and kind demeanour.
“I always enjoyed my chats with Len,” wrote Les Redhead on Facebook. “He really should’ve written a book.
“I even recall the story behind the photo above where he got swiped round the head causing his ear to bleed, making the photographer more than a little nervous.”
Julia Carne wrote: “Linton Zoo has inspired so many young people to learn about wildlife and become the next generation working towards conservation and understanding how to make a difference in this tough world.
“That’s a great legacy. Condolences to all the family.”
Ian Barker wrote: “Very sad news. My wife worked there and Len was a very nice person to work for, with a kind and natural understanding of the animals in his care.
“The world is a poorer place with his passing.”
Len established the zoo in Linton in 1972. Previously, he and his family had run a pet shop and zoo suppliers business in Bishop’s Stortford.
The new premises in Linton, a ten and a half acre site, was the ideal place for Len to establish a centre for breeding animals.
The zoo’s first lion, Dusty, arrived at the zoo in 1972.
The zoo is now directed by Len’s daughter, Kim Simmons, and is home to a wide array of animals including tigers, giant tortoises, zebras, tapirs, kangaroos and vultures.
In a statement, Linton Zoo asked for those wishing to pay tribute to Len to contribute something to help with the conservation of the animals he loved.
It read: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Len Simmons, co-founder of Linton Zoo, who lost his battle with motor neurone disease on Thursday night.
“Some of you have already asked about sending flowers.
“Whilst this would be very much appreciated, we know that Len would prefer any hardy flowers, shrubs or trees that can be planted in a special memorial garden being created for him within the zoo grounds.
“Not only would this provide lasting enjoyment for future generations, it would also help create additional habitat for native wildlife species and thus continue the wonderful work Len started in 1972.”
A service will be held in memory of Len at 12pm on Monday, December 22 at St Mary’s Church in Linton. It is understood that Len’s final resting place will be at the zoo.