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Death Of Veterinary Conservation Pioneer Dr John Lewis Announced

3 years ago

27th November, 2020 10h33

The death of Dr John Lewis, founder of Wildlife Vets International (WVI) and partner at International Zoo Veterinary Group (IZVG), has been announced, following a short illness.

Dr Lewis qualified from Cambridge in 1978 and studied for a PhD in oncology.  He worked at ZSL as a pathologist and clinician before joining International Zoo Veterinary Group, a practice dedicated to zoo, aquatic and exotic animal medicine, in 1985.  He became a partner in 1988.

Known for his passion for big cats, Dr Lewis founded Wildlife Vets International with fellow wildlife vet, Andrew Greenwood. WVI is a British charity that supports vets and conservationists to use veterinary science to protect endangered species.  Not only did he provide WVI with direction and advice, John participated in numerous conservation projects, most notably with tigers throughout their range and on the Reintroduction of the Amur Leopard into the Russian far east.

Despite his big cat focus, John was considered an expert in primates, elephants, marine mammals and zoo and wild animal anaesthesia.   Dr Lewis was also veterinary adviser to the Amur Leopard and Tiger EEPs (EAZA Ex-Situ Programme) and a member of the IUCN SSC (Species Survival Commission) Cat specialist group.

Commenting on his death, Olivia Walter, Executive Director of WVI, said: “We are devastated to lose John, a mentor and an inspiration for so many zoo and wildlife vets and biologists for the last 35 years.  Through his passion for the conservation of big cats he truly became a world leader in his field. His skill and dedication with field work, including his expertise in field anaesthesia, were second to none. He inspired many and his passing is an unimaginable loss to wildlife veterinary medicine.”

Dr Sue Thornton, Senior Partner at IZVG, said: “The messages of support from vets, biologists and zookeepers we have received are consistent in their praise for John’s willingness to pass on his knowledge and expertise to all who worked with him or attended conferences or workshops with him.   Within IZVG he was always willing to discuss a case with a colleague and was equally willing to admit when he did not know the answer.  His anecdotes and admissions of failure were often delivered with great humility and humour.

“We and the animals he has cared for have all benefited from John’s knowledge and veterinary skills. His passing is a huge loss to the whole zoo and wildlife conservation industry. He has, however, left a legacy in the charity Wildlife Vets International, as well as his more recent project to develop  a website ( to support rangers and conservation vets and biologists in the care of wild tigers.”

To leave a message of condolence please contact Olivia Walter at [email protected] or visit

For further information:

Olivia Walter, WVI, 07508 801099 [email protected]

27 November 2020

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