Popular zoo vet and writer who inspired the TV series One by One;
Born: February 11, 1934; Died: January 29, 2013.
David Taylor, who has died aged 78, was a pioneering veterinary surgeon and one of the first in Britain to specialise in wildlife medicine. He wrote a series of books about his experiences working in zoos, which led to the popular BBC drama series One by One. To his fans, he was as important as Gerald Durrell or David Attenborough in promoting awareness and respect for the natural world.
Taylor grew up in Rochdale in Lancashire, where he would try to treat wounded sheep he found while out walking but first discovered his love of more exotic species while studying at Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in the early 1950s. After he graduated in 1956, he joined a practice back in his home town but jumped at the opportunity to treat a chimpanzee at a local zoo.
However, he was not impressed with the standard of care at the zoo and became determined to do something about it, a determination that eventually led to him co-founding the International Zoo Veterinary Group, an association of vets that treats wild, rare and endangered species around the world.
Taylor increasingly began to specialise in zoo work as techniques improved – he was one of the first to use dart guns which meant large animals could be anaesthetised and properly treated. He eventually worked with some of the most famous zoos in the world and some of the most challenging patients. They included Cuddles, a killer whale at Flamingoland in Yorkshire, a hornbill that he fitted with a prosthetic beak and a giant panda suffering from stomach ulcers.
He wrote about his experiences in a series of popular books that began with Zoo Vet: World of a Wildlife Vet in 1976 and led to many sequels. The books inspired the BBC drama series One by One which ran from 1984-87 and featured a character based on Taylor.
However, this was not his only success on television – Taylor also appeared regularly on the Saturday morning children's series No 73, also in the 1980s. Like Johnny Morris on the BBC, Taylor would bring exotic animals into the studio and talk about them to the young viewers. He would also run competitions, including the chance to win a trip to Madrid Zoo. He later presented Talking Animals, in which each episode focused on one animal.
In 1969, with Andrew Greenwood, he set up the International Zoo Veterinary Group and continued his work in zoos around the world. He also wrote a number of successful guidebooks on domestic animals, most famously Think Cat about feline psychology. He retired from practice in 2008 but continued to work as a consultant.
He is survived by his wife Christine and two daughters from an earlier marriage.
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