Bristol Zoo keeper retires after 45 years of 'job I always wanted'
Bristol Zoo's longest-serving keeper is retiring after 45 years of "the job I always wanted to do".
John Partridge formed close bonds with elephants, hand-reared pygmy hippos and said he "enjoyed every minute" of a career teachers advised him against.
He met his wife at the zoo and has cared for hundreds of animals in his time there.
Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of the Bristol Zoological Society, said Mr Partridge was "respected and admired".
Mr Partridge said when he told his teachers he wanted to work in a zoo they told him it was not well-paid and there was no future in it.
He started working at the zoo in 1975 as an ape keeper. But his closest animal relationships were formed with an African elephant called Christina in the 1970s, and later with an Asian elephant called Wendy.
He said when he returned to the zoo after spending three months in the Middle East, Christina gave him a "special welcome".
"It was as if another elephant had returned and she wondered where I had been," he said.
Mr Partridge became chief curator of animals 12 years ago.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, chief zoological officer, said Mr Partridge clocked up many "amazing achievements" at the zoo.
"He is leaving a big legacy," he added.
Mr Partridge met his wife, Kate, while she was working in the accounts department.
He said she had "put up with him" missing family occasions over the years just to look after the animals at the zoo.