The curator of Scarborough Sea Life Centre has paid tribute to TV wildlife expert Terry Nutkins, who has died at the age of 66.
Lyndsey Crawford said the TV presenter, who opened the otter and seal enclosures at the centre, inspired her to work with animals.
The father of eight died at his home in Scotland on Thursday following a nine-month battle with leukaemia.
Ms Crawford said: “We are absolutely gutted. Terry was brilliant. He was a really pleasant guy who really did a lot for conservation.
“He’s been here quite a few times over the years so it’s come as quite a shock to us that he has died.
“From a professional point of view, I watched Terry on the TV when I was a child and he spurred me on to do what I do today.”
Nutkins found fame as co-presenter of the BBC children’s show Animal Magic with Johnny Morris and also featured in The Really Wild Show.
Survived by his wife, eight children and eight grandchildren, the Londoner made his home in Glenelg on the west coast of Scotland, near the Isle of Skye.
His agent John Miles said: “He was an absolutely lovely guy and just loved animals, and he was never happier than when he was with animals. We will all miss him very, very much.”
Nutkins grew up near Marylebone station and bunked off school to help out at London Zoo, where his expertise with animals became obvious.
He was sent to Scotland at the age of 11 to work with Ring Of Bright Water author Gavin Maxwell and help care for wild otters. It was there that he lost the tips of two fingers after he was bitten by one of his animals.
Maxwell became his legal guardian so that Nutkins could remain in Scotland to work with him. He also regarded Nutkins as his protégé and left his house to him when he died in 1999.
In recent years he made guest appearances on Ready Steady Cook, Celebrity Ghost Stories and a tribute documentary to Australian “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin.
Ms Crawford added: “He was very passionate and always wanted to make sure things we were doing and saying were right. He was always looking from the animals’ point of view, not people’s. He was trying to get the message across to the public that wildlife has a very important part to play in everybody’s lives. He will be massively missed in the wildlife conservation community.”