About NEZS

The North of England Zoological Society is the organisation that runs Chester Zoo and our conservation campaign, Act For Wildlife. That’s a long name, so we usually just say NEZS.

It was formed by the zoo’s founder, George Mottershead, in 1934.

You can read more about the zoo here, and about our history here.


Our mission is to be a major force in conserving biodiversity worldwide.


Our president is His Grace the Duke of Westminster.

Vice Presidents

Mrs Heber-Percy

Ruth Rendell

Lord Wade

Board of Trustees

The Trustees, as a body of charity trustees and as directors for the purposes of company law, have general control and management of the administration of NEZS. They determine the strategic direction and policies of the Society, with consultation and discussion with the Director General and Managing Director of the Society as Principal Executives and their staff who implement policy.

The number of Trustees shall be not less than three and not more than twenty of whom not more than sixteen shall be Elected Trustees and not more than five shall be Co-opted Trustees. Elected Trustees, who must be members of the Society, are elected by the members at the Annual General Meeting to serve for a maximum of six years. Co-opted Trustees are co-opted by the Trustees, to serve for up to 15 months from being appointed.

The Trustees hold at least four formal meetings each year, together with an Annual General Meeting. The Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected by the Trustees from their current membership, for a period not exceeding three years before re-election for a maximum of one further term not exceeding three years, during which times they are not required to retire in accordance with the six year maximum.

The key responsibilities of the Trustees

With other Trustees to hold the Society "in Trust" for current and future beneficiaries by:

  • ensuring that the Society has a clear vision, mission and strategic direction and is focused on achieving these;
  • being responsible for the performance of the Society and for its “corporate” behaviour;
  • ensuring that the Society complies with all legal and regulatory requirements;
  • acting as guardians of the Society’s assets, both tangible and intangible, taking all due care over their security, deployment and proper application; and
  • ensuring that the Society’s governance is of the highest possible standard.

Chair of Trustees - Prof Peter Wheeler BSc, PhD

Dean of Science at Liverpool John Moores University. Specialises in Evolutionary Biology.

Vice Chair - Mrs Rebecca Burke Sharples CBE

Retired NHS Chief Executive. 32 years’ experience in the NHS and was awarded the CBE in 2002 for services to nursing and health care management. Previously a member of the UK Council on Bio-ethics with a keen interest in the ethical treatment of animals. Prior to retirement in October 2008 she was Chief Executive of a large NHS Primary Care Trust with a budget of over half a billion pounds. She has expertise in organizational development and continuous improvement initiatives. 

A Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University, and Chairman of a leading regional training company. Married to Alan, a retired Finance director, who is currently Trustee of the Zoo’s Pension Fund Committee and has previously served as NEZS Council Member; they have one daughter.


Mr Malcolm Ardron BA Hons (Oxon) CEng FIMechE
Company managing director and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. After studying Engineering Science at Oxford University a career in both public and private sectors ranging from construction of nuclear power stations, road and rail projects, industrial and commercial buildings; consultant to nuclear and manufacturing sectors in UK and Europe on commercial dispute resolution including Expert Witness to Court (Technology & Construction Division). Currently managing Director of a company providing engineering and construction services.

Prof Malcolm Bennett BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, FRCPath
Professor of Veterinary Pathology, Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool. Research and teaching interests are in infectious disease, especially infections that might be zoonotic, emerging infectious diseases, and infectious diseases of wild animals. 

Mrs Catherine Buckley MA (Oxon) PGCE
Retired Headmistress of The Queen’s School, Chester. After studying modern languages at Oxford, she spent two years teaching in Southern Germany. Has since taught for most of her career at leading independent schools in the North West. She retired after nine years as headmistress of The Queen’s School in summer 2010. She is also a Vice Chair of Governors at Bolton School. 

Prof Stefan Buczacki BSc, DPhil, Hon DUniv, CBiol, FSB, FIHort, FLS, ARPS
Biologist. Main areas of expertise horticulture, plant pathology, botany and natural history. Although graduating in botany [Southampton] and forestry [Oxford], his first love was zoology, ignited by his childhood in a Derbyshire village. He spent many years in research before becoming a high profile gardening personality, appearing on TV and radio and in newspapers and magazines. He is Britain’s most experienced gardening writer and broadcaster with credits including nearly sixty books, over three thousand articles and a radio and TV career stretching back nearly thirty years. In addition to his familiar popular role, he works as an expert witness and consultant with an international reputation and holds an Honorary Chair at Liverpool John Moores University. He is also now gaining a more unexpected reputation as a political biographer.

Mr Brian Child
Retired. Spent 25 years at McCann-Erickson Manchester and ten of those as Chief Executive. During this time also held the role of UK Group Chairman and for the last two years held the role of European Vice President and Chief Executive of Momentum Europe. Now runs his own marketing company, specifically to help small/medium agencies to realise the full extent of their ambitions. Is a non-executive director of The Mission Group, a group of marketing services suppliers based throughout the UK. Has a special interest in international zoo marketing.

Dr Simon Dowell BSc (Hons), DPhil
Formerly Director of LJMU’s School of Biological & Earth Sciences, now the Faculty’s Head of International Affairs. After completing his PhD at the University of Oxford, worked as a research biologist at the Game Conservancy Trust where he co-founded and chaired the IUCN Species Specialist Group on Partridges, Quails and Francolins. His work on the Sichuan Hill Partridge is a major part of NEZS’s Sichuan Forest Conservation Program in China which he co-ordinates and for which he has been awarded the Zoo’s Honorary Conservation Fellowship. Takes a keen interest in local conservation and was a Council member and Chair of the Conservation Committee for the Cheshire Wildlife Trust from 2004 to 2008.

Mr Robert Mee FCIB
Robert has recently retired from a 40 year career in Financial Services where he held a number of Company Directorships. He is Chair of the Ellesmere Port Development Board and a Director of the Ellesmere Port Fab Lab. He has Chaired the Business Operations Committee for the last 4 years and is a member of the Remuneration Committee.

Professor Russell Newton
Professor in Biochemistry at Swansea University until retirement in 2008, then elected Emeritus Professor. During his university career was involved in numerous planning and strategic exercises, and was Lead Director of Biomolecular Analysis Mass Spectrometry Facility. As a biochemist, involved in multidisciplinary projects with zoologists, botanists, geneticists and medical researchers, including the development of Seracitin®, an antibiotic extracted from natural sources, and of DisiAq®, which has attained publicity recently for its contribution in stimulating the first successful breeding of rare endangered frogs at Paignton Zoo.

Mr David O Pickering FCA, DL, FIoD
Doctor of Business Administration at the University of Chester. Born a farmer. Qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Retired. Career – Director of Meadow Foods Ltd; Chester Race Co. In retirement: Trustee of Chester Zoo; Champion of Chester Walls; Sexton of Hope Church, North Wales; Chair, Thornton Research Ventures Ltd.

Miss Angela Pinnington BSc (Hons)
An independent consultant experienced in the design and delivery of strategy, project management, business improvement and people development projects. As an executive coach she has an international track record in getting results. She specialises in the provision of strategic facilitation, both formulation and implementation, coaching and training to meet client objectives. Her experience has given her knowledge of a wide variety of sectors and functions, both from an internal and consulting perspective. For several years now she has been a trustee of Ariel Trust, an education charity established in 1982, to work with disadvantaged young people, teaching them to use radio and multimedia, to improve their life chances. Ariel works closely with schools and local authorities, on projects that are proven to increase awareness of social issues and exam results. Previously she was a Director of UK and Irish Companies.

Dr Judith Skerritt BSc, MSc, PhD
After graduating in Mathematics in Canada, gained a PhD in Pure Mathematics from the University of Liverpool before taking lecturing positions, including head of department, in Montreal. In 1993 established a local veterinary practice with her husband where she directed the business and operational aspects. In 1999 along with 3 other colleagues, she established VetMRI which was the world’s first mobile MRI facility for animals. She was Business Director of Vet MRI for 5 years. In 2004 established with her husband a large multidiscipline veterinary referral hospital in the North West. Was Business Director and co-owner of this company. Was the Principal of a newly established veterinary nursing college which she set up within the hospital. Was a Trustee of the NEZS from 2001 to 2008 and Chairperson of the Education Committee. Was re-elected as a Trustee of the NEZS in 2009.

Mr Bruce Ursell
Worked 5 five years in Africa before career as a merchant banker. Became CEO of two merchant banks in the City of London and a director of a FTSE 100 company. Chaired the board of a top ten accounting firm. Subsequently spent ten years as a non-executive director of, and consultant to, Standard Bank plc – the largest bank in Africa - where he chaired their board risk, investment and credit committees. From 2000 until 2011 was chairman of a company managing over $800m subscribed by various European Governments for investment into infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently is non-executive Chairman of a fund management group investing in emerging economies.

Mr Simon Venables ACA MBA MA (Cantab) BA (Hons)
A lifelong animal lover, and a member of the Society for seven years with his wife and children. Currently Assistant Finance Director and Head of Internal Audit at Bibby Line Group in Liverpool, with previous experience as Audit Senior Manager at KPMG. Has significant experience of audit processes, financial controls, and dealing with audit committees in PLC environments. Spent 13 years with KPMG in Liverpool after graduating from Cambridge University in 2000, completing an MBA at Manchester Business School in 2009.

Mr Tony Williams
After a long career as a senior executive in financial services with a major Chester-based bank, now runs a successful consultancy with his wife, helping businesses with their development and future strategy. Tony was a Trustee of the Friends of The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for a number of years and was involved in their fundraising programme to enable the Museum to buy the important Anglo Saxon “Staffordshire Hoard” exhibits. A keen supporter and Trustee of the Zoo for nearly 20 years and served as Chairman of the board of Trustees of the Society from 2004 to 2010 and was re-elected for a further term in 2012.


Business Operations (Chair: Robert Mee)

Conservation and Education (Chair: Simon Dowell)

Audit and Risk Management (Chair: Bruce Ursell)

Ethical Review (Chair: Rebecca Burke-Sharples)

Pension Trustees (Chair: Alan Sykes)

Animal Health, Welfare and Husbandry (Chair: Malcolm Bennett)

Remuneration: (Chair: Peter Wheeler)

Company Secretary: Nick Clarke - Aaron & Partners

Advisors to Trustees

Mr Brian Coles
Mr John Makinson
Mr Tim Sibthorp
Dr Caroline Evans
Dr Roger Wilkinson
Prof Richard Griffiths
Mr William Beale
Dr Julian Chantrey
Mr Michael Stanford
Mr Ian Ashpole
Mr Simon Bleckly

Annual Reports

Our annual reports can be downloaded from our website here.

For all matters or contact relating to Trustees please contact:

Marie Brookfield
PA to Director General and Managing Director
01244 650201

The North of England Zoological Society is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England no. 287902.

Our registered charity no. is 306077 and our VAT no. is 595 7286 79.