TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the UK's most knowledgeable people on badgers.

Donald Hunford, 93, from Benfleet died on Friday August 3.

In January he had a bad fall at home and was taken to Southend Hospital.

His injuries were not too severe with bruising to his back.

He was later moved to Stafford Hall Nursing Home, Benfleet from his home in the area.

On his birthday on the May 19, he had another bad fall in the nursing home and fractured his pelvis.

He returned back to the Stafford Hall Nursing Home for a short time but soon his health deteriorated and on the August 3 he was admitted back to Southend Hospital where he passed away peacefully the same morning.

He was born in Essex and later moved to the Cotswolds, where he taught maths and physics in a school near Cirencester.

He started watching badgers back in the 1950s whilst teaching in Gloucestershire and was inspired by one of the first badger enthusiasts Ernest Neal. He gained a tremendous knowledge of badgers, based on years of careful study and observation.

He was a member of the Essex Badger Protection Group, a spokesman for the group took to social media to pay tribute to Don.

The spokesman said: "His work brought him back to Essex in 1954, and it was at this time he started surveying Essex badger setts.

"He deliberately chose to live at his house in Thundersley because he knew that the surrounding woods held badgers. It was there he set up a hide so that he could observe the badgers at close quarters and kept detailed records about them.

"He became very close to his badgers and gave all of them names and was able to identify each one by sight. They would follow him around his woodlands up to his house and he often fed them straight from his hands.

"Regularly he would invite other badger enthusiasts around to observe the badgers from his hide. These were always magical evenings where you would often see as many as fourteen, or maybe even more, badgers playing and feeding together next to the hide sometimes very early in the evening in broad daylight."

Over the years Don travelled around many parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and India, to study badgers and other wildlife.

In 1959 he became a founder member of the Essex Wildlife Trust. He remained a director there until he resigned in 2004.

Don went on to become one of the UK’s most respected badger experts. He has featured on television programmes about badgers, including Springwatch and the Badger Night Live broadcasts in 2009.

In 2015 he gave a highly moving speech at the Badger Trust Conference. This was possibly his last ever public speech.

Sadly Don lost his sister in 2016. This affected him badly and led to his deterioration in health the following year.