Monty Python star John Cleese today revealed that he regarded having a species of lemur named after him as a greater honour than a British knighthood or a peerage.
The comic actor returned to Bristol Zoo Gardens to discuss conservation, his childhood in the West Country and three fund-raising performances to be held within the grounds of the zoo.
Cleese, who went to school at Clifton College, near Bristol Zoo Gardens, visited the zoo as a boy and fell in love with lemurs at an early age.
The 68-year-old, well-known for his role as Basil Fawlty in BBC sitcom 'Fawlty Towers', came face to face with one of his favourite creatures at the zoo today - Colin the red ruffed lemur.
Cleese has been back to visit the zoo on several occasions and has championed lemur conservation for many years.
As a result of his campaigning work, a new species of woolly lemur was named after him – Avahi cleesei.
The animal was discovered in Madagascar by Urs Thalmann of Zurich University.
Speaking at the zoo, Cleese – who declined a CBE in 1996 – said having the species named after him was a higher honour than a knighthood.
He said: “Well, I’ve had a species named after me. A Swiss guy discovered it. He called and asked if I will give him permission to name it after me.
“I would rather have that than a knighthood or peerage.”
He added: “They’re the sweetest little creatures. They never snatch food from you.”
Cleese, who was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, said when he studied at Clifton College he would frequently walk round the zoo gardens and head straight for the lemurs.
The comedian gave his seal of approval to a multi-million pound conservation park proposed for the outskirts of Bristol.
The 55-hectare park proposed for land near junction 17 of the M5 motorway, in south Gloucestershire, will be the first conservation-led animal visitor attraction of its kind in the UK.
He said: “It’s going to be phenomenal. I hope the people of Bristol really get behind it.”
Mr Cleese will give three performances from July 23 to July 25 at the Clifton Pavilion at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
Each evening will include an on-stage conversation between John and television presenter Chris Serle, followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
All the proceeds from these performances will help fund the zoo’s current and future conservation and education projects.