Combining exotic animals and heritage assets on one site, there’s nowhere in the world like Dudley Zoological Gardens.

Continued efforts to invest and develop the 40-acre Castle Hill zoo – which also houses the 11th century Dudley Castle and world’s largest single collection of Modernist Tecton structures – has resulted in record breaking visitor figures in recent years, with the 82 year-old zoo regularly attracting visitors from across the country who want a fabulous family day out learning about some of the world’s rarest animals and the site’s fascinating history.

Last year the zoo's director Derek Grove was the proud recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at our Forging a Future for All awards.

The award honoured his devotion to the top borough tourist attraction over 36 years during which he has risen from trainee keeper in the early 1980s to the top post of zoo director.

The awards seek to highlight the special individuals and groups whose sterling work marks them as true heroes and champions of Dudley Metropolitan Borough, making it the best place to live and work.

The categories are based on Dudley Council's Forging a Future for All vision, which sets out its aspirations for the kind of place Dudley borough wants to be in 2030.

And the zoo and castle are perfectly placed to forge ahead with one of the key themes of the borough vision – celebrating the borough’s rich heritage and inspiring a unique visitor destination.

Derek said: “We’re constantly striving to enhance and extend the facilities for the 200 animal species as well as raising funds and awareness for vital in-situ and ex-situ conservation projects around the globe and we’ve lots of exciting projects in the pipeline including expanding the Bornean orang-utan exhibit; refurbishing the Sumatran tiger enclosure; opening up inaccessible parts of the castle, as well as reintroducing European brown bears next spring.

“With hundreds of thousands of guests who visit us year-on-year, we’re proud to have such loyal supporters, many of whom have grown up with Dudley Zoo, and we hope to continue inspiring generations to come as we endeavour to help create a better future for the world’s wildlife.”

Nominations are now open for this year's awards, which consist of 13 categories: Improving the Local Environment (individual); Improving the Local Environment (group/organisation); Outstanding Contribution to Education; Young Achiever; Community; Healthy and Safe Communities; Travel Support; Rising Apprentice Star of the Year; Business of the Year; Visitor Attraction Volunteer of the Year; Visitor Attraction Lifetime Achievement; Town Centre Unsung Heroes of the Year and Digital Innovation Award.

The awards will culminate in a black-tie dinner reception at the Copthorne Hotel in Merry Hill on Thursday, November 28.

To get involved in the awards by either nominating someone for an award or to enquire about sponsorship visit