VIDEO: Historic signing of covenant giving Armed Forces discounts to Lincolnshire Wildlife Park

Puma hairs clung to the smart jacket that was being worn by the CEO of Lincolnshire Wildlife Park for an historic visit by the Armed Forces

It was inevitable Steve Nichols would still get up close to the magnificent big cats at the sanctuary he founded - even in the prestigious company when he had swopped his overalls for a suit.

The occasion was the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant that officially offers discounts to serving and former Armed Forces personnel and their families.

Trustees and staff had invited the charity's patron, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Mr Toby Dennis, along with other dignitaries to witness the historic signing in Friskney on Tuesday morning.

The Armed Forces Covenant was signed by Steve Nichols, the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, and Major Mitch Pegg, Officer Commanding of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge to acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.

It focusses on helping members of the armed forces community to have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.

This support is provided in a number of areas including:

- education and family well-being

- having a home

- starting a new career

- access to healthcare

- financial assistance

- discounted services

Lincolnshire Wildlife Park is offering discounts and has entered the agreement at bronze level.

It was signed by Steve Nichols, the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, and Major Mitch Pegg, Officer Commanding of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.

Mr Nichols commented: ``We were absolutely delighted to welcome the Lord Lieutenant of LIncolnshire, who is one of our Patrons, and dignitaries from HM Forces along with our local community to the Park.

"We already offer HM Forces personnel a discounted entry rate to the Park, and we are exploring ways we can work in collaboration with the Forces community.

"All of my family are in the Forces and Wendy Moore, our co-ordinator, also has family in the Forces and so we love the idea of supporting the Forces and their families in a way that is recognised for everything that we have done.

"This demonstrates how committed we are as a charity - and it'd an unusual thing as we are also quite a large tourist attraction and so for these guys and girls it's outlet for them to have a day out with their families.

"The more we can do the better it will be."

After the tour, Major Pegg admitted he was not a huge animal person but had been impressed with what he had seen.

"Lincolnshire Wildlife Park has been kind enough to offer a discount to Armed Forces personnel and their families to visit the park as their way of supporting the Armed Forces," he said.

"It's been amazing to tour the park. Steve and his staff do an amazing job - I've had my eyes opened.

"I'm not a huge animal person but I'm really impressed. This has been an amazing day."

During the ceremony, the Lord Lieutenant presented a prestigious award to Sgt Stephen Grant, also from the of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, in recognition of his service at home and abroad.

Sgt Grant, who went along to witness the signing of the Covenant, said he also enjoyed the tour.

"I came along to oversee the signing of the Covenant and it has been great to walk around and enjoy the scenery and meet interesting animals," he said.

"I'd recommend all Forces personnel to come and bring their families."

Also amongst the dignitaries attending the signing was Coun Carleen Dickinson, the ward councillor for Friskney, who is also on East Lindsey District Council.

Coun Carleen Dickinson, who had paid for the cabinet that houses the park's defibrillator out of her council allowance, said: "I've lived in Friskney for 20 years and knew it when it was just the Parrot Zoo.

"I love coming here to see how the sanctuary has changed - and especially today for the signing of the Covenant."