Award winners: Current and Historical

SAWMA Wildlife Excellent Award Winner 2023

Prof Brian Kevin Reilly

(Nominator: Kelly Marnewick)

Prof Reilly matriculated from Pretoria Boys High School in 1975. Between 1976-1979 he achieved a BSc and a BSc (Hons) from the University of Pretoria. He obtained an M.Sc. (Wildlife Management) (1989) also from the University of Pretoria with a thesis entitled “The ecology of an oribi Ourebia ourebi ourebi (Zimmerman 1783) population in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.”, supervised by Prof. J. du P. Bothma and co-supervised by Prof. G.K. Theron.

He did his PhD (Nature Conservation) at University of Stellenbosch between 1997-2000 with a thesis on “The statistics of helicopter counts of large ungulates in sourish mixed bushveld, NW arid bushveld & mopane veld, Republic of South Africa”, supervised by Prof. H.J. van Hensbergen.

Professionally he worked for the Transvaal Chief Directorate of Nature Conservation from January 1984 – April 1994 in various scientific roles. He then became Head of Scientific Services for the Gauteng Directorate of Nature Conservation until December 1998 where his key role was to provide decision support to reserve management and biodiversity conservation in the Province.

He then joined the Technikon Pretoria (now Tshwane University of Technology), Department of Nature Conservation in 1999. He started off as a part time lecturer and never left. He is currently a Full Professor and Head of Department. He has also acted in the role of Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Science. He has played a key role in ensuring that all course content is science-centered and has promoted the importance of research output in the Department.

He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota and a Professor at the University of the Free State.

He has published over 80 research papers with over 800 citations, he has graduated over 20 Masters students and 10 PhDs. His contribution to wildlife science has been recognised and he has been a recipient of the Safari Club International: International Conservationist of the Year Award and winning the TUT Researcher of the Year award four times in the Faculty of Science.

He is an active member of the wildlife industry and has served on several boards and committees. He is a long standing SAWMA member, has served on council and was SAWMA President 2010 – 2012 and was an associate editor of our journal from 2002 – 2006. He played an instrumental role in developing the partnership with our sister organisation the Australasian Wildlife Management Association.

He chairs the SACNASP Professional Advisory Committee for Botanical Science and the Professional Advisory Committee for Ecological Science. He has also served on the boards / councils of among others, the National Gamebird Federation, SA Wingshooters Association, Southern African Wildlife College and Southern African Institute of Ecologists.

He has written popular articles for Flyfish Magazine SA, S.A. Wingshooters, Complete Flyfisherman, S.A.Game & Hunt, SA Hunter and SA Wingshooter.

Outside of his professional life he served in the military from 1985 in the Citizen Force: Regiment Pretoria Highlanders, 73 Armoured Brigade where he achieved the rank of Captain substantive Major. He trained in Counter Insurgency, Communications operations, Counterintelligence, Battle Handling and Management, and Command and Control. He was decorated with a John Chard Medal from the South African Defense Force for 10 years of efficient service and good conduct and two Pro Patria Medals.

Brian is an avid outdoors man, he enjoys fly fishing, hunting and wing shooting. He won every category at his shooting club’s year end shoot last year with the exception of a second place in one category. He collects firearms, restores them and trains and works gun dogs. But Brian’s real achievement is how he is respected by his colleagues and students. He creates a relaxed, yet professional atmosphere in the Department under which his team thrives. As a husband, father of two and now a grandfather, he understands the importance of, and promotes a work-life balance. Staff seldom resign from the Department and generally spend their careers till retirement there. Past students are fiercely loyal towards the Department and retain their links with it – past students popping in for coffee is a regular occurrence. He has produced students who work in all corners of the wildlife industry, both in South Africa and abroad and some in very influential management positions. He is retiring in April 2023 and he will leave huge shoes to fill and a legacy in those that he has trained to ensure that conservation and wildlife management are in safe hands for the foreseeable future.

SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winners 2022

Prof Graham Kerley

(Nominator: Liaan Minnie)

Prof Kerley Accepted his certificate and medal from SAWMA Council Member and Treasurer Dr Craig Tambling.

Graham was schooled in the Eastern Cape and attended the prestigious private school –Woodridge College – but chose (It is unclear if he chose or was politely asked to leave. Probably the latter given his tales of several nefarious activities in the Woodridge hostel.) to matriculate at the Hill School, Port Elizabeth in 1973. Thereafter, he spent two years in the army playing with horses and blowing some sort of a “wind instrument”. After completing his conscription, Graham enrolled in the BSc programme at University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) and completed his BSc (Hons.) in 1979. In 1980, the promise of government‐supplied booze and cigarettes lured him to the Arctic and Sub‐Antarctic, where he was employed as a researcher and MSc student on the 37th and 38th relief expeditions to Marion Island. He completed his MSc focussing on the relationship between two species of fur seals on Marion Island in 1984 at the University of Pretoria. However, his love for windsurfing (With longflowing locks, an earring and a cigarette in the mouth, Graham impressed many Afrikaans female onlookers at the Leisure Bay Lake, Erasmus Park, Pretoria with his windsurfing prowess.) and several polite requests from Afrikaans gentlemen prompted him to return to UPE to pursue a PhD on small mammalian granivores in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, which he completed in 1990. During his post graduate career, Graham was very productive and produced 22 peer‐reviewed articles (12 on fur seals, 9 on seabirds and 1 on small mammals) in addition to successfully courting a Karoo Farmer’s daughter named Michelle Kirkman (She is still sticking it out with him, and they have twin daughters). In 1991, Graham forced Michelle to follow him to USA for a post‐doctoral fellowship at New Mexico State University focussing on the impacts of desertification on plant and small mammal communities which resulted in four peer‐reviewed articles. In 1992, Graham settled at UPE where he was employed as a Lecturer in Zoology, and he established the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE; then Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit).

Significant contributions to science and education

I have known Graham for 16 years, and he has always had a passion for science and training the next generation of scientists. Graham has a H‐index of 55 (Google Scholar; 31 May 2021) including 11 390 citations (1 095 citations in 2020 and 500 in 2021). He has produced 240 peer‐reviewed articles, with most of them focussing on terrestrial mammal ecology. In addition, he has produced several conference outputs, reports, popular articles, etc. (see attached CV). To date he has graduated 22 PhD and 60 MSc students and has mentored 10 post‐doctoral fellows.

Significant contributions to wildlife management and community service Apart from training scientists who are currently working in provisional and national conservation organisations, and producing many articles focusing on the conservation and management of wildlife, Graham has been directly involved in conservation, wildlife management and legislation in an advisory or managerial roll. This includes: 1) Member of the Provincial Environmental Advisory Forum for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism; 2) Member of the Minister’s Science Round Table on Elephant Management; 3) Member of the Baviaanskloof Mega‐Reserve Steering Committee; 4) Director of Eastern Cape Provincial Parks Board; 5) Member of the SCIFEST National

Advisory Committee; 6) Board Member of South African National Parks; 7) Member of the Scientific Advisory Panel on Alien and Invasive Species; and 8) Invited member of the IUCN specialists groups for Equids, wild pigs and bison.

Throughout his career, Graham has produced several specialist reports for EIAs, and habitat assessments and management plans for private nature reserves. Most notably, he was involved in the establishment of the Baviaanskloof Mega‐Reserve and the expansion of the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. In addition, he has also produced four books (Skead series on Historical incidence of mammals in Southern Africa and a Scientific Assessment of Livestock Predation in South Africa) specifically aimed at assisting conservation‐ and livestock managers. Graham is a member of nine professional societies, inclu ding a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a life member of Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA) and a life member of SAWMA since 1996 (although he was a member long before that). He has hosted several conferences/symposia for these societies and hosted two SAWMA conferences. He has reviewed manuscripts for 54 journals and has served on the editorial board for eight local and international journals, including the African Journal of Wildlife Research (Associate editor: 2005 – current). In recognition of his achievements, Graham as received several awards, including: the Mike Cawood Trophy for Outstanding Contributions to Conservation and Game Management in the Eastern Cape (Eastern Cape Game Management Association); the Nelson Mandela Bay Citizen of the Year in Environmental Conservation; the Top Ten Conservationists of the Decade Award (Mazda Wildlife Fund); and the ZSSA Gold Medal. From his humble Eastern Cape beginnings, Graham established himself as a Distinguished Professor at the Nelson Mandela University, the Director of ACE, a B‐rated National Research Foundation scientists, an Official Measurer of game trophies for Rowland Ward’s”Records of Big Game” (for some reason this was highlighted in his CV), a slightly above par hunter, a mediocre fisherman, and a connoisseur of fine wine, beer and whiskey. Most importantly, he is an exceptional scientist, supervisor, mentor and friend. With reference to the above achievements and his attached CV, it is my honour to nominate Professor Graham Ian Holme Kerley for the SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award in 2022.

Dr Mark Anderson

Dr Mark Anderson

(Nominator – Julius Koen)

Over the past three decades, Mark Anderson has made a significant contribution to the study and conservation of birds in South Africa and further afield in Africa.

Mark Anderson’s Masters’ Degree (cum laude) was on the ecophysiological adaptations of the aardwolf to a seasonally unavailable source of food. He published 20 scientific and popular publications from his research, including in the prestigious journals Ecology, Journal of Zoology (London), Physiological Zoology, and Functional Ecology. He also wrote the 11-page treatise on the aardwolf for Jonathan Kingdon’s multi-volume Mammals of Africa. As a result of his knowledge of the aardwolf, he was invited to serve on the IUCN’s Hyaena Specialist Group.

He joined the “Department of Nature Conservation” as a nature conservation scientist in the Northern Cape in 1991, where he worked for almost 18 years. He worked up the ranks to the position of Specialist Nature Conservation Scientist, and was apparently the only nature conservation scientist to hold this specialist position in South Africa. While in this position, Mark focused his attention on the study and conservation of large terrestrial birds, waterbirds, and raptors.

He initiated a long-term study, with the assistance of about 20 residents (mainly farmers) to survey Blue Cranes, Ludwig’s Bustards and other large terrestrial birds in the Eastern Karoo. This was the second Coordinated Road Count precinct, an initiative that was expanded to other parts of South Africa. The results of this monitoring showed that the Ludwig’s Bustard population was in decline, probably as a result of a single mortality factor. This was confirmed during a study of large terrestrial bird collisions with powerlines, where the significance of this mortality factor was conclusively shown. This initial research has led to several post-graduate studies, and the subsequent implementation of mitigation measures by Eskom.

Mark undertook extensive waterbird monitoring in the Northern Cape, and counted these birds at more than 40 wetlands across the Northern Cape in mid-summer and mid-winter. This was a significant undertaking, especially considering the distances one has to travel across this vast province. These are the only waterbird population data available for most of these wetlands. The products of this research include an important paper on the waterbirds of the Orange River mouth, confirming the wetland’s Ramsar status (Anderson, M.D., Kolberg, H., Anderson, P.C., Dini, J. & Abrahams, A. 2003. Waterbird populations at the Orange River mouth from 1980-2001: a re-assessment of its Ramsar status. Ostrich 74 (3&4): 159-172) and a popular book (Anderson, M.D. 2006. Birds of the Orange River estuary and surrounding area. Bright Continent Guide 5, University of Cape Town) on the waterbirds of the Orange River mouth.

He made important contributions to the study and conservation of raptors in the Northern Cape. These include (a) initiating a long-term White-backed Vulture monitoring project with Angus Anthony at Dronfield Game Farm outside Kimberley (this project is in its 30th year in 2022!), (b) studying the impact of raptors drowning in farm reservoirs and (Anderson, M.D., Maritz, A.W.A. & Oosthuysen, E. 1999. Raptors drowning in farm reservoirs: impacts on southern African populations. Ostrich 70(2): 139-144) (c) reviewing the threats to raptors in the Northern Cape (Anderson, M.D. 2000. Raptor conservation in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Ostrich 71(1&2): 25-32.). Mark focused much of his attention on vulture research and conservation, including hosting workshops and writing papers (Anderson, M.D., Piper, S.E. & Swan, G.E. 2005. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in South Africa and possible effects on vultures. South African Journal of Science 101: 112-114.) on the Asian Vulture Crisis and its potential impact on Africa’s vultures. Mark was the Editor of Vulture News (2005-2019), the world’s only scientific journal about vultures.

Mark is probably most well known for his efforts to monitor and conserve the population of Lesser Flamingos at Kamfers Dam, outside Kimberley. He started surveying the flamingos in 1991 and this was done, at times, on a monthly basis. It was during these surveys that he determined that both Lesser and Greater Flamingos constructed nests at Kamfers Dam, occasionally laying eggs. They were never successful, probably because of receding water levels in summer, poaching and/or human disturbance. He proposed to Ekapa Mining that a flamingo island on the dam would allow the flamingos to breed, and a large 250 x 20 m structure was built in 2006. The Lesser Flamingos bred during three consecutive years (9000 chicks in the first year, and 13,000 chicks in the second year), making this one of only four places in Africa (and one of six sites in the world) where this threatened flamingo breeds. Both Lesser and Greater Flamingos have subsequently bred on the shoreline on the south-western end of the dam. This project, widely recognized as one of the world’s most important flamingo conservation initiatives, has received international acclaim and a number of important awards.

Mark took up the position of Chief Executive Officer at BirdLife South Africa in October 2008 and he is credited at turning the then embattled organisation around. BirdLife South Africa is regarded by government (e.g., the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment), academic institutions (e.g., the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT), other NGOs (such as WWF-SA) and international organisations (such as BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) as one of South Africa’s, Africa’s and indeed the world’s leading conservation organisations. BirdLife South Africa is now in a healthy financial position, and has made annual surpluses since 2010.

It is through Mark’s efforts that the organisation has a suite of well-functioning governance structures (such a Board of Directors, Audit & Risk Committee, Remuneration Committee, Nominations Committee and Senior Management Committee) and governance instruments (such as 80 policies/procedures, a set of position statements, a delegation of authority, etc.). Mark has ensured that BirdLife South Africa has impeccable financial administration, is King IV compliant and thus has good corporate governance.

Mark has ensured that the profile of BirdLife South Africa has been raised through the work of the organisation’s Marketing Committee and with assistance from two pro bono advertising agencies, Utopia and Flume. BirdLife South Africa communicates with its members and the public via a number of media, including roadside billboards, social media, a monthly enewsletter, and African Birdlife magazine.

During Mark’s tenure as CEO of BirdLife South Africa, he has grown the organistation’s support base and income streams and as a result, the ca R40 million pa organisation, is profitable. In order to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of BirdLife South Africa, Mark was instrumental in setting up the organisation’s Legacy Programme and the BirdLife (South Africa) National Trust (the current investments total more than R20 million).  

He was responsible for the raising of the funds and purchase and renovation of Isdell House, BirdLife South Africa’s head office in Johannesburg. This immaculate office, which has been valued at more than R20 million, has raised the profile and professionalism of BirdLife South Africa.

Mark initiated and managed two five-day and one seven-day BirdLife South Africa voyages on large MSC cruise ships. There were c. 1200, c. 2200 and c. 1500 people on the three voyages, coined Flocks at Sea. Not only are these good for creating awareness about birds and BirdLife South Africa, but they also bring in significant funding for bird conservation. More than R5 million was raised during the January 2022 Flock to Marion voyage.

A significant portion of Mark’s time is now being dedicated to the Mouse-Free Marion Project, a c. R315 million project which aims to eradicate mice from Marion Island. This project is a partnership between BirdLife South Africa and the Northern Cape Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. The mice are having a devastating impact on the island’s seabirds, killing hundreds of thousands of petrels and albatrosses every year. Mark is Chairman of the Mouse-Free Marion Management Committee, a Director of the Mouse-Free Marion Non-Profit Company Board, and Co-Chair of the Mouse-Free Marion Project Steering Committee.

Mark has held numerous positions, including as a Director on the WESSA Board, Chairman of the BirdLife Africa Regional Committee, as a BirdLife Global Council Member, and as a member of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology’s Board.

He has received a number of awards for his work, including Bob Blundell Memorial Scholarship (1989), Astley Maberly Memorial Scholarship (1989), Wildlife & Environment Society scroll (1997), Gariep Raptor Conservationist Award (1998), Professional Hunters Association of South Africa’s (PHASA) nature conservation officer of the year (1999), BirdLife South Africa Owl Award (2004), BirdLife South Africa Eagle Award (2008), African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Waterbird Conservation Award (Individual Category) (2008), Vulture Conservation Award (Endangered Wildlife Trust) (2010), Northern Cape Raptor Conservation Forum Gold Award (2011), and Northern Cape Person of the Year – finalist (2011).

Listen to Mark’s acceptance speech here:


SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winners 2021

Prof Marthán N Bester

Prof Marthán Bester’s lifelong dedication to marine mammal conservation, management and research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica is evidenced in his impressive publication record, supervision of students, capacity building of conservationists, field workers, students and colleagues. His diplomacy in policy and management, alongside scientific excellence has resulted in continuation of long-term research programmes through turbulent times in South Africa’s history. He has promoted Antarctic awareness and research not only to his students and colleagues, but to thousands of undergraduates, schoolchildren and public through publications, lectures and radio/ television appearances.

After completing his undergraduate studies and an MSc degree in Zoology at the University of Stellenbosch, Marthán completed his DSc at the University of Pretoria (UP) in 1978, on what remains relevant foundational biological work on Subantarctic fur seals. He served as a Biologist for the Department of Transport – later Department of Environmental Affairs, in conjunction with the UP and undertook 7 research expeditions to various Southern Ocean islands in the 1970s and 80s. He accompanied multinational expeditions to Southern Ocean islands (e.g. Heard, King George, Amsterdam islands) and Antarctica as researcher, and facilitated student involvement in international research expeditions to Bouvetoya, Macquarie Island and Antarctica. Between 1982-1996 he became Antarctic Research Officer (Mammals) to the Department of Environmental Affairs, before starting as Lecturer at UP. During the period 1997–2002 he was promoted from Lecturer to Full Professor at UP. After retiring in 2014, Marthán remained affiliated to the University of Pretoria as Emeritus Professor and took up a position as Senior Research Fellow affiliated with the Mammal Research Institute – a position he still holds.

Professor Bester remains a tremendously productive and influential international scientist, having published more than 230 peer-reviewed research articles and boasting an an h-index of 36. In addition, he’s published at least 14 book chapters and presented research at more than 70 local- and international conferences. This academic excellence is recognised, and he was recently re-rated by the NRF and awarded another B rating (i.e. as a researcher ‘enjoying considerable international recognition by their peers’). This is the fourth time he’s been recognised in this category, having maintained such international recognition status since 2003.

Perhaps his foremost scientific legacy is that he conceived, initiated, maintained, and managed (uninterrupted since 1983) the intensive Marion Island southern elephant seal mark-recapture research endeavour. This programme stands as one of the longest running and most important large mammal datasets in existence globally and is the foremost of its kind for the species. His legacy on Marion Island in particular is extraordinary in other ways too, particularly given the most influential role he played in coordinating the almost 20-year long (1972-1991) successful endeavour to eradicate invasive cats from Marion Island. Indeed, this has also been recognised by others such as the University of Stellenbosch/Department of Science and Technology Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, which awarded Marthán a Peer Recognition of the Extraordinary Conservation Feat award in 2010 for his role in eradicating cats from Marion Island.

During his career, Marthán fulfilled a number of important roles in international bodies crucial to the management of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic territories and the associated wildlife. For example, he has been a full member of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research
(SCAR) since 1984, serving here on the Steering Committee of the Antarctic Pack Ice Seals (APIS) programme, as member and Secretary of the Expert Group on Seals (EGS), as well as member of the SCAR Action Group on Antarctic Fuel Spills (AGAFS). In more recent years he has also served as member of the Tristan Biodiversity Advisory Group, as well as Honorary Conservation Officer for the Government of Tristan da Cunha.

Locally, his roles have included that of Task Group member reviewing the Marion Island Cat Eradication Programme, as well as Scientific Advisor to the Department of Environmental Affairs: Sub-directorate Antarctica and Islands. He was a Steering Committee member of the South African National Antarctic Programme and served as member of the Prince Edward Islands Management Committee. Important to SAWMA, he additionally served as Associate Editor of South African Journal of Wildlife Research between 2007 and 2014.

Many of his colleagues and former students may argue that an even greater legacy built by Prof Bester lies in the students that he guided and the collaborations he built with local and international scientists, forging multiple training and networking opportunities for the following generations of scientists and environmental managers in South Africa. He has supervised more than 30 MSc and 13 PhD projects to completion and hosted 10 postdocs. Additionally, he enabled more than 120 South African field assistants/students from a variety of cultural backgrounds to spend expedition years at Marion Island. Because of their expedition research and experience gained, most of these “Sealers” and “Cat hunters” have completed postgraduate degrees and many have gone on to hold influential positions in research and conservation both nationally and internationally.
His achievements are not only a result of his tremendous foresight, but also of dedication and a remarkable capacity for hard work, whilst at the same time maintaining a friendly and welcoming demeanour to all. His convivial personality and industrious approach mean that it comes as no surprise that Marthán continues to successfully collaborate with international scientists across the world. He is an excellent ambassador for Antarctic research, influential marine mammal scientist and a role model for many.

Dr Peter S Goodman

Throughout his career, Dr Peter Goodman has made a significant contribution to biodiversity conservation not only in South Africa but also across the continent. Even though retired, he continues to dedicate his life to conservation and research. His love of the natural world started when he was a kid and further intensified in the 1970s when Peter served his year’s national service in the parachute battalion “in the bush” establishing a base at Kutima Mlilo in the Caprivi Strip. Peter obtained his BSc (Botany and Zoology) at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1972, his BSc(Hons) in Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria in 1973 and his MSc in Tropical Resource Management at the University of Rhodesia in 1975. Pete holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of the Witwatersrand. His thesis investigated the relations between soils, vegetation and large herbivores in Mkuzi Game Reserve, Natal.

Peter started his career as Regional Ecologist for Maputaland in the then Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) in 1975. He served in this position for 22 years, from 1975 to 1997. While at Mkuze, Peter became known for this work on black rhino. In 1997, he was appointed as the provincial level co-ordinator of biodiversity research. After 36 years of working for Ezemvelo, Peter retired, but continues with major contributions to conservation by consulting in protected area wildlife management throughout Eastern and Southern Africa. He is currently scientific advisor to the KZN Rhino Management Group (RMG) as well as the Black Rhino Expansion Project. Throughout his career, Dr Goodman has worked in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Cambodia, Iran, Namibia, Kenya, Libya, Swaziland, Uganda and on the Ivory Coast. Peter is also a founding member of African Wildlife Vets, a non-profit organisation with the aim of assisting wildlife organisations with conservation by providing essential veterinary support.

Career Highlights:

  • Developing international understanding of savannah ecosystems and how they should be managed
  • Regional wildlife ecologist
  • Coordinating the development of Biodiversity Research and Monitoring units
  • Development and implementation of local community-based wildlife monitoring systems
  • Co-ordinating the first strategic environmental assessment of KZN province
  • Spearheading the establishment of a huge electronic data base on conservation in KZN
  • Creating biodiversity reporting systems for KZN
  • Development of regional species-specific management strategies and recovery plans (e.g. black and white rhino and Persian fallow deer)
  • Mentoring of local research and technical staff in conjunction with the development of Standard Operating Procedures for monitoring

Outside of an extremely impressive career in conservation, Peter remains a steadfast mentor always offering his years of experience, knowledge and kind personality to help others. He is truly a kind and giving soul. Peter is always keen to assist and read over a MSc dissertation, lend his opinion and solutions on conservation issues and even be a listening ear to ventings of personal jubilations and frustrations. He is full of exciting tales and wonderous stories, which he is always open to share sitting around a warm fire drinking a glass of red wine. Just being in the presence of Peter stirs a sense of inspiration at his amazing conservation feats and his humble demur, not to mention his impressive dedication to wake up and run a 5 km every morning even at the young age of 71. Although educated and trained in “the old school ways” of conservation and wildlife management, Dr Goodman believes in incorporating the old with the new and has self-taught himself modern ecological techniques and continues to strive to use the latest technology as it grows and develops with the times.

Peter also has a very holistic method of landscape level restoration and strongly believes in incorporating the human element, involving local communities, as part of the solution to create positive and impactful outcomes.

Dr Goodman is a rare gem in the essence that he has the wealth and knowledge of years of experience but is always willing to continue to learn and adapt his methods as technology develops. He has and continues to make positive impacts in conservation along with the lives of people living in and around conservation areas. He is a teacher and a mentor, and an in general wholesome human and embodies the spirit of the Southern African Wildlife Management Association Award for Excellence in Wildlife Management and/or Research.

Mrs Elizabeth M Marais (known as Elma)

Elma was born on April Fool’s day 1962. However, as her formative years would demonstrate, Elma is no fool. Elma completed her BSc (in Zoology and Botany) in 1983, closely followed by a BSc (Hons) in plant physiology, which she passed cum laude, in 1984. Although she received several awards for her academic achievements in Botany, including the PG Jordaan award for best third year student in Plant Morphology and Plant Systematics in 1983, and the award for the best student botanist from the South African Association of Botanists (also in 1983), Elma elected to initially pursue a career as a biology teacher after completing her Higher Education Diploma in 1985. Between 1986 and 1988, Elma taught biology at Brackenfell High in the Western Cape. This was followed by two years as a part-time lecturer of biology for post-matric learners at Tygerberg Technical College.

After a relatively brief foray into formal teaching, the lure of the field and her love for nature became too much. As such, Elma accepted a job as the coordinator of environmental education for the Cape under what was then the Chief Directorate of Nature Conservation (now Cape Nature). Elma served in this capacity for five years, before being promoted to the position of communications officer for Cape Nature. However, after two years in this position, Elma elected to take a voluntary severance package and tried her hand at her own business between 1996 and 1998. Luckily for us, in 1998, Elma decided that owning her own business was not for her and she accepted the co-opted position of Secretary of SAWMA. Elma has been in this position ever since. A total of 23 years of dedicated and committed service to wildlife management in the region!

When one considers that SAWMA is 51 years old this year, Elma has been nothing short of an institution in and of herself, having been part of the administration for nearly half of the association’s history.

Elma’s official job description lists her duties as being general administration, accounting and communication with members. However, we all know that her job is so much more than that. Elma’s institutional memory and exceptionally caring nature are just two of the reasons why our association is so successful and why we all feel part of the same SAWMA family. Elma is one of the hardest working individuals in our association who, although her job description does not say so, routinely deputizes as the Treasurer, Vice-President and even President. From single-handedly organizing conferences to being an empathic shoulder to cry on, Elma is everything to our association. In fact, Elma is SAWMA!

It is on the basis of her unwavering commitment and dedication to the association that she was chosen for the prestigious SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award in 2021.

SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winner 2019

Dr David T Rowe-Rowe

Dr Dave Rowe-Rowe was born in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape in 1938. After growing up in both the rural Eastern Cape and Botswana, Dave matriculated from Port Shepstone High School (KZN) in 1956 and initially trained as a biology teacher, qualifying in 1959. Perhaps it was the trauma of having to teach teenage kids, but in 1966 Dave joined the scientific staff of the then Natal Parks Board and later gained entrance (without having completed a prior degree) into the University of Natal, Durban to undertake a Master’s degree. He demonstrated rather nicely that the decision to let him register for a Master’s was fully justified by graduating (with distinction) in 1976. His thesis covered aspects of the biology of several southern African mustelids, work which he continued throughout his career and for which he is probably best known. Dave was awarded his PhD on the ecology of several mammals in the Drakensberg in 1983 (whilst still working for the Parks Board).

Apart from spending 30 years in the service of the Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) where he was at the coalface of wildlife management in South Africa, Dave was also one of the founding members of SAWMA in 1970. In fact, Dave is one of the very few life members of SAWMA and has been since 1971. Moreover, Dave served as SAWMA’s journal editor between 1986 and 1993, a tenure of 7 years which makes him the longest serving editor in the association’s history.

Dave not only served as editor for SAWMA but also for several other important publications, including:

  • the Lammergeyer (the Natal Parks Board Journal) for 10 years;
  • the Natal Parks Board leaflet series: Wildlife Management Technical Guides;
  • the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin for 4 years; and
  • proceedings of the Sixth International Otter Colloquium.

Before he retired, Dave was responsible for research on a broad range of species and ecosystem processes including freshwater fish, antelope, small mammals, aspects of fire ecology, habitat management and carnivore ecology. This diverse suite of study animals and systems is evident in his publication record wherein he has published more than 100 peer-reviewed and popular articles and attended numerous conferences and workshops (many times as an invited expert). However, it is his work on mustelids and otters more specifically that Dave is best known. Indeed, apart from publishing numerous papers on otters, he has also been a member of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist group since 1974 and acted as the coordinator for Africa between 1974 and 1996. Dave remains the “go to” individual for all things otter in Africa. Although retired (and at the age of 80!) he is still regularly contacted for his expert input and many of his early (and seminal) papers on otters continue to be widely cited. Another little-known fact about Dave is that he is also somewhat of a poet, having published a collection of 14 poems in a book entitled: “Green water, grey sand, and high places”.

Dr Mike Mentis, a contemporary of Dave writes:

I have known Dave for more than 50 years as a colleague and a friend. I know no one who is more deserving of SAWMA’s Wildlife Excellence Award. Possibly his humility and modesty mislead people. But for those who have worked with him, he is an astute observer of wildlife and people with has an admirable ability to read ‘sign’ and ‘body language’. His work is always professional, perceptive and pragmatic. In his quiet way, Dave has been a foremost contributor, in substantive content and by example, to the science of South African wildlife management, and it has been an honour and privilege to travel the journey with him.

Watch the citation of Dr Rowe-Rowe below:

SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winner 2018

Prof Rudi van Aarde

Professor Rudi van Aarde has a professional career, devoted to wildlife management in southern Africa, that spans 44 years. In this time, he has authored or co-authored 201 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 13 book chapters, 126 technical reports, 56 popular articles, and he has presented his research findings on 197 occasions at national or international conferences and public forums, several of these as invited speaker or guest lecturer. He has supervised 67 PhD and MSc students since 1991, and 11 post-doctoral fellows completed their research under his supervision.

He has been a council member of both of the major professional bodies in his field – SAWMA and ZSSA. Notably, from a SAWMA perspective, he was a council member from 1994 and served as president of SAWMA for two terms (2000-2002 and 2003–2004). During his tenure as president of SAWMA, he initiated a turn-around strategy that improved the financial position of the organization significantly, and he also drove the concept of annual meetings.

In recent times, Rudi is perhaps best known for his work on the spatial structuring and dynamics of African elephant populations across southern Africa and on the determinants of the responses of coastal forest communities to ecological restoration. His research on elephants focuses on the drivers of demographic variability and heterogeneity in spatial utilization. His development of the ‘megaparks for metapopulations’ concept provides a platform for elephant management and his more recent research and publications emphasise the interactions between landscapes, habitat, management interventions and the demography of elephant. Through his publications and invited participation in specialist groups he plays a pivotal role in extending management options for elephants. Rudi’s research on the restoration of coastal dune forest, a small bioregion within the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot, is justified by industry’s legal commitment to rehabilitate mined landscapes. He and his team of postgraduate students continue to develop and validate sensitive indicators of restoration success based on measures of ecological responses of species and of communities. Rudi’s scientific achievements here provide a recognised scientific foundation for restoration ecology in southern Africa. His approach finds implementation in the evaluation of restoration success as a sought-after outcome of sustainable development that earmarks the activities of major mining houses throughout the world.

Rudi established CERU a self-sufficient research group at the University of Pretoria in 1998. Grants and contracts that he raises from government associated organisations, wildlife departments and private industries, both nationally and internationally, provide for the employment of research fellows, support staff and post-graduate bursaries. This funding also enables the maintenance of field laboratories and running costs of with research and postgraduate training. Collaborative research strengthened his academic activity and post-graduate training programs. Rudi has served on several conservation management committees. He regularly reviews papers for high impact factor scientific journals in his field of specialisation and serves on several international research grant and evaluation committees. He frequently advises industry, government and conservation departments on conservation-related issues. The University of Pretoria has awarded him for exceptional academic achievement on four occasions, and he is a Fellow of the RSSAf.

From a more personal perspective, Rudi’s passion for southern African wildlife is also illustrated by his widely recognized photographic skills. In this regard, he has received Agfa photographic awards in 2001 and 2002; and Fuji photographic awards in 2004, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. His artistic work is well known to SAWMA audiences, as is his gripping commentary and passion that goes along with this.

SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winner 2017

Dr John Hanks

Short Bio:

Dr John Hanks is a zoologist by training with his first degree in Natural Sciences from Magdalene College, Cambridge, followed by a PhD on the reproductive physiology, growth, and population dynamics of the African elephant in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia. He has over 45 years of experience in a wide variety of conservation management, environmental education and research projects.

He has worked in several African countries, including Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. His major most important postings have been: Chief Professional Officer for the Natal Parks Board; Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences, then the first Director of the Institute of Natural Resources at the University of Natal; the Director of the Africa Program for WWF International (based in Gland, Switzerland); the Chief Executive of WWF-South Africa; the first Executive Director of the Peace Parks Foundation. He has published over 150 scientific papers and three books.


His greatest contribution has been in providing the mentoring and leadership that has helped develop the professional careers of a great number of African Conservation practitioners, from wardens in the field to biologists, research scientists and administrators. He co-founded the MSc and Diploma Courses in Tropical Resource Ecology at the University of Zimbabwe (when it was then Rhodesia) then spearheaded the foundation and development of the Institute of Natural Resources and was its first director. Later he headed the development of the Southern African Wildlife College.

During the course of his career he has supervised and examined the higher degrees for a large number of African wildlife scientists and unlike many scientists he has been a great communicator with both scientific communities and the general public.

He was also a founder member of the SAWMA.

Career timeline:

Biologist in the Kafue National Park, Zambia.
Biologist with the National Council for Scientific Research in Zambia.

Course Organiser for the M.Sc. in Tropical Resource Ecology in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Rhodesia in February 1972.

Appointed Chief Professional Officer with the Natal Parks Board.
Responsibilities: overall supervision of the Board’s terrestrial research programme, staff of 21 professional and technical officers.

Appointed April 1978 as Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Natal at the Durban campus.

Appointed in 1980 as the first Director of the Institute of Natural Resources at the University of Natal.
Initiated the concept of the Institute and was instrumental in persuading the major donor to purchase the buildings for it.

Appointed 1985 International Projects Manager for WWF International in Gland, Switzerland. Responsible for establishing Projects Management Department (until December 1988).
Then appointed Director, Aid Agency Relations, and Director, Africa Programme for WWF International.

1990 – 31 January 1997:
Appointed Chief Executive of WWF South Africa.
He championed the planning and development of the Southern African Wildlife College.

1 Feb 1997 – 31 July 2000:
Appointed the first Executive Director of the Peace Parks Foundation.
Board Member of the Southern African Wildlife College.

Oct 2000 – 31 Aug 2004
Appointed Director of Conservation International’s TFCA Initiatives in Southern Africa.
Member of the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board and Chair of the Board’s Fundraising and Development Sub-Committee.

2004 – present
Private consultant.

SAWMA Wildlife Excellence Award Winners 2016

Dr Neil Fairall (posthumous award)

Dr Neil Fairall, who passed away on 25 May 2015, was a founder and honorary life member of SAWMA who played a very significant role in SAWMA as longest serving council member in various capacities as president, scientific journal editor and ordinary council positions. He was a man of high standards, committed to conservation and research.

Neil finished his schooling at Pietermaritzburg College in KwaZulu-Natal and started his working career on Nuanetzi Ranch in southern Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) working with cattle. In 1960, he was employed by the National Parks Board as a game ranger (technical assistant) in the north of the Kruger National Park (Shingwedzi). After completing his BSc(Agric) at the University of Pretoria, he started working as biologist in Skukuza.

He left the National Parks Board in 1970 to head the research section of the then Cape Provincial Nature Conservation Department. In 1977, he joined the Mammal Research Institute as Senior Research Officer at the University of Pretoria. His research interests were herbivore/plant interactions, with specific reference to elephants and hyrax. After 6 years at the University of Pretoria, he moved back to the Western Cape in 1984 to be employed by the Cape Provincial Nature Conservation Department’s Scientific Services at their Jonkershoek (Assegaaibos) Station until his retirement in 1995.

Shortly after his retirement, Neil was appointed as Coordinator of a part-time Honours course at the Forestry Faculty of the University of Stellenbosch in 1996. This was followed by his last appointment with the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU), Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, where he was tasked with postgraduate student support from 2000 to 2005.

He finally retired at the end of 2005 to Kleinmond, where he continued with an environmental Consultancy,doing work such as:

  • Solid Refuse Management and a recycling plan for the Overstrand Municipality;
  • Creation of the Groenland Water Users Association of which he was the first Chairman;
  • Served on the First Cape Nature Board;
  • Instrumental in the establishment of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (KOBIO).

Emeritus Professor J du P (Koos) Bothma

Prof Jacobus du Plessis Bothma matriculated at the Helpmekaar Boys High School in Johannesburg in 1957 and did his military service at the South African Air Force Gymnasium in 1958. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Botany and Zoology at the University of Pretoria in 1962, followed by a Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Pretoria in 1964.

He was appointed as a Professional Officer in the former Division of Nature Conservation of the  Transvaal Province in 1964, and was granted salaried leave in 1965 to obtain a PhD degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A&M University, Texas, USA where he graduated in 1969 and returned to his post.

He was seconded permanently to the new Eugène Marais Chair of Wildlife Management at the Department of Zoology of the University of Pretoria on 1 January 1970, with the rank of Senior Lecturer, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971 and to Full Professor in 1981.

He became the Director of the new post-graduate Centre for Wildlife Management in the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Pretoria in 1989 until he retired in 2005. In his academic career he trained 380 BSc (Honours), 52 MSc and 11 PhD graduates in wildlife management.

Among others he was a Founder Member of the Southern African Wildlife Management Association and President in 1975, the President of the South African Biological Society in 1980 and the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Tourism and Nature Conservation Corporation of Qwaqwa. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Transvaal Museum, a Co-founder of The Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa and a Member of its  Scientific Advisory Board,  a Member of the Advisory Board of the Mammal Research Institute of the University of Pretoria and a Founder Member of the Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists. He also was the President of the University of Pretoria Rugby Club.

He received the Award as the Best Senior Student in Biology at Helpmekaar Boys High School, was a Welder Wildlife Foundation Fellow in Texas, USA, received the Senior Captain Scott Memorial Medal for exemplary biological research  from the South African Academy of Science and Art, received the Order of the Bataleur for his contributions to wildlife production and conservation from the South African Hunters and Wildlife Conservation Association, received the prestigious Tuks Alumni Award of Excellence from the University of Pretoria, was Listed as a Notable Alumnus of the University of Pretoria and was nominated for the Bill Venter Literary Award for his Game Ranch Management books. He was rated as a researcher by the National Research Foundation.

To date he has been the editor, author, co-author or contributor to 21 books, the author or co-author of 102 refereed scientific papers, and the author of 246 popular science papers. He has presented 37 papers on national and 29 papers on international conferences. He is still active as a national and international wildlife consultant and writer. 

Emeritus Professor Norman Owen-Smith

Norman Owen-Smith has been a highly acclaimed (A rated) scientist in South Africa and internationally for many years. When it comes to understanding adaptive foraging by various herbivores, with his development of the functional generic resource concept that can be applied to both browsers and grazers and various combinations, Norman has taken the field far beyond the over-simplified concept of wet and dry season resources. At the time of his retirement he was Research Professor in African Ecology at Wits University, and still continues to be actively involved in research.

His research focus has been on the ecology of large mammalian herbivores, their interactions with vegetation, applications of optimal foraging theory to consumer-resource interactions and population dynamics, with special reference to African savanna ecosystems. He has produced three scientific books. His publication record in scientific journals is remarkable and stands at 237, many of them in high quality journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology, Journal of Animal Ecology, Oecologia, American Naturalist, as well as a number in our own journal.

His earlier work was on megaherbivores and the allometric effects of scaling on ecological processes, the topic of his first book Megaherbivores (1988). This work deals with the ecology of the largest land mammals and is of particular relevance to the management of elephants and their impact on ecosystem processes, and one that has been of considerable interest to scientists and managers in a number of areas in southern Africa, including the Kruger National Park. It also provides an ecological perspective to the other side of the megaherbivore coin; that of the rapidly declining conservation status of elephants and rhinos and the ramifying effects of human beings on ecosystem processes.

He then became interested in population dynamics of herbivores and produced a number of papers analysing the influence of biotic factors on herbivore population dynamics, culminating in his second book Adaptive Herbivore Ecology (2002). In this book he innovatively links the principles of adaptive behaviour to their consequences for population dynamics and community ecology. Again this work has guided and helped scientists and managers to understand ecological processes through a metaphysiological (fundamental) modelling approach

His third book Introduction to Modelling in Wildlife and Resource Conservation (2007) is a handbook which provides students and established researchers with the skills to develop their own models for application in conservation biology and wildlife management. Its strength lies in the fact that it assumes no special mathematical expertise; the computational models are kept simple and show how to develop models in both spreadsheet and programming language format. 

Latterly he has become a master at data trawling and has made excellent use of the extensive monitoring programs in Kruger, using the data productively, in conjunction with SANParks and other scientists, through the application of a number of models, to help them understand and interpret many of the complex relationships and ecological processes in the ecosystem. Predation impacts and food-webs, causes of decline in roan and sable antelope and the influence of annual rainfall on the herbivore populations are some of the aspects that have been discussed. Much of this work would not have been published were it not for his enthusiasm and generosity in encouraging and helping fellow scientists and colleagues to use their data constructively.

Apart from his notable achievements and influence through his publications he has also supervised a number of PhD students, some of who have gone on to make their own contribution to wildlife research in Southern Africa; for example Johan du Toit and Angela Gaylard. 

Dr Michael (Gus) Mills

Dr Gus Mills has spent over 40 years conducting research on large carnivores in southern Africa. His initial work was on brown and spotted hyenas in the Southern Kalahari, culminating in the publication of Kalahari hyenas: the comparative behavioural ecology of two species in 1990. He studied lion and cheetah feeding ecology, ecological relationships among the large carnivores. His research on wild dog population ecology in Kruger National Park ran for 15 years.

Gus was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and for more than a decade he wore both a SANParks and a EWT hat, conducting carnivore conservation and management-related research throughout southern Africa. Some major achievements during this time included:

  • the long-term monitoring of wild dogs in southern Kruger, including two park-wide photographic surveys;
  • the coordination and development of a conservation plan for wild dogs in South Africa which ultimately catalyzed the managed metapopulation strategy which has led to a doubling of the national population of this species;
  • the coordination and compilation of a global action plan for the Hyaenidae;
  • the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Lion Population Ecology Project (completed in 2001) and Kalahari Cheetah Population Survey (completed 1999); and
  • a study on urban brown hyaenas in Gauteng.

In 2006, Gus took up the position of research fellow at the Lewis Foundation, South Africa, and he and his wife Margie returned to the Kalahari to undertake a 6-year-long cheetah study to better understand the demographics of the cheetah population, as well as their feeding ecology, land tenure system, mating system, and mortality and limiting factors. He has recently published a book summarising his findings and comparing his results with the results of cheetah research in the Serengeti.

Gus has contributed immensely to the development of young wildlife conservationists in southern Africa, through his supervision of a seven PhD and five MSc theses on aspects of lion, cheetah, wild dog, brown hyena, honey badger and African wild cat behaviour and ecology.

He is a prolific writer and has contributed immensely to the literature on large carnivores. At last count, his outputs have included seven books (including two, Hyena Nights and Kalahari Days and A Natural History Guide to the Arid Kalahari with his wife Margie) and over 140 scientific papers. Gus has been a contributing editor for several esteemed scientific journals, and has been an active member of the Editorial Committee for the South Africa Journal of Wildlife Research (now African Journal of Wildlife Research) since 2001. He is an accomplished spokesperson for large carnivores and has delivered more than 90 talks at conferences and symposia worldwide.

Gus is a senior member of several IUCN Carnivore Specialist Groups, including former chairman of the Hyena Specialist Group, and member of the steering committees of the Cat Specialist Group and the Canid Specialist Group. He has served as a member on several boards of scientific journals and conservation organisations.

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