Award winners: Current and Historical

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

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.

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).

You are donating to : Greennature Foundation

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note