Anthony Hall-Martin: Na­ture’s quiet prize­fighter

Sunday Times - - OBITUARIES -

ANTHONY Ju­lian Hall-Martin, who has died in Somerset West at the age of 68, was one of the world’s most prodi­gious cre­ators and ex­panders of wildlife re­serves and a world author­ity on black rhi­nos and African ele­phants.

Dur­ing his 25-year ser­vice as a di­rec­tor of SanParks, he cre­ated six na­tional parks, in­clud­ing the Ta­ble Moun­tain, Agul­has, Ma­pun­gubwe, Na­maqua and Tankwa Ka­roo na­tional parks. He added 400 000ha to the Addo Ele­phant, Au­gra­bies Falls, Ka­roo, Marakele and Moun­tain Ze­bra na­tional parks.

He was as quixotic about his love for Africa’s wild lands as he was a prag­ma­tist who im­ple­mented his some­times con­tro­ver­sial vi­sion for them.

He was the brain be­hind the 2006 de­procla­ma­tion of the North­ern Cape’s run­down Vaal­bos Na­tional Park, but laid the ground­work for procla­ma­tion of its re­place­ment just a year later — Mokala Na­tional Park, 70km south­west of Kim­ber­ley.

Hall-Martin pi­o­neered trans­fron­tier con­ser­va­tion ar­eas in South­ern Africa and bro­kered an un­prece­dented deal be­tween South Africa and Botswana in 2000. This gave rise to one of the world’s largest pro­tected ar­eas — the 3.6-mil­lion hectare Kgala­gadi Trans­fron­tier Park.

He was one of the first pro­po­nents of the idea that wildlife in na­tional parks should pay its way and sanc­tioned the sale of high-value species such as white rhino and dis­ease-free buf­falo to raise funds for con­ser­va­tion.

Born in Pre­to­ria on June 12 1945, he ded­i­cated nearly 50 years to the study and con­ser­va­tion of pro­tected ar­eas.

By the time he ob­tained his PhD on gi­raffe bi­ol­ogy and pro­duc­tiv­ity at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria in 1975, he had al­ready worked as a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist at Tim­ba­vati Pri­vate Game Re­serve and Malawi’s depart­ment of forestry and game, and as a re­searcher at the Mam­mal Re­search In­sti­tute.

He con­tin­ued work­ing as a re­search sci­en­tist in sev­eral na­tional parks un­til 1986, when he en­tered his first se­nior man­age­ment role as di­rec­tor of spe­cial ser­vices in Skukuza.

He was a mas­ter at solic­it­ing do­na­tions from pri­vate phi­lan­thropists and com­pany spon­sors

Few out­side in­dus­try cir­cles knew of his life-long cam­paign for wild spa­ces

and raised R60-mil­lion for the cre­ation of four na­tional parks from 1995 to 2000.

In 2000, at 55, he took early re­tire­ment — only to co-found African Parks, a group that has res­cued, fi­nanced and man­aged a four mil­lion hectare pro­tected area from Chad to Zam­bia.

He wrote more than 80 sci­en­tific pa­pers on topics rang­ing from Antarc­tic seal be­hav­iour to the weight of di­nosaurs. He au­thored sev­eral field guides and 10 books, and his sem­i­nal re­search showed that the den­sity and pres­ence of African ele­phants had a di­rect ef­fect on indige­nous flora.

In 1986, he rein­tro­duced the black rhino sub­species Diceros bi­cor­nis bi­cor­nis from Namibia to South Africa, where the an­i­mal had been made ex­tinct a century be­fore. This group of 12 an­i­mals have grown into 120 across four na­tional parks.

He also rein­tro­duced founder pop­u­la­tions of black rhino to na­tional parks in Malawi, Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia.

Hall-Martin was a pas­sion­ate bird-watcher and phi­lat­e­list, but he bat­tled to sep­a­rate his pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life, of­ten wak­ing col­leagues at 4am with a cup of tea.

He men­tored sev­eral leading South African con­ser­va­tion­ists, yet few out­side in­dus­try cir­cles knew of his life-long cam­paign for wild spa­ces — he pre­ferred life away from the lime­light.

Hall-Martin, who died of com­pli­ca­tions from bone mar­row cancer, is sur­vived by his wife, Cathe­rina, and two daugh­ters. — Tiara Wal­ters

TRAIL­BLAZER: An­thony Hall-Martin bro­kered a deal that gave rise to the mile­stone 3.6-mil­lion hectare Kgala­gadi Trans­fron­tier Park

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