Anthony Hall-Martin: Nature’s quiet prizefighter
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