The case studies vary widely in their geography and goals. The single-handed commitment to re-discover the last surviving populations of Giant Sable in the miombo woodlands of central Angola, through the capture, translocation and establishment of robust breeding herds of this magnificent antelope, contrasts with the massively funded, three-decade programme with over one hundred participants that reversed the annual loss to predation by feral cats of 455 000 seabirds from a sub-Antarctic island. Similarly, the foresight of Zimbabwean and Namibian ecologists to place rural communities at the centre of conservation programmes by giving value to wildlife populations and benefits to local people, transformed a land degradation problem to a socio-ecological solution. Across ten countries, building capacity in botanical collection, documentation and herbarium management expanded into a global project to place the knowledge base of Africa’s flora onto an electronic data system accessible to researchers and conservation planners in even the most remote corners of the continent. None of these projects enjoyed immediate results. Each required leadership skills that combined vision, a generosity of spirit, fortuitous timing and the exploitation of unexpected opportunities.
Brian John Huntley is a South African ecologist with wide experience in the planning and development of national parks, botanical gardens and multi-disciplinary research programmes in southern African countries. He has led major multi-national cooperative research and conservation programmes to success. Following retirement as director of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, has served as advisor to international agencies within the UN system.