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Biodiversity Foundation for Africa

Conserving Afrotropical biodiversity through knowledge


Donald Broadley

Donald Broadley (1932-2016) was possibly Africa’s best-known and most respected herpetologist. He came from UK to the then Rhodesia in 1954 as a draughtsman, but soon developed a passion for reptiles. Some years later he became Herpetologist at the Mutare Museum, moving to the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo in 1981. Don was a prodigious collector of reptiles from across south-central Africa and wrote authoritatively on their taxonomy, describing many new species over his almost 60-year career. He continued to write papers after retirement until he died. Don was a founder-member of the BFA and was closely involved in its establishment, helping put the organisation on a sound scientific base and with strong international links. He contributed a number of technical reviews on the herps of various areas and also detailed annotated checklists. A detailed obituary was published in the UK Times and a book celebrating his accomplishments is being written.

Bob Drummond

Robert (Bob) Drummond (1924-2008) was a botanist based for much of his working life at the National Herbarium in Harare (SRGH), which he joined from the Kew Herbarium in UK in 1955. He was probably the foremost authority on the plants of south-central Africa and had a remarkable ability to give names to even sterile scraps brought in from the field. Bob was fully involved in the BFA since its inception and contributed checklists as well as identifying species of particular conservation interest. Although not a prolific writer, he described 30 taxa new to science and 13 species have been named in his honour. Further details on his life and botanical accomplishments are given in Timberlake et al. (2008, 2017).

Peter Mundy

Peter Mundy (1941-2023), who died in February 2023 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, was one of Southern Africa’s most influential ornithologists. He was still working as Professor at Bulawayo’s National University of Science and Technology (NUST) until a few months earlier, supervising and encouraging the next generation of Zimbabwean biologists. Although locally he will be most remembered for his mentoring of younger biologists and for his conservation achievements, especially for birds, internationally he was best known for his comprehensive work on African vultures, on which he was the recognized authority.

Peter was raised in Romford, Essex, UK, where he obtained the cockney accent that he never lost and used to great effect. After a few terms studying Zoology at Oxford from 1960 he became disillusioned, left, and spent some years playing tenor saxophone with a rock-and-roll band, touring across UK and Europe with the maverick Screaming Lord Sutch as one of his “Savages”. He later returned to academia at King’s College, London, graduating in Zoology in 1969, after which he went to Sokoto in north-western Nigeria to teach at Government College. It was in Nigeria that he first really developed his fascination and love of birds, spending his spare time bird-watching with a colleague there, Allan Clark.

After Nigeria, Peter moved south in 1972 to become a doctoral student at the then University of Rhodesia, where he studied the comparative biology of southern African vultures. In 1976 he moved on to the Endangered Wildlife Trust in Johannesburg, South Africa where he focused in particular on the conservation of the Cape Griffon and the losses caused by collisions with power-lines as well as running the Trust’s scientific programmes. And it was here that he met his second wife, Verity Cubitt.

Verity and Pete moved back to the newly-independent Zimbabwe in 1984 where he joined the Department of National Parks as Principal Ecologist with particular responsibility for all matters ornithological, including problem birds and quelea control. It was in this role as ‘National Parks Ornithologist’, a role he kept for the next 20 years, that many first came across Pete and his National Parks uniform. Initially based at Lake McIlwaine outside Harare, he moved down to Bulawayo in the early 1990s, in part to get away from incessant bureaucracy so he could focus on birds. However, bureaucracy eventually caught up and he then joined the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management at NUST as Professor, where he remained for the next 19 years, way beyond nominal retirement age, lecturing, supervising theses and mentoring students. Students in particular greatly appreciated his concern for their professional development, and although his approach could be rather blunt at times he was greatly respected there.

Among other interests, Peter was a major force in the establishment and development of the Biodiversity Foundation for Africa, an NGO focussing on documenting biodiversity information from across southern Africa using regional expertise, ‘grey’ literature and museum and herbarium collections. He was also a major figure in the Ornithological Association of Zimbabwe (OAZ, now BirdLife Zimbabwe), editing its journal Honeyguide in the early 1980s. The granite hills of the Matobo National Park just south of Bulawayo was a particular passion of Pete’s. Amongst other activities he helped Val Gargett with her mammoth study on Black Eagles and helped get the area designated as a World Heritage Site in 2003.

Peter published widely with over 50 refereed scientific papers, with many more popular articles in lesser journals and in conference proceedings, reports and magazines, and four major books – his published PhD thesis; the magisterial Vultures of Africa (with Duncan Butchart, John Ledger and Steve Piper); The Black Eagle by Val Gargett (with PJM as editor); and Francois Levaillant and the Birds of Africa (with Kees Rookmaaker, Ian Glenn and Emma Spary).

Peter was one of those larger-than-life characters, full of irreverent humour, widely read, and who spoke his mind in many fora. He never lost his passion for fundamental fieldwork and observation, whether ringing or birdwatching at weekends or encouraging new generations of ornithologists. Although abrupt at times, he could be diplomatic when required, and was a well-known and highly respected character amongst Zimbabwe’s conservationists.

He leaves behind his wife of over 40 years, Verity, two children, Matthew and Emily, and one grandchild.

Jonathan Timberlake, May 2023