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Of vultures and safari's

- By Wits University

The University of the Witwatersrand conferred an honorary doctorate on ecologist, environmentalist, bird specialist and artist, Duncan Butchart on 31 March 2014 during its March-April Graduations Cluster in the Wits Great Hall.

Butchart’s publication profile shows that he has not only mastered scientific method but also the public communication of science. His publication record is impressive, with works ranging from definitive reference books such as the ‘Vultures of Africa’ (Academic Press Inc) to numerous affordable field guides.

He is an accomplished editor, having edited for seven series, with his own articles published in 15 magazines or newspapers. He is author or co-author of 29 books on birds and wildlife, published by 12 different publishers. Illustrations are vital for communicating with a minimum of jargon, and as an accomplished artist, Butchart has illustrated his own books, as well as being featured in 22 other books. His illustrations include paintings of birds, fish and mammals, and he has exhibited paintings in four exhibitions.

He also specialises in creating illustrated maps, many of which have been commissioned at an international level. His most recent works include a book, ‘Wildlife of South Africa’ (Struik), which has been translated into Afrikaans, and a laminated guide of the most conspicuous birds of Mbombela, which is the only guide available that provides siSwati names.

His commitment to empowering hundreds of wildlife guides to high levels of professionalism, and scholarship in their own right, is a feature of his life’s work. His generosity in sharing his specialist knowledge and skills, accumulated through informal learning driven by his own curiosity and persistence, has meant that many local communities have been enriched in their knowledge and understanding of the African environment.

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