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Wits honours frog lover

- Wits University

Carruthers has built a remarkable career as a wildlife author and environmental consultant.

Wits University has awarded a Gold Medal to Vincent Carruthers in recognition of his contribution in the fields of zoology and ecology.

Carruthers has been credited with catapulting the frogs of southern Africa into the limelight through his work. He and Neville Passmore collaborated to produce the first reliable, scientifically valid, and beautifully and clearly illustrated field guide to the frog fauna of South Africa. The book, South African Frogs (Wits Press  1979) in set a world standard.

Over the years Carruthers has expanded on this legacy and is credited with being one of the few people who, through his studies, recognised early that amphibians play a role as biological indicators of climate change and wetland health.

“Through meticulous research, scholarship and outreach as a citizen scientist, Carruthers has made a valuable and outstanding contribution to our knowledge and understanding of many aspects of the South African natural environment. He is surely deserving of the University Gold Medal for his remarkable work, achievements and his influence,” states the citation read when the medal was awarded.

The medal was presented at the Faculty of Humanities’ graduation ceremony on Monday, 4 July 2016.

In his acceptance speech, the environmentalist thanked the University for the honour, adding: “I am very proud to be associated with such an eminent institution at the forefront of scholarship and political and economic life of the country.“

Carruthers, whose relationship with the University began in 1979, reflected on the role played by the University through the years.

Wits has earned its place, as “each decade placed challenging demands on the University’s capacity to survive and to thrive – but thrive it has.  It has become a critical pillar of wisdom in these complex times.”

Carruthers showed his mettle when he called on the University and the graduands to break the boundaries between the humanities and science disciplines. The solutions to today’s challenges can only be solved by interdisciplinary teams who realise the value and contribution of other fields, he emphasised.

Over four decades, Carruthers has built a remarkable career as a wildlife author and environmental consultant and his origins in this field distinguish him. His early academic pursuits in the field of commerce stand in stark contrast to his later career of an environmental consultant.

In the course of his environmental career, Carruthers has received awards that recognise his leadership. These include the Chancellor’s Medal from North-West University (2013); the Zoological Society of South Africa’s Stevenson-Hamilton Medal, for his exceptional amateur scientific endeavours(1989); the Paul Harris Fellowship from the Rotary Foundation (2009); Certificate of Merit from the Transvaal Herpetological Association (1990); and honorary life memberships of, to give just one example, the Mountain Club of South Africa.

He is an outstanding facilitator and has assisted a number of organisations, including Wits University, the South African National Parks, and the former Transvaal Division of Nature Conservation with management, research, and structural issues. Under his leadership as executive director (1982-1985), the Wildlife Society of Southern Africa experienced its peak years as a player in the environmental arena. Recognising the value of responsible tourism, Carruthers and his partners established the Sustainable Tourism Research Institute of Southern Africa (STRISA) in 1998. STRISA focusses on community-driven small and medium enterprise projects in rural areas, focusing on Limpopo Province.