Mark and Tania Anderson
Mark and Tania were both born in Pretoria, leaving South Africa’s capital city for Kimberley, the diamond city, when they were in their early-20s. The reason for the move was for Mark to pursue his Masters study on the ecophysiology of the aardwolf and for Tania to take up a position at the McGregor Museum. Mark and Tania both did their BSc and BSc (Honours) degrees at the University of Pretoria and it is at this university where they met during their first year of study, and they got married four years later. They have two children, Ryan (20 years old) and Stephanie (14 years old).
Mark and Tania have many mutual interests, including a passion for the outdoors and conservation, as well as travel and music (especially jazz). They enjoy scuba-diving and snorkelling and this has taken then to the Comoros Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
They maintain an indigenous garden, with a wide variety of plants that are found in the greater-Kimberley area, as well as elsewhere in South Africa. They dug up their remaining lawn in 2005 as they were concerned about the amount of water that is required to keep this sterile environment alive and green!
Ryan and Stephanie Anderson
Ryan is a third year BSc Electrical and Computer Engineering student at the University of Cape Town and Stephanie is in Grade 9 at St Patrick’s College in Kimberley. Ryan excelled academically at St Patrick’s College, where he was Dux Student. He represented the Northern Cape at chess and represented South Africa at a United Nations Environment Programme conference on the environment when he was 14 years old. Ryan continues to excel on the academic front at UCT. He enjoys exercise (especially gym, jogging, squash and tennis) and follows a healthy diet. He is an avid South African cricket supporter. In his spare time (what little there is!) he reads and does website design (which he is very good at, as this website will attest to).
Stephanie is doing exceptionally well at school. She is also a talented musician and artist, and is an avid reader. Stephanie plays the clarinet. She has been selected, along with four classmates, to represent St Patrick’s College in an exchange programme with Terra Nova College in Ecuador next year.
Both Ryan and Stephanie have travelled internationally, to various places in southern Africa, Egypt, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, England, Scotland, and the USA on two occasions. They enjoy the outdoors and some of the favourite times have been our camping holidays and our visits to the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. The Anderson family has also enjoyed several river rafting and kayaking trips down the Orange River.
Mark was fortunate during his youth to frequently visit his oupa’s game farms (on the Limpopo River, and in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) and indigenous forest (Magoebaskloof). It was during these visits that he developed his interest in biology and conservation.
While at the Glen High School in Pretoria, Mark was an avid squash and tennis player, golfer, sailboarder and long-distance runner. He ran two Comrades Marathons and a number of standard and ultra marathons.
During his BSc (Honours) year he met Dr Philip Richardson, who had just completed a DPhil. thesis on the aardwolf, a termite-eating hyaenid. Mark was fascinated by the aardwolf’s ability to survive without food for four months of the year. He consequently did a Masters degree on the aardwolf, with the aim being to determine what ecophysiological adaptations the aardwolf has to survive through the winter months (when snouted-harvester termites are inactive and hence unavailable). He completed this degree cum laude and has subsequently published about 20 popular and scientific articles on the aardwolf. He recently wrote the text (26 pages worth!) on the aardwolf for the multi-volume Mammals of Africa (edited by Jonathan Kingdon and others). Mark represents the aardwolf on the IUCN’s Hyaena Specialist Group.
After completing his aardwolf studies, Mark was fortunate to obtain employment as a nature conservation scientist (ornithologist) with the Northern Cape’s Department of Tourism, Environment & Conservation (DTEC). Although the focus thus switched from mammals to birds, he maintains his interest in myrmecophagous (ant- and termite-eating) and other mammals. He recently resigned from DTEC, with his final position being Specialist Nature Conservation Scientist. He currently holds the position of Executive Director of BirdLife South Africa.
Mark’s main hobby and passion is photography and this sees him in the field before light on most weekends, long-weekends and while on holiday.
Mark is an avid reader of environmental magazines, journals and books, and good newspapers (such as the Mail & Guardian) and magazines (such as The Economist). He tries to keep up-to-date on global environmental issues and African political matters.
He is a member of a number of scientific and environmental societies, including the British Ornithologists’ Union, the African Bird Club, the Raptor Research Foundation, BirdLife South Africa, and the Wildlife & Environment Society (WESSA). He has served on WESSA’s Board of Directors and was for several years Chairperson of the Northern Cape Region of WESSA. He is very actively involved in the activities of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s South African Crane Working Group and Birds of Prey Working Group, and he serves on BoPWG’s Advisory Committee. He currently serves on the steering committee of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2.
As the Northern Cape’s conservation ornithologist, Mark conducted many research and monitoring projects, including the bi-annual “Karoo Large Terrestrial Bird Survey”, the bi-annual waterbird surveys at c. 50 wetlands in the Northern Cape, Blue Crane movement studies (satellite telemetry and colour-ringing). He conducted research on large terrestrial birds (especially Ludwig’s Bustards and Blue Cranes) and this included research on collisions with powerlines and predicting the impacts of climate change on Blue Cranes. Some of this work is being used for a PhD, which is being done through the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
In 1992 Mark initiated a weekend project on the population ecology of Sociable Weavers, and this project has subsequently become one of few long-term studies on an African passerine. Rita Covas and Claire Spottiswoode did their PhDs on this population of weavers.
Mark does extensive work on flamingos, especially the monitoring of the Lesser Flamingo population at Kamfers Dam. He has attended two international flamingo workshops, in Illinois (USA) and Nairobi (Kenya), and contributed to the drafting of the Lesser Flamingo Action Plan. The construction of a flamingo breeding island at Kamfers Dam in September 2006 was the culmination of an idea that was conceived by Mark in 1995.
Mark’s main interest is the biology and conservation of Old World vultures, especially the African White-backed Vulture. Since 1993, and in collaboration with Angus Anthony and a team of Kimberley amateur and professional ornithologists (including Tania) and the Hawk Conservancy Trust (UK), Mark has been studying a population of African White-backed Vultures at Dronfield Game Farm. Mark was very involved in the Asian Vulture Crisis and he attended meetings on this crisis in Kenya, the USA, Hungary and Tunisia. He is the Editor of Vulture News, the world’s only scientific journal about vultures.
Mark’s new position as Executive Director of BirdLife South Africa sees him commuting between Kimberley and Johannesburg. BirdLife South Africa employs 38 staff members who are scattered across the country. Some of the organization’s important projects fall under the Seabird, Avitourism, Community Conservation and Advocacy and Policy divisions. Mark looks forward to the opportunity to growing BirdLife South Africa into one of the world’s premier environmental organizations.
It was during trips to KwaZulu-Natal and Lapalala Wilderness while at school that Tania developed her interest in the environment and conservation.
Although Tania’s training is essentially in zoology, she did exceptionally well at botany at university, receiving a prestigious award for her achievements. Since the beginning of 1989, Tania has been employed as the botanist/herbarium curator at the McGregor Museum. Tania and her assistant, Annemarie van Heerden, manage a collection of more than 35,000 plant specimens, the most extensive collection of the Northern Cape’s flora.
The McGregor Museum’s herbarium is an extremely valuable botanical collection and used extensively by scientists and conservationists. One of Tania’s tasks during the past few years has been to capture the information about all of the specimens in an electronic database. This database will be of use for conservation planning, as well as guide future plant collecting exercises in under-collected areas in the Province.
Tania’s main botanical interests are succulents and other threatened plants and she has done numerous surveys, including a major survey of threatened succulents in the eastern parts of the Northern Cape during the early-1990s. She is knowledgeable about the Northern Cape’s plants and there are few plants in the Kalahari and Karoo which she will not be able to identify. Not only does she have botanical knowledge, however, but also a vast knowledge of the natural history of the Northern Cape, and has knowledge about the Province’s birds, reptiles and amphibians. She also has an interest in geology which helps her predict where certain plants will occur.
During the late-1990s, Tania and Annemarie conducted a survey of the flora of the Gamsberg inselberg in Bushmanland. This survey formed part of an EIA as Anglo American planned to mine the mountain for its zinc deposits. This study revealed the presence of many threatened succulents, as well as new species, and contributed to the mining development being halted.
Tania recently completed a Masters Degree (in Environmental Management) at the University of the Free State. The knowledge gained during this degree has been very useful, especially when evaluating Scoping Reports, Environmental Impact Assessments, and Environmental Management Plans. Most of this is done through her conservation portfolio on the committee of the Wildlife & Environment Society (Northern Cape Region). Through her involvements, many developers have had to make concessions and commit themselves to biodiversity offsets.
Tania has served on the WESSA committee for about 15 years and one of her contributions during this time was the editing of Hidden Splendour, a field guide to Northern Cape’s Kalahari. Several thousand copies of this field guide have been sold. She also served for six years as the Editor of Griqua Gnus, the monthly newsletter of WESSA (Northern Cape).
Tania enjoys gym, yoga and mixed martial arts. Her hobbies are photography, reading, frogging, birding and assisting with bird conservation projects. She loves travel, adventure, scuba diving and snorkelling and exploring new landscapes.