Beryl Wilson (52) is a woman of many talents. Not only is she a zoologist, but she also has a qualification in journalism and several degrees in nature conservation and crime psychology.
Born and bred in Zimbabwe, she finished high school at Kimberley Girls High. She describes Zimbabwe as an amazing place and it is there that her love for nature and the outdoors began.
Beryl, who is in a forever relationship with a German veterinarian from Namibia, has three fur babies.
“Two beagles boys named Rosco and Fynn and a German Shorthaired Pointer lady, Lyka. All are working dogs and are a full-time parenting responsibility!”
Beryl says she was interested in three career paths when she finished school and managed to fulfil all three of those dreams.
“Next year in March, I have been employed at the museum for 35 years! I started off in the display department as a research assistant, but was quickly transferred to the zoology department as the collections manager. There I was responsible for the bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and archaeozoology collections for 21 years before being appointed as the head of the department. I am currently in the position of zoologist and conduct research primarily in the field of conservation biology.”
Although Beryl says she does not have a favourite animal, she is a champion of all the underdog and least-known species.
“I don’t have a single favourite animal, but I love all vultures, small cat species, snakes, fruit bats, scorpions and zebras.”
“Zoologists are wildlife researchers, but zoologists working in museums is a slightly different career path. Our research focuses on both living and dead wildlife, with the emphasis on taxonomy and unique species in our region. I have several projects ranging from vulture conservation, black-footed cat distribution and conservation issues, illicit wildlife trade and activities to the wildlife hazard management at airports.”
She admires women who have broken traditional roles, particularly the early science pioneers, many of whom were never acknowledged in their time.
Despite her immaculate career achievements, Beryl likes to take long walks, wildlife and scenic photography, mountain biking, bird watching and travelling.
“I do everything I can from baking to diamond painting. Every year I try to learn one new hobby or skill. I am currently working on improving my German and trying to become an expert bread baker.”
September is Vulture Awareness Month and South Africa is home to eight vulture species, seven of which are already under severe conservation threats.
“Vultures are impacted by mass poisoning events, habitat loss, electrocutions and powerline collisions as well as highly sought after in some areas for traditional medicine. Internationally, September is a time to not only reflect on the importance of vultures and the essential role they play in a healthy ecosystem, but also a time to spread awareness and take action. These misunderstood birds are extremely important members of an ecosystem – flying in from huge distances to pick decaying carcasses clean, thereby helping to prevent disease outbreaks. A world without vultures would be a foul-smelling place filled with disease and rotting carcasses across our landscape. This clean-up crew essentially helps to maintain the functioning and health of an ecosystem. Kimberley and the surrounding areas is home to the largest and southern-most breeding population of the critically endangered White-backed Vulture. We try to raise awareness of our local populations and the overall importance of these birds in general.
One of the activities we undertake is a trail run or walk. Kindly organised by the Kimberley Harriers and hosted by De Beers on one of their properties, we annually celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day (the first Saturday of September) with the Vulture Conservation Trail Run. The monies raised by the Kimberley Harriers is donated to vulture research on our local populations and supports our efforts to monitor the breeding success and to assist in the provision of food at a special feeding site on Dronfield Nature Reserve. This year, the trail run was held on Dronfield, home to 120 breeding pairs of the species, for the first time and was an outstanding success despite Covid restrictions. It was held as a hybrid physical/virtual event giving people all over the world the opportunity to join in on the fun. I would encourage everyone to join us next year for this super fun event!”