Tony Whitaker: life and achievements of a pioneer New Zealand lizard ecologist

2016-04-08T02:20:42Z (GMT) by JA (Sandy) Bartle
<p>Tony Whitaker grew up in Pinehaven, north of Wellington, New Zealand. He soon became interested in natural history, with interests centred on lizard ecology. Newly developed nocturnal, mark–recapture and quadrat survey techniques enabled density and niche segregation studies, resulting in numerous scientific publications throughout his life. From 1966 to 1977 he worked as an ecologist at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). His surveys of islands off northern New Zealand led to an important study of the impact of kiore (Polynesian rat; <i>Rattus exulans</i>) on lizard populations, showing that rat eradication was necessary for conservation. At DSIR he also researched birds and mammals. Later, Tony and his wife Viv established a farm near Motueka and began mainland studies of lizards, contracted to mining companies or the New Zealand Wildlife Service/Department of Conservation. Having built up a well-documented collection of New Zealand lizards (now at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa), Tony then contributed to a bibliography, atlas and field guide. During the period when the taxonomy of lizards was revolutionised by the use of molecular techniques, Tony provided specimens, guidance and encouragement to many herpetologists. From 2000, his interests turned to the little-known and threatened lizards of New Caledonia, on which he contributed to 13 major papers. His life and work are here described under thematic, rather than strictly chronological, headings.</p>