Africa wildlife and nature conservation icon passes away
Tribute to Professor Dr. Markus Borner
From Germany to Africa, Professor Dr. Markus Borner had spent about 4 decades working on wildlife conservation and nature in Tanzania, East Africa, and the rest of Africa.
A report from Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) confirmed that the famous German conservationist passed away on January 10 of this year, leaving behind an everlasting legend on wildlife conservation in Africa where he dedicated almost half of his life working for the survival of wild animals and the protection of nature.
Prof. Dr. Borner spent his lifetime in the Serengeti of Tanzania, a home away from his ancestral home, the Federal Republic of Germany. Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania was Markus Borner’s true home.
“Without him and his inimitably positive way of inspiring people, bringing together the right people at the right time, the Serengeti would certainly not be what it is today: an icon among Africa’s national parks,” said Dagma Andres-Brummer, the FZS’s Head of Communications.
“Markus himself emphasized that it was the efforts of his team and especially the Tanzanian National Parks Authority (TANAPA) that protected the unique wilderness of the Serengeti and its wildlife,” Dagma added.
He was the heart and soul of many of these efforts, always a driving force when it came to mastering new challenges, finding new solutions, and discovering new ways. He met everyone respectfully and at eye level and was always true to himself. This earned him the highest respect in Tanzania and far beyond.
Dagma said in her press message that when Markus Borner and his young family moved into the small house in the Serengeti National Park in 1983, he probably never thought that it would become such a nucleus of nature conservation. Here, renowned scientists, Hollywood actors, and political decision-makers sat on his humble veranda enjoying their gin and tonic while listening to him and appreciating his opinion.
“With his Swiss charm, his infectious laughter, and his thoroughly honest optimism, he showed us again and again that humans need wilderness, that we must protect what is still there, and that it can be done,” Dagma said.
Despite the rapid decline of biological diversity; the disappearance of forests, savannahs, or coral reefs; and the serious loss of species, Markus never doubted that protecting wilderness is the only right way. It is the only way to preserve the future of mankind.
Markus Borner’s influence was not, however, restricted to the Serengeti. Together with many partners on the ground he also influenced conservation in other regions and during difficult times.
As FZS Africa Director, he decided to start a project for the protection of mountain gorillas in the DR Congo, despite ongoing civil unrest. In Zambia, Markus initiated the reintroduction of black rhinos to North Luangwa, and in the Ethiopian highlands, he oversaw the establishment of an FZS project for the protection of the Bale mountains.
From Ethiopia to Zimbabwe, Markus has chosen the right allies and brought people into his teams who, like him, were passionate and pragmatic about conservation.
“In the future, the greatness of a nation will not be judged by its advance in technology or by its achievements in architecture, art, or sports, but by the amount of nature and biodiversity that it can hand over to the next generation,” Markus Borner once said.
In 2012, Markus retired after 4 decades in the service of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. But the love for Africa and its wild animals did not stop him just because of retirement.
Markus Borner has always been deeply convinced that the future lies in Africa’s young generation. The University of Glasgow awarded him an honorary professorship in addition to his Ph.D. in Biology.
Until very recently, he shared his insights and coached young conservation experts from various African countries in the Karimjee Conservation Scholars Program.
He was also able to share his experience as an adjunct professor at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha, northern Tanzania.
Markus Borner was awarded the Bruno H. Schubert Prize in 1994, was a finalist for the Indianapolis Prize in 2012, and received the prestigious Blue Planet Prize from the Asahi Glass Foundation in 2016 which is considered the Nobel Prize of conservation awards.
His vision of a world that will value its nature and realize that wilderness is its true future capital has shaped him throughout his life. Uncompromising, sincere, and clear in his convictions, Markus has inspired and motivated many.
When species disappear, when unique forests have to make way for dams or roads, and when we doubt whether we can still protect nature, those are the times when we will think of Markus’ loud and infectious laugh. Giving up is not an option.
The eTN writer of this article interacted with Dr. Markus Borner in the Serengeti, on Rubondo Island, and in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on different occasions while on media assignments.