Latest Lion Aid News
Wednesday 1st June 2022
Tony Fitzjohn, 1950-2022, African wildlife conservationist
We at LionAid heard with great sadness that Tony Fitzjohn had recently succumbed in the USA to malignant cancer at 72. He appears to have been diagnosed in 2021, but all subsequent interventions were, unfortunately, not effective.
Tony worked alongside George Adamson and his lions for about 18 years in Kenya’s Kora National Park. I met George several times during my time in Kenya, but did not meet Tony until one day in 1989 he came bounding into my office at the Kenya National Museums and said he wanted to know all about African Wild Dogs. I was running a Wild Dog research programme in the Masai Mara at the time, one of only two such programmes in Africa at the time. Tony mentioned the George Adamson Trust had been given the task of rehabilitating Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, and he wanted to re-introduce Wild Dogs to the area. He took me to lunch, we spoke for hours, and he spoke excitedly about the possibilities of Mkomazi. He also spoke excitedly about the fundraisers he attended for the Trust, and jumping fully dressed into swimming pools with various women.
Tony was always such. High energy, a love for life and animals, and to his great credit he completely transformed the formerly poached out Mkomazi into a now vibrant park and a rhino sanctuary – and yes, with Wild Dogs. The Tanzania government took back control of the area in 2020, after 30 years of Tony’s hard work and care.
I met Tony a few more times recently, but he seemed rather withdrawn. He was giving talks at the Adamson Trust events, but he was not his normal ebullient and gung-ho self. Perhaps he already knew that Mkomazi was going to revert to the Tanzania government. The Adamson Trust then made an arrangement with the Kenya government to revitalise Kora Park, and I hoped Tony would once again recover the enthusiasm and energy for this new project he embodied when I first met him. It was not to be.
With Tony’s passing, we should all reflect on his life well lived. People call him a great conservationist, but Tony was much more than that. He was always ready to rise to situations and occasions demanding much of him – from anti-poaching activities, training rangers, setting up schools in rural Tanzania, to running and repairing tractors and trucks and bulldozers - whatever was required of him, Tony would always deliver in spades. He always had to rely on self-confidence to overcome the endless problems and demands of someone thrown into the deep end every day?
Condolences to Tony’s family and his many friends in Africa, Europe, and USA. Much like George Adamson, his passion and dedication to wildlife in Africa was unique and will be hard to follow.
RIP my friend, you did good and well.
Dr. Pieter Kat.
Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:55