‘His upbeat attitude and enthusiasm were infectious – Dr Lee Grismer on Dr Tony Whitten

PUBLISHED: 08:59 24 December 2017

Dr Tony Whitten, who was regional director Asia-Pacific for Fauna & Flora  International, had 11 species named after him. He was killed in a cycle incident on the Newmarket Road in late November 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

Dr Tony Whitten, who was regional director Asia-Pacific for Fauna & Flora International, had 11 species named after him. He was killed in a cycle incident on the Newmarket Road in late November 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Colleague writes of ‘inspiration’ of renowned Cambridge-based conservationist Dr Tony Whitten

Hemiphyllodactylus whitteni dwarf gecko discovered by Tony Whitten. Picture: Lee GrismerHemiphyllodactylus whitteni dwarf gecko discovered by Tony Whitten. Picture: Lee Grismer

Dr Lee Grismer is the author of the study which named one of 15 new geckos discovered in Mynamar last year after world-famous conservationist and wild biologist Dr Tony Whitten, who was killed as he cycled along the Newmarket Road on November 29, 2017.

Here, Dr Grismer, pictured, pays tribute to his colleague, whose last role was as regional director for Asia-Pacific at Fauna & Flora International:

“I had been working in karst ecosystems in Malaysia for years and so of course I was aware of Tony’s work.

“What became very flattering of late was when Tony became aware of my work and began contacting me about karst-adapted reptiles I was describing as new species. I could tell from his emails he was very interested in the protection of these new species and he motivated me to begin measures to protect them.

Dr Lee Grismer, a colleague of Tony Whitten who named one of the 15 new geckos discovered in Myanmar last year after the Cambridge-based ecologist and wildlife biologist. Picture: Lee GrismerDr Lee Grismer, a colleague of Tony Whitten who named one of the 15 new geckos discovered in Myanmar last year after the Cambridge-based ecologist and wildlife biologist. Picture: Lee Grismer

“His upbeat attitude and enthusiasm was infectious. When I learned he was my age and still so active he became an inspiration. Our correspondence increased and we became quite familiar with one another’s antics.

“Tony’s biggest impact on my late career came when he introduced me the folks at FFI in Myanmar. I was moved by the reverence that these folks had for Tony and the best way I could express that was to describe a new species of cave gecko after him, Hemiphyllodactylus whitteni. I know others have named other kinds of cave animals after him so it’s nice to know that Tony will always live in our hearts and in limestone caves around the world.”

The 11 species named after Dr Tony Whitten, with the author and publication, are:

Thopeutica whitteni (Sulawesi beetle): Cassola, 1991, Annali del Museo civico di storia naturale Giacomo Doria.

Lentipes whittenorum (Balinese fish): Watson & Kottelat, 1994, Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters

Anaglyphula whitteni, (Balinese snail): Vermeulen, 1996, Basteria,

Sulawesi Drobia whitteni (aquuatic Sulawesi snail): Haase & Bouchet, 2006, Hydrobiologia

Pilosaphaenops whitteni (blind Chinese cave beetle): Tian, 2009, Subterranean Biology

Sinella whitteni (blind Chinese cave springtail): Zhang & Deharveng, 2009, Zootaxa

Onthophagus tonywhitteni (Sulawsi dung beetle): Krikken, 2011, Tijdschrift voor Entomologie

Plectostma whitteni (Malaysian snail): Lieu et al, 2014, ZooKeys

Cnemapsis whittenorum (Siberut gecko): Das, 2015, Journal of Herpetology

Papillacarus whitteni (Vietnamese oribatid mite): Fernandez et al, 2015, International Journal of Acarology

Hemiphyllodactylus tonywhitteni (Phapant dwarf gecko): Grismer et al, 2017, Journal of Natural History

The Whitteni are in Dr Whitten’s name alone, the Whittenorum are named after Dr Whitten and his wife Jane.

- Read the original interview with Dr Whitten here.

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