Prof. Dr. FC Eloff.
Frederick Christoffel Eloff was born on 18 May 1920 in the Pietersburg district in the than Northern Transvaal. After matriculating at the Pietersburg High School in 1936 at the age of 16 years, he joined the Pretoria University in 1937 as a first year student with Zoology and Botany as major subjects. He successfully completed his Bsc. studies in 1939 when he was awarded his degree at the age of 19 years.
After graduating he was appointed a technical assistant at the Pretoria Zoological Gardens on 1 December 1939, where he worked for three years. He had close contact with Dr. R. Bigalke and Dr. TG Nel. Fritz Eloff was awarded his M.Sc. degree with honours in 1942 by the Pretoria University.
Fritz Eloff applied for a position as lecturer in Zoology at his alma mater and was appointed in 1943- then 23 years of age.
Two of his seniors, being Proff. B Engelbrecht HOD Botany and DE Malan HOD Zoology both assessed the lecturer in Zoology as “a calm, pleasant, steady good natured and likable young man, who can get on well with people”, a characteristic that he displayed right through his life, wherever and whenever.
Frits Eloff become Doctor FC Eloff when he was awarded a D.Sc. with distinction at the age of 26 years in 1946.
He also lectured at the Pretoria Technical College, teaching Zoology to pharmacy students.
Dr. FC Eloff was awarded the prestigious British Council Travel Bursary in 1951 – allowing him a full year of overseas study. He worked in close collaboration with Professor A D’Bellairs for six month extending his interest in comparative anatomy. While in London he lectured the Fauna Society on “Wildlife Preservation in South Africa”. He also lectured to the Zoological Society of London. He then moved to the Hubert Laboratory in Utrecht the Netherlands where he studied Experimental Embryology.
Dr. FC Eloff became Prof. FC Eloff at the age of 34 when he became the HOD Zoology of the Pretoria University on 1 July 1954, succeeding the earlier mentioned Prof. DE Malan who had retired.
Prof. Fritz Eloff kept very busy by running the Department Administratively and lecturing and by looking after his post graduate students by being their promoter. He was elected Chairman of the Board of Control of the Transvaal Museum in 1964. He was elected as a Member of the Advisory Committee for Nature Conservation of the Transvaal in 1965. He was member of the Scientific Advisory Council for National Parks and Nature Reserves and the National Committee for Fauna Research in 1964.
As HOD he created opportunities which allowed him to develop his interest in nature conservation in general and mammalian fauna in particular allowing him to make a major contribution in these fields.
The decision in principle was made in 1962 a one year of study, honours degree in Wildlife Management be established at the University of Pretoria. Such a degree would attract a limited number of students, the course was launched in 1965, and Professor George Petrides of the Michigan State University was the first visiting lecturer.
Dr. Anton Rupert the President of the South African Nature Foundation came forward and offered a grant sufficient to establish a permanent Chair of Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria. Professor J. du P. Bothma an ex student of Prof. Eloff became the first permanent occupant of the Eugene Marais Chair of Wildlife Management at the Pretoria University in 1970, with Prof. Fritz Eloff as a member of the Board of Control.
The course was a great success; it has done great deal for Wildlife Management in South Africa and gave Prof. Eloff much satisfaction.
Prof. Eloff realised that the great diversity and wealth of southern African mammals opened a large field of study for post graduate students, even from other countries. He wrote a letter to the University authorities envisaging a research section within his department where students could be taught the methodology of research and resultant techniques. The request was granted provided again that funding be acquired. Dr. JAJ Meester was appointed the first Director of Mammal Research Institute which became reality on 1 April 1966. The Transvaal Department of Nature Conservation provided the initial funding; assistance was given by the Washington Smithsonian Institute. Professor Skinner succeeded Professor Meester in 1972.. Prof. Fritz Eloff not only brought forward his brainchild, he also carefully guided it through to adulthood.
“The mammals of the southern African sub-region” by Dr. RHN Smithers published in 1983 was indeed one of the many good results bearing its roots in the MRI of the University of Pretoria.
Prof. Fritz Eloff was awarded the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Bursary in 1967, he took leave and made first hand study at American Universities and Nature Conservation agencies. He visited the American Society of Mammologists in North Carolina and the Biological Sciences in Texas, delivering a paper titled: “ Observation on the behaviour of the gemsbok”.
His real interest was shared in 1971 at the international symposium “The Ecology, Behaviour, And Conservation of the World’s Cats”, at Laguna Hills, California – his contribution- a paper titled “ Ecology and behaviour of the Kalahari lion ( Panthera leo vernayi)”.
Dr. Fritz Eloff was appointed to the National Parks Board of Trustees in 1971 and Chairman of the Board in 1979, indeed a well earned acknowledgement of his contribution to the Wildlife and its Preservation in South Africa.
Professor Fritz Eloff retired HOD of Zoology at the end of June 1985 after 44 years service. He is an honorary member of the Endangered Wildlife Trust since 1973, he has been a member of the South African nature Foundation since 1968, he was Chairman of a Committee formulating the plan for the conservation, management and utilization of nature reserves in the Namibian areas of Damaraland and Kaokoland during 1975-1977.
Fritz Eloff was a keen sportsman he was the TUKS heavyweight champion in the early 1940s, he captained the 1st Under 19 Rugby teams during 1938 and 1939, he also Captained the 1st Rugby team of TUKS 1941 to 1948. He represented the Northern Transvaal Rugby Union in nine matches, playing in every forward position except that of hooker.
After being the Secretary of the NTRU for two years he became the President of the NTRU in 1965 a position he held with dignity and distinction. Prof. Fritz Eloff was elected vice President of the South African Rugby Board in 1977; he was also a member of the International Rugby Board, just another example of his leadership capabilities.
Fritz Eloff married Valerie Schraader on 20 December 1947; they are blessed by their two daughters Elize and Marita and today also are loving and caring grand parents.
His happiest times were spent in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, where he spent his time with his Kalahari Lions, the Kalahari Bushman and his friends the le Riche Family. The area Loffiesdraai is named after – Professor Fritz Eloff, who else.
I can still clearly remember when Frans, a Bushman tracker told me around a camp fire in the Nossob Rest Camp during November 1973 about the exploitations in the veldt with Lions with Professor Fritz and baas Elias and Vetpiet, quite humorous and very very interesting. His smile and shining eyes while telling me about their next adventure scheduled for December of that year,still today, clearly jump to mind.
Listening to Professor Eloff talking in his quiet knowledgeable way always left a lasting imprint on the minds and the memories of his listeners, whether they were laymen, students or well learned. I remember listening to him talking about the Lions of the Kalahari or those roaming the Serengeti plains or the Ngorongoro crater floor or the Etosha bush or those of the Lebombo plains.
I will always remember his kind and respectful ways in which he spoke about, so well informed and yet so humble.
To me he created such a craving to visit these places and also experience what this man who always was prepared to also listen, was talking about . . . not only once.
It is evident that Prof. Fritz Eloff has done much for conservation in southern Africa and at the same time still is “a calm, pleasant, steady and likable good natured peron, who can get on well with people”.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.