Obituary: Tony Whitten (2017)

Tony Whitten - a ‘delightfully disruptive’ fighter for bio-diversity, especially in Asia, died at the age of 64, in a cycling accident in Cambridge (UK), December 2017. Tony is a renowned conservationist, worldwide.

tony whitten

In 1996 he became famous for his contributions to ‘The Ecology of Java and Bali’, where he dedicated a number of pages to the distribution of the Bali Starling in the West Bali National Park (TNBB), the Karstic terraces of Nusa Penida, and Karst regions elsewhere in Indonesia. Eleven animal species were named after him, amongst which a Myanmar gecko and a Chinese beetle.

In ‘The Ecology of Java and Bali’, he comments on the Banteng (Bos Javanicus), and hybrids found in Indonesia, although not specifically in Nusa Penida or Bali. Yet he mentions that the “banteng faces the threat of interbreeding with domestic 'Bali' cattle” and hence faces loss of its genetic identity”.

Prior to this, in 1994, he contributed to the conservation of Bali forests, and studies on the Bali Starling.

More specifically to Nusa Penida, he elaborates on Von Plessen’s casu quo Rensch’s findings of endemic land snails in Nusa Penida: Sasakina plesseni, Asperitas (inquinata) penidae nov., and Amphidromus perversus. Tony Whitten takes photographs of unique land snails only found on Nusa Penida: e.g. Asperitas waandersiana and the Sasakina plesseni.

Also in 1994, together with Peter Ng, he identifies new species of crabs in a Nusa Penida cave locally called ‘Goa Giri Putri’ named Sesarmoides balicus/emdi. IUCN has since warned that two species of crab (Karstama balicum & Karstama emdi), found only in this single cave on the island of Bali, are now considered 'critically endangered', as they have been increasingly threatened by growing tourism and numerous religious ceremonies held in the cave.

To date, unfortunately, and much to Tony’s regret, no signs of conservation have been reported about the dire prospect of these endemic crabs.

References

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