25 Dec 2012

Tribute to David Stradling

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Myrmecologist (ant researcher), Conservationist and Science Educator

Asa Wright lost another ole friend with the recent passing, in England, of Professor David Stradling.

He was as much at home in Trinidad as he was in his native land, England. In fact, Professor Stradling took up residence in Trinidad to lecture Ecology and Entomology at the UWI St. Augustine Campus for almost a decade. On his return to England he took up an appointment at Exeter University where he worked until retirement. He subsequently became the Chairman of the Whitley Wildlife Trust in 2001, after serving as a trustee for 20 years. As Chair, he oversaw the developments that transformed Paignton into one of the most modern zoos in Europe. He also established a science department in the zoo and was passionate about the role and future of zoo-based research.

As an entomologist by training, He published widely on entomology including the effects of magnetic fields on wood ants, the ecology of hawkmoths (Sphingids) and the behavioural ecology of arboreal tarantulas. He is best known however, for work on fascinating leaf-cutter ants (Attini) locally referred to as “Bacchac” which he studied at the William Beebe Tropical Research Station/ Simla (www.wbtrs.org) Trinidad. Linking his love of Paignton Zoo and Trinidad, in 2010 he led a search for the endemic, critically endangered golden tree frog (Phyllodytes auratus), known from only two peaks, with the aim of developing a conservation programme through the work of the zoo.

His interest in our fauna and culture never waned and in a recent paper he documented that the ‘eye-spots’ on the underside of Caligo ‘Owl’ butterflies wings, represent the eyes of the ubiquitous neotropical Turnip-tail Gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda) i.e. a lizard, and not the eyes of an ‘owl’. This was the subject of a paper authored by Dr. Victor Quesnel in the most recent issue of our local scientific journal Living World.

Dave’s approach to science was a fine mix of pragmatism, realism and optimism. His life is a reminder that, as scientists, there is much that we can and should do outside the lab. We salute Professor David Stradling.



  • R. I. Hernandez -AWNC
  • A. Isaac – AWNC
  • Adam G. Hart – University of Gloucestershire
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