William Oliver will be particularly remembered for his pioneering efforts to conserve rare and endemic species of the Philippines.
Born and raised in England, he was educated at London and Liverpool Universities. His first job was as an animal keeper and education officer at Marwell Zoo, before moving in 1974 to the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, founded by Gerald Durrell.
At Jersey Zoo, now known as Durrell Wildlife Park, William was one of ‘Durrell’s Army’ as they were known in the early days. Working with Gerald taught him the power of the individual to make a difference, and he followed this road throughout his life.
William spent most of his professional life working with and studying threatened species, and his particular passion was wild pigs. His first field trip was to India in 1977 to study Pygmy Hogs (Porcula salvania) and he continued to champion the plight of threatened pig species in the wild and in captivity, including the critically endangered Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) in the Philippines.
Over the past two decades he has worked in the Philippines, becoming Director of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, which was founded in 1990 and based in Manila.
It was William who first alerted World Land Trust (WLT) to the threat facing Danjugan Island. He introduced us to Gerry Ledesma, President of the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation, and Danjugan Island became the Trust’s third project. Threatened by unsympathetic tourism development WLT was able to raise the funds to purchase Danjugan Island, which is now a protected nature reserve and the fringing reefs a marine reserve.
From his early days at Jersey Zoo, William had a particular interest in breeding endangered species in captivity. He is pictured above with a Visayan Spotted Deer (Rusa alfredi), also known as the Philippine Spotted Deer. This endangered species is now found only in the rainforests of Negros and Panay. Once common throughout other islands in the Visayan group, including Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, and Samar, hunting and loss of habitat has taken its toll. Now protected, Visayan Spotted Deer is one of three endemic deer species in the Philippines.
Alongside his scientific work and a lifetime dedicated to conservation, William was also a highly respected wildlife artist. He was regularly invited by Jersey Post to design artwork for their wildlife stamps and he also found time to paint wildlife and illustrate books.
While his heart was in the Philippines William regularly visited the UK. He will be greatly missed by the international conservation community as a whole. He died on 10 September in the Philippines.
William Oliver 1947-2014