Bexhill zoologist’s dream inspired by David Attenborough

Nigel Bennett
Nigel Bennett

An internationally-recognised zoologist has said dreams do come true after achieving his childhood ambition of working with animals.

Former Bexhill pupil, Professor Nigel Bennett is rated a world authority in his field of zoology after developing a passion for the natural world at a young age.

“I first became interested in animals by attending the Bexhill Animal Defenders at St Andrews Church in Wickham Avenue,” he said.

“I was inspired to venture to Africa when I watched a number of documentaries related to animals in Africa and South East Asia which David Attenborough hosted – the famous Zoo Quest series.

“I also kept many different species of tropical pets as a child.

“I actually wanted to become a game warden in East Africa, so my father wrote to David Attenborough about me and he suggested I should rather study zoology and look at the natural history of animals. My father was very pleased that David Attenborough took the time to write back to him about how I could achieve my dream.”

Educated at Bexhill Down Secondary Modern and later Bexhill College, he went on to study zoology at Bristol University and finally emigrated to South Africa to study for a PhD in zoology at the University of Cape Town.

“I was just an ordinary school boy who dreamed of going to Africa to work with animals,” said Prof Bennett, who is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Zoology.

Now, he holds the position of professor of zoology in the Department of Zoology and Entomology in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

He also holds the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Research Chair in Mammalian Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, as well as the Austin Roberts Chair of African Mammalogy.

The focus of his research is ecology, animal physiology and behaviour using the African mole-rat as a model animal.

Prof Bennett’s research record places him among the top researchers studying social regulation of reproduction in any group of mammals in the world.

Saying he hoped his story would ‘inspire’ other children in Bexhill, Prof Bennett added: “It is quite amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something.”

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