Mammalogy Department


Visitors from Italy

11 January 2017

Dr Roberto Isotti, zoology lecturer at La Sapienza University (Rome), a conservation photographer and co-founder of Homo ambiens, an internet-based initiative showing the beauty of the natural environment and the state of the Planet (, joined Nico Avenant in August for excursions in the Free State, central Karoo, Cederberg and West Coast National Park, in search of caracal.  During their visit Roberto and his colleague, photo journalist Micol Ricci, presented a talk to more than 150 people in the Reservoir at Oliewenhuis Art Museum.  

Storage facilities upgraded

11 January 2017

The storage facilites housing mounted mammal and bird specimens not on display was recently upgraded.  This off-site store room was previously subjected to dust and temperature fluctuations not conducive to long-term preservation.  With the financial assistance of the National Research Foundation of South Africa the facility is now on par with international standards.  It is dust-proof and climate-controlled, ensuring a constant temperature and humidity.  


Popular talks

11 January 2017

Staff from the Mammalogy Department presented a number of talks, in combination with touch and sound experiences, for blind and visually impaired persons at the Presbyterian Church in Aliwal Street (in April), at the Museum (in September) and at the Free State Society for the Blind offices in Maitland Street (in October).

Ronny Nokha with a visitor from the Rendezvous Support Group, Free State Society for the Blind, during a visit to the Museum.  

Ongoing field work in long-term research project

11 January 2017

Dr Nico Avenant is one of more than 60 scientists from eight French and 10 South African research institutions currently collaborating in the long-term project Biodiversity and global change in Southern Africa.  This project has been running since 2005.  Pictured here are Dr Guila Ganem from the University of Montpellier (France) and Leon Kotze (M.Sc. student, University of the Witwatersrand) doing fieldwork at Soetdoring Nature Reserve.  They were assisted by staff of the Mammalogy Department.

Involvement in student training

11 January 2017

Dr Nico Avenant, Head of the Mammalogy Department, is involved in training students at the University of the Free State.  He is currently supervising a PhD and an MSc student in the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences (DAWGS), as well as lecturing Masters students at the Centre for Environmental Management and lecturing in a graduate course at DAWG.  He is pictured (back, third from right) with a group of DAWG students during the annual practical and field work weekend at Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve.



Environmental Assessments in Malawi

11 January 2017

In March Dr Nico Avenant took part in the international environmental assessment project Climate resilient livelihoods and sustainable natural resource management in the Elephant Marsh, Malawi.  Elephant Marsh lies on the flood plain of the Lower Shire River between the towns of Chikwawa and Nsanje in southern Malawi.  Nico was involved in the study of the biodiversity of the area.  

Dr Nico Avenant (middle) with the dragonfly specialist Dr Klaas-Douwe Dijkstra (Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Leiden)on the Elephant Marsh.

International collaboration

25 June 2015

Dr Frederic Delsuc from the University of Montpellier, France, has recently joined Dr Nico Avenant on a research field trip to Tswalu Nature Reserve in the Kalahari, Northern Cape, to study the gut microbiomes in mammals. This work forms part of a larger collaborative research project between Dr Avenant, Dr Delsuc and the research group of Professors Rob Knight and Valerie McKenzie at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA.

Jacob Senoge retired after 36 years

24 June 2015

Jacob Senoge has retired in December 2014 after working for 36 years as an assistant and preparator in the Mammalogy Department. During this time Jacob has made invaluable contributions towards the collection of mammal specimens throughout the Free State, Lesotho and the northern parts of the Eastern Cape Province. In this way he has contributed significantly to inter alia the publications The mammals of the Orange Free State (Lynch 1983), The mammals of Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho (Lynch & Watson 1989), The mammals of the north-eastern Cape Province (Lynch 1989) and The mammals of Lesotho (Lynch 1994), and to the >10 000 specimen Mammalogy Collection. Jacob’s professionalism, enthusiasm and loyal assistance with tasks, that also included curation of the Mammalogy collection, educational activities and acting as interpreter, will be dearly missed. 

Electronic copy of thesis available

23 June 2015

Jurie du Plessis, Researcher and Collections Manager in the Department of Mammalogy, obtained his Ph.D. in Environmental Management during the December 2013 graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State. The title of his thesis is “Towards the development of a sustainable management strategy for Canis mesomelas and Caracal caracal on rangeland”. An electronic copy of this thesis can be downloaded at

Environmental Education

16 October 2012

Dr Nico Avenant and ms Susan Jacobs with the Grade 10 Biology learners of the Bethulie Highschool.  Nico spoke about the problem animals of the southern Free state.