A tribute to a beloved pack member – Pat Fletcher
Pat Fletcher, who sadly passed away on 16 June 2022, was a dedicated conservationist who, working behind the scenes, made an indelible mark on the conservation of large carnivores in South Africa. I first met Pat in Johannesburg in April 1999, when I was fresh off the train from Zimbabwe, and on my way to Kruger National Park to start work on the Third Wild Dog Photographic Census. Pat had sourced and kitted out a project vehicle and secured the loan of the palatial Jurgens caravan that was to be my home for the next two years. I quickly came to learn that Pat was the quintessential go-to guy; someone you could always rely on in a bind.
Pat’s passion for nature and enthusiastic commitment to the Endangered Wildlife Trust belied the fact that he only joined the formal conservation sector in his retirement, after a successful career as a high-end motor vehicle salesman. However, it was his business acumen and worldly perspective that set him apart from the rest of us who had come to conservation through the more traditional channels. Pat was always hunting for the best deals and was never afraid to ask for a discount (or push you to ask for one!). This made an enormous contribution to the sustainability of the (then) Carnivore Conservation Group – first under the leadership of Dr Gus Mills, and later when I had the good fortune of managing the programme. Pat also cared deeply about people: he took the time to get know everyone – from the most junior staff to the wealthiest donors – and he was always genuine and authentic. There was always a long line of people outside his office hoping to get some advice; much of the time this had nothing to do with our work!
Pat could also put up a good fight, and I remember several occasions when we would storm off in opposite directions to cool off after an unsettled altercation. But he also moved quickly to reconciliation, citing the maxim: “if two people always agree then one of them is redundant”. I regularly repeat this piece of wisdom to myself – and every time I do, I think of Pat and the lasting legacy he left on myself and so many others.
I am saddened deeply by the fact that Pat is no longer with us.
I first met Pat in 2006 when I interviewed for a volunteer position working on the Venetia Limpopo Wild Dog Project. We sat on a bench by the zebra pen at the old EWT premises at the Joburg Zoo. Pat spent most of the interview chatting about English football. I was amazed that I got the position as I told Pat I didn’t like football. Pat was so welcoming to me when I joined the EWT and I remember him fondly.
From all of us at the EWT, those who knew him and those who have heard the legends, we salute you Pat. Our sincerest condolences to Pat’s friends and family – he will be remembered fondly as someone who left a true legacy for life.