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BUTCHER, Alfred Dunbavin CMG AO (1915-1990)

BUTCHER, Alfred Dunbavin CMG AO (1915-1990)

Alfred Dunbavin Butcher.

Alfred Dunbavin Butcher.

Alfred Dunbavin Butcher CMG AO was a zoologist and conservationist who became Director of Fisheries and Wildlife Victoria and Deputy Director of Ministry of Conservation, Victoria. He has been described as 'the single most significant figure in developing government policy and activity in the broad areas of wildlife management and environmental assessment in Victoria' .

He was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Melbourne in 1986. The University acknowledged his achievement: 'Butcher has been the single most significant figure in developing government policy and activity in the broad areas of wildlife management and environmental assessment in Victoria.'

Born on 30 May 1915, he was a son of the Revd. Thomas William Butcher and Grace Eliza, nee Trevena. He was educated at Geelong College from 9 February 1927 to December 1932 before studying at the University of Melbourne gaining BScs in 1939 and MSc in 1943. He had also been a student at Flinders State School, Geelong.

He was first employed as a biologist with the Fisheries and Game Department in 1941, becoming Chief Inspector from 1947 to 1949, and Director from 1949 until 1973. During this period he participated as a member of the State Executive of CSIRO from 1964 to 1978 and President of the Royal Society of Victoria from 1971 to 1972 and most notably, as a long serving Chairman of the Zoological Board of Victoria from 1962 to 1987. Under his leadership, the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research and Marine Science Laboratories (Queenscliff) were established.

During his association with the Melbourne Zoo, it evolved into a leading education and conservation organisation. Zoo Victoria described his innovations: ' Recognising that the brick and bar enclosures distressed the animals and were no longer what the public wanted to see, Dr Butcher instigated the replacement of these enclosures with ones that resembled the natural habitats of the animals. This was the beginning of Melbourne Zoo becoming a 'zoo without bars'. During Dr Butcher's time as Chairman, the Lion Park with its elevated walkway was built - a world first. Innovations such as the walk-through Butterfly House and changes to the Great Flight Aviary were also created under the guidance of Dr Butcher. Not to be left out, a tree-top enclosure was built for the monkeys, with zoo visitors able to view the animals at tree-level.' The creation of Werribee Zoological Park and redevelopment of the Healesville Sanctuary also occured while he was Board Chairman. The 'Alfred Dunbavin Butcher Butterfly House' opened at Melbourne Zoo in 1985 was named in his honour in 1990. The following year, the Melbourne Zoo established the 'Alfred Dunbavin Butcher Memorial Scholarships Fund' to enable staff to extend their knowledge.

In 1978, his services to conservation were recognized when he became Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) ‘for services to the Zoological Board of Victoria.’

Following his retirement, he continued his many conservation activities and from 1979 to 1984 became a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund (Australia). In 1987, he was awarded AO 'for services to conservation, particularly to the redevelopment of the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens'.

In 1940, he married Bessell Carter, nee Batten (1913-1999) in St Davids Presbyterian Church, Newtown, Geelong.

He died unexpectedly on 28 May 1990 at Melbourne, aged 75 years.

His brother, Eric Thomas Butcher (1918-1941), was also educated at Geelong College.

An extensive collection of material relating to Alfred Dunbavin Butcher is held by The University of Melbourne.

In recognition of his achievement, Alfred Dunbavin Butcher CMG AO was inducted into the Old Geelong Collegians' Association (OGCA) Notables Gallery at Geelong College on 27 October 2018.

Sources: Ad Astra September 1978; Ad Astra December 1987; Melbourne Zoo: Acclimatisation to Conservation, Mark Kellet, Australian Heritage Magazine, 2009; M. Butcher. OGC 1928.
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