Bird Expert Dies at 99

May 14, 2004

ALEXANDER Skutch, a renowned ornithologist who authored 27 books about birds in Central America, passed away peacefully in his home in the Southern Zone on Wednesday. He was 99.Skutch was known for his personal sacrificein the name of his research, which yielded works such as the three-volume Life Histories of Central American Birds and A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, an illustrated guide widely known as the Costa Rican birdwatchers’ Bible.“He is the only naturalist who removed himself totally from affiliations with anyuniversity or research institution,” said Julio Sánchez, the curator of birds at the National Museum, last year (TT, May 16, 2003).“HE retired from the world, almost monk-like, to live a simple life so that he could be with the birds every hour of the day and learn everything there is to know about the life of birds,” he said. Skutch was honored for his work throughout his career. He was made an honorary fellow of ornithological societies around the world and was presented the Hal Boland Award from the editors of Audobon Magazine for his “lasting contribution to the understanding, preciationand protection of nature through writing.”Skutch was also named a “Distinguished citizen” by the community of San Isidro de El General in the Southern Zone for his “constant search for equilibrium between man and nature.”Skutch gave property he owned near that community in Pérez Zeledón to the Tropical Science Center on the condition that it remain absolutely undeveloped and that hebe allowed to live there for the rest of his life –which he did.SKUTCH, a U.S.- Costa Rican citizen who became a vegetarian when he was a teenager,was also known as a sensitive, thoughtful manwith a great respect for the animals he studied so rigorously. Throughout his career, Skutch never caught a bird in a net or collected a bird specimen.In his later years, Skutch became increasinglyinterested in conservation philosophy and humankind’s harmonious existence with thenatural world.During an interview last year, he said that his greatest concern about the future isoverpopulation and its impact on the naturalworld.A memorial service will be held at the Tropical Science Center the afternoon ofMay 20 – which would have been his 100thbirthday. For information, call 253-3267.Skutch is survived by his adopted son, Edwin Skutch.

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