Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary

Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary

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The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary is named after the greatest ornithologist-mammal gist yet produced in South Africa, J Austin Roberts. He was born in 1883 in Pretoria and grew up in Potchefstroom as a minister’s son. He received his initial grounding from a famous pioneer amateur ornithologist based there named Thomas Ayres. Self-taught, he was honoured for his many achievements with an honorary doctorate by the University of Pretoria. These included the standard South African reference books on both mammals and birds, a remarkable accomplishment.

Austin Roberts was killed in a motor car accident on the 5th of May 1948 in the former Transkei. The sanctuary named in his honour as one of Pretoria’s greatest sons, was officially proclaimed as a nature reserve on 26 February 1985. In his time, he probably contributed more to the study of birds and mammals in South Africa than any single person before or since.

The 11.8 ha site was officially opened by Mr. WJ Seymore, then Mayor of Pretoria on the 27th of October 1956. This was the culmination of a group of people’s efforts to establish the sanctuary. Included in this group was Mr. H Bruins-Lich (then the city’s Director of Parks), Dr. Gertrude Theiler (daughter of Onderstepoort’s founder), Dr. LEW Codd (former Director of the National Botanical Gardens) and Mr. K Hyslop (first Chairman of the Pretoria Bird Club).

The sanctuary is contained within the Walkerspruit Open Space System. Two streams, the Walker and the Argo, feed water into wetland basins of which nine are small perennial dams and these attract a multitude of water bird species.
Under their supervision the area was fenced in June 1970 and the sanctuary became a valuable civic amenity with its recreational and educational value, a great attraction to Pretoria’s citizens and visitors.

The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary has a wide variety of birdlife that can be observed from the bird hide. We also provide guided walks as well as an exhibition hall.

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