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The Wall of the Dead:

A Illustrated Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Based on work by Richard Conniff



Kabochi, Paul Gathingi (1943-2003), assistant at National Museums of Kenya and guide for Jonathan Kingdon, Duane Schlitter and other mammalogists, killed by elephants while habituating a colony of dwarf mongooses, before a BBC film shoot in Tsavo, Kenya.

Kakule, Safari (19??-2011), ranger working on gorilla protection on the Congo side of Virunga National Park, killed, age unknown, along with two other rangers and five soldiers, all so far unnamed, when rebels fired a rocket-propelled grenade into their vehicle.  More than 120 rangers have been killed over the past ten years because of the continuing war in the Congo.  Further information welcome.

Kalko, 2010

Kalko, 2010

Kalko, Elisabeth (1962-2011), German tropical ecologist and bat specialist, died suddenly in her sleep, age 49, cause unknown, soon after arriving at a research station at the foot of Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.  She was featured in the BBC series “Bat Women of Panama.”

Kaplanov, Lev (1910-1943), the first researcher of Siberian tiger biology in the wild, killed by poachers in Ussuriland.

Kaufmann, Rudolf (1909-1941), German paleontologist, made early contributions to the study of allopatric speciation, and was a pioneering thinker on punctuated equilibrium, persecuted by Nazi Germany for his Jewish heritage, shot, age 32?, by guards in Lithuania while trying to flee.

Kempff, Noel Mercado (1924-1986), Bolivian biologist, was scouting out a new national park in Santa Cruz department when his group landed at what they thought was an abandoned airstrip.  It turned out to be a cocaine factory.  He was murdered, age 62, and the national park was subsequently named for him.

Kennicott, Robert (1835–1866) American naturalist, member of the Megatherium Club at the Smithsonian Institution, died in the field, age 30, leading the Scientific Corps of the Russia-American (Western Union) Telegraphic Survey in Alaska.

Keultjes, Gerrit Laurens (1786-1821), a painter from Utrecht, joined the Dutch Natural History Commission to the East Indies in 1820, to illustrate the materials being collected by expedition scientists Heinrich Kuhl and Johan Coenraad van Hasselt.  The strain of climbing in the mountains around Bogor in Java, combined with some unknown tropical disease, killed Keultjes, age 34. Kuhl had died two days early, and two years later, van Hasselt also died on the expedition.

Kielland, Jan (1923 – 1995), author of Butterflies of Tanzania, spent 50 years studying butterflies across Tanzania, described and published 144 taxa of Afrotropical butterflies.  He was killed, age 72, when his car hit a stranded lorry in the dark on his way to get permits for a survey in southern Tanzania.

Kilbourn, Annelisa (1967-2002), Wildlife Conservation Society researcher studying the link between ebola virus and western lowland gorillas, died, age 35, when her small plane crashed in the Lope Nature Preserve in Gabon.

Kilham, Peter (1943-1989),  University of Michigan professor and an expert in phytoplankton ecology and in the ecology of African lakes, who suddenly died, age 46, of a perforated ulcer during a research trip in Kenya.

Anthony King

Anthony King

King, Anthony (1968-2013), bush pilot and advocate for Kenya wildlife conservation groups, especially the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, killed, age 44, when the light plane he was flying crashed into Mount Kenya Forest in bad weather.

Kingsley, Mary H. (1862–1900), British explorer, ichthyologist, age 37, of typhoid fever in South Africa.

Kirkaldy, George Willis (1873–1910), entomologist working on Hemipterans in Hawaii, known for coining generic names after supposed romantic interests (Elachisme–pronounced “kiss me”–Peggichisme, Polychisme, etc),  hit by an automobile in Honolulu while riding a horse on the wrong side of the road and broke his leg. He was sent to California to have his leg reset and died, age 38, in the operating room.

Kirouac, Joseph Louis Conrad (1885-1944), known as Brother Marie-Victorin, founder of the Botanical Garden in Montréal, educator and author of a major Flora for the southern region of the Province of Québec, died in a car accident, age 58, on a plant collecting trip.  Possibly related to author Jack Kerouac.

Kishinouye, Kamakichi (1867-1929), Japanese fisheries and corals biologist, died, age 61, of “some alimentary disorder” during an expedition collecting freshwater fishes in Sichuan Province, China.   The death notice in Science described him, curiously, as “a good example of the courteous Japanese gentleman of the old school.”

Knakis, Uldis (1939-1970), Latvian wildlife biologist, killed, age 31, by poachers taking saigas in Russia’s Kalmyk steppes.

Köenig, Johann Gerhard (1728–1785), Polish-born physician and student of Linnaeus who introduced the Linnaean system to India, age 57, cause unknown.

Koepcke, Maria (1924-1971), German-born neotropical ornithologist, curator at the Natural History Museum in Lima, wrote and illustrated Las Aves del Departamento de Lima ( The Birds of the Department of Lima), killed, age 47, in an airplane crash over Amazonia. She had been flying with her 17-year-old daughter, Juliane,  to join husband and father Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke at a field station in Amazonia for the Christmas holiday.  Juliane, the sole survivor of the crash,  fell thousands of feet while still strapped to her chair, then  managed to walk for 10 days, always following waterways downhill, as her parents had taught her to do if lost. Juliane, now a mammalogist, is the subject of a Werner Herzog film; her own memoir When I Fell From the Sky is being published in German, in March, 2011.  Maria Koepcke has been honored by having three birds named in her honor: Koepcke’s Screech Owl, Koepcke’s Hermit, and the Selva Cacique (Cacicus koepckeae, see Gerhart, Nathaniel G.).



Kotaseao, Vickson (????-2004), a research associate at the Wei Institute in Papua New Guinea and the first person to discover the larva  of the jewel beetle genus Calodema, he was brutally murdered, age unknown, in an ambush while on duty at the Institute.  The species Calodema vicksoni was named in his honor, and according to a note in the description, it also brought misfortune to the original collector:  “The holotype was captured by a native lady who found this specimen feeding on flowers near her house in the jungle in a very remote location in the Owen Stanley Range.  She caught the beetle and gave it to her husband.  Sadly enough, shortly afterwards she was bitten by a Papuan Blacksnake and died.”

Kramer, Christian Carl (1732-1764). Danish physician and zoologist on a quarrelsome and ill-fated multinational expedition to Arabia with Forsskål and others.  He discovered and disclosed that one of the other scientists aboard, the ethnologist Christian von Haven, intended to murder them by arsenic poisoning and steal their funds.  Of the five scientists, four died of other causes, among them Kramer, age 32, of fever (probably malaria), in Bombay. Only the young mapmaker Carl Niebhur survived, ostensibly thanks to his adoption of local habits and dress.

Kramer, Gustav(1910–1959), German ornithologist, was attempting to cap­ture young rock doves from a nest when he lost his footing and fell to his death, age 49, in southern Italy.


Kuhl, Heinrich (1797–1821), German ornithologist, age 23, in Java, of an unknown tropical disease.

Kuzmier, Kerrie (1961-1992), a recent graduate of the Duke University School of the Environment, was working to integrate ecotourism with environmental preservation in Costa Rica.  She died, age 30, in a plane crash in Costa Rica while traveling to a remote National Park.


Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900)

What if you decided to leave your home and family to collect fishes in Africa? And what if you had no idea how to get around Africa and didn’t speak any of its languages? And what if you had no formal education in the sciences? And what if you lived during Victorian times, when travel to places like Africa was fraught with extreme danger?