Mohamed Hyder obituary

Other lives: Zoologist and leading figure in the management of Kenya’s national parks

My friend Mohamed Hyder, who has died aged 88, was a professor of zoology in Kenya who was also a leading figure in the management of the country’s national parks.

Mo was the first African to chair the board of trustees of Kenya National Parks – serving from 1964 to 1967 and again from 1970 to 1974 – and he established Mpunguti marine park and reserve, an important habitat for marine wildlife, in 1978.

In addition to his academic work as a professor at the University of Nairobi, he took many roles in conservation, and led the Kenya delegation to the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1966.

Born in Mombasa, the son of Fatma Sood and her husband, Hyder Kindy, who was a leading figure in local politics, Mohamed went to school in Mombasa, and then studied at Makerere University College in Uganda between 1950 and 1953. In 1954 he spent a year at Chelsea College of Science and Technology in London, before enrolling at St Andrews University. He graduated with first-class honours in biology in 1959, and in 1962 obtained a PhD from the University of Leeds, after which he returned to east Africa.

In Kenya he held a Nuffield research fellowship at Makerere University (1962-63), before joining what was to become the University of Nairobi as a lecturer in zoology in 1963. He served the university until his retirement in 1990 and was given a personal professorship in zoology – the first in east Africa – in 1970, and was professor of zoology from 1971.

Mo also played a large role in the Muslim community of Kenya, and served as chairman of the country’s Muslim Civic Education Trust from 1999, in which role he was respected for his wisdom and kindness.

I first met Mo in 1971 through my work for the Inter-University Council for Higher Education Overseas, and he and his wife, Samira, whom he married in 1955, became close friends. They were always generous in their hospitality. Whenever I visited Kenya, Mo would meet me at the airport and tell me to which park he was taking me. In this way I was privileged to see most of Kenya’s national parks.

He is survived by Samira, six children and 26 grandchildren.

John Theakstone

The GuardianTramp

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