Review/Oorsig Volume 23, Issue 02 - Page 24

Oorsig/Review Other important contributions were made in toxicology, including Geeldikkop (reconfirming that the plant Tribulus terrestris and not Selenium was the cause), enzootic icterus (proposing it was a form of copper poisoning), and urolithiasis (suggesting the major role of phosphorus in the aetiology). His other notable interest was the bacterial diseases of sheep and goats. Disease prevention, and the promotion of systems that improved profits sustainably, were two major guidelines for his contributions. He was thus one of the early supporters of the holistic approach that led to herd/flock health and production work by veterinarians. By his example and enthusiasm, he inspired a generation of veterinarians to take up his approach. His knowledge of almost all matters relating to sheep and sheep farming was legendary and virtually unrivalled. His drive, encouragement and persistence led to the expansion and improvement of the Veterinary Investigation Centre at Grootfontein into the foremost diagnostic and veterinary research centre for small ruminants in South Africa. Because the Onderstepoort fraternity of that time frowned on any outside organisation undertaking veterinary research, he had to disguise his work as “investigations”. Staff, facilities and equipment were expanded and improved to cope with a wide variety of diagnostic and research problems. At farmers’ days and meetings he was a popular contributor with a mixture of practical advice, simplifications of complex matters, and down-to-earth humour. He was ferocious in defending his staff and promoting their interests and thus he got the best out of them, as well as earning their respect and loyalty. He was known as an excellent lecturer and could quote his notes verbatim without consulting them in a lecture. He was much in demand at the Grootfontein College of Agriculture as well as the national then Department of Agricultural Technical Services on a wide variety of matters concerning veterinary science and small stock. Organised agriculture also made use of his advice. HOMEAGES AND DISTINCTIONS He was widely recognised and honoured for his expertise but unfortunately there are no records of the forms this took. He was awarded the Silver Medal of the South African Veterinary Association in 1985. He served on the Middelburg Town Council from 31 July 1973 to 4 September 1984, and as Mayor from 23 September 1975 to 9 September 1980, and again from 16 September 1982 to 12 September 1983. While State Veterinarian in de Aar, he played as scrum-half for the Griquas rugby team. It was in 1965 that he received national attention for his role in the de Aar horse endurance marathon, where scores of horses died after starting the second day. Despite flimsy and debatable evidence, the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute pathologists attributed this to Azoturia (Monday Morning Disease), a diagnosis which he strongly contested and was supported in this by many experts. He was convinced it was poisoning, probably nitrite, and kept his evidence until his death (this is no longer to be found). The incident made front-page news in the Sunday Times for a few weeks. WRITINGS Author or co-author of at least 23 traced articles in peer-reviewed Journals, although his website biography records “over 40”. There were many more “scientific” articles and contributions in other journals and publications, quite possibly “over 100” as recorded in his biography – if this includes articles written for lay readers. It must be noted that these contributions covered a period of less than 20 years. PERSONALITY Marius van Tonder was generous, inspirational, and very supportive of his staff. He was fearless and could be very combative when he felt a key issue had to be defended. He had a huge appetite for work and wrote prolifically to facilitate matters in his laboratory. In social situations, and even in the work sphere, he had a great sense of humour, cracking jokes, making fun of puffed-up egos, parodying characters and telling a wide variety of yarns. He was a great family man and spent any spare time at home, often in the garden. SOURCES C.H.B. Marlow. 2010 A brief history of equine private practice in South Africa. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association Volume: 81 Issue: 4. Pages: 190-200 24