Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA)

History and Overview

The Early Years

The Society was founded on 11 March 1959 at the meeting of an Interim Committee appointed to investigate the possibility of forming a society to promote Zoology and the interests of Zoologists in southern Africa. The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Dr S H Skaife who was also the first President of the Society elected in 1960.

The main objectives to meet its goal were to hold regular conferences and publishing a peer reviewed scientific journal and regular newsletters to its members. The Aardvark the logo for the ZSSA and the annual newsletter of the society is also named “Aardvark”.

Early Membership

Various categories of membership were provided for, and today we have institutional, ordinary, family, student, pensioners and extended (life) membership – local and abroad.

The membership grew steadily from a small beginning of 151 at the end of 1959 peaking at 756 members in July 1991. Currently the society has a membership of about 300 – 350 members.


Scientific Journal

One of the objectives of the Society from the beginning, was to publish a peer reviewed scientific journal of the highest international standard.

This was realised in 1965 with the founding of the Society’s Journal, Zoologica Africana. The first issue comprised the proceedings of the second symposium of ZSSA on ‘Animal Mammals’. The first editors were FH Talbot and MK Rowan. The journal appeared for 14 years under this name. In 1979 the Society was forced by financial circumstances to turn to the Bureau of Scientific Publications (BSP) to publish its Journal, and to accept a name change resulting in the South African Journal of Zoology.

Further financial constraints in the late 1980’s resulted in the introduction of nominal page charges. In 1999 the South African Government (via The Department of Arts Culture Science and Technology) announced that in light of the poor standing of South African journals, it would in all likelihood be ending financial support to the majority of such publications (via the BSP). The ZSSA Council with the support of its membership, took the decision to publish its journal independently. Isteg Scientific Publishers were appointed publishers, and the new look journal (Volume 35) which was renamed African Zoology to reflect the scope of the journal, appeared in 2000.

This was followed by the electronic publication of the journal on the SABINET portal, followed by an additional inclusion by BioOne. All archival content of the Journal was digitised and added to full text content published on the SABINET portal.

In 2015, we entered a new era, with the journal now being published by NATIONAL INQUIRY SERVICES CENTRE (NISC), in partnership with international publishing house, Taylor & Francis. At this time, the number of issues per year also increased from two to four.

Read more: African Zoology reaches a milestone – a 50-year celebration: editorial by Carol Simon and Theresa Wossler at the following link: https://doi.org/10.1080/15627020.2015.1031953

Newsletter: Aardvark

In addition to the Journal, the Society publishes a newsletter/bulletin. Initially this was on an irregular basis. Through the years, however it become a very effective vehicle of communication within the Society and in 1990 the newsletter, better known as The Aardvark, has appeared twice each year. In 2006 the journal became fully electronic. Over recent years the Aardvark issues were only published once a year, due to alternative improved regular electronic communication with members via emails and a social media ZSSA page.

The Society also publishes a Career Guide in Zoology for prospective students to gain interest in the various career options of the field of Zoology.

In 2015 Standing on the shoulders of colourful giants: 50 years of zoological research in southern Africa by Peter J. Taylor & Michelle Hamer, was published in (Volume 44, 2009 – Issue 2) to reflect on the years of the existence of the ZSSA and the Journal. (https://doi.org/10.1080/15627020.2009.11407455)


In the mid-1990’s the society launched a website, the aim of which was to inform membership, and anyone interested, on recent ZSSA developments.

Conferences / Scientific Meetings

The first decision taken by the Interim Council in 1959 was to have thematic conferences at regular intervals. Between 1977 and 1999 conferences were annual and, in this time, the ZSSA met in various parts of South Africa and twice in Namibia. In 1993 Council decided themes were inappropriate and opted instead for a broad topic. In 1999 the decision was taken to hold biennial meetings (and wherever possible joint meetings with other “Zoological” societies) due to increasingly crowded local conference timetables.

However it was also decided that those members wishing to use the ZSSA name to organise interim conferences would be allowed to do so.

The 25th Anniversary Symposium of the ZSSA was organised in 1984 by a committee, headed by AJ (Koot) Reinecke.

The 50th Anniversary Conference was held in 2009. Standing on the shoulders of colourful giants: 50 years of Zoological research in southern Africa by Peter J Taylor & Michelle Hamer, was published in African Zoology 44(2): 217–231 (October 2009). (available online at https://doi.org/10.1080/15627020.2009.11407455)


The Society biennially awards two medals when suitable nominations are received. They are the Gold Medal to a zoologist for outstanding achievements in Zoology, and the Stevenson-Hamilton award (silver medal) to amateur Zoologists for exceptional contributions to Zoology. The first Gold Medal was awarded in 1971 and first Stevenson-Hamilton Award in 1988.

Since 1994, awards for the best student papers at the conferences were instituted. Certificates of merit have been awarded annually since 1991 to the best third year and Honours students who pass with distinction in Zoology at the various universities in Southern Africa. Nominations are made by the Heads of Zoology/Biology Departments and approved by the President of the Society on behalf of Council. A certificate and one year free membership accompanies the award.

Other Activities

The following matters are subsidized by the Society from membership fees: student and pensioner registration fees for the scientific meetings of the Society; transport for students who participate in these meetings; publication costs of the journal; and publication costs of approved Zoological literature.

Members may make themselves available to be elected to serve on Council and thereby contribute to the Society’s impact on Zoological matters in southern Africa. A Biennial Annual General Meeting is convened at which members may contribute and have voting rights.