Lady Philippa Scott: Conservationist and wildlife photographer

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The Independent Online

If Sir Peter Scott – the only son of Scott of the Antarctic, founder of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, co-founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature and prolific wildlife artist – was a great man, then Philippa Scott was the great woman behind him.

Lady Scott, who has died aged 91, followed her husband in his role as honorary director of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, overseeing its considerable expansion after his death in 1989. When Sir David Attenborough toasted her 90th birthday at a party at the WWT centre at Slimbridge in 2008 he said: "The Scott partnership put conservation on the map at a time when conservation was not a word people understood, at least not in the natural history context." He added that if people did conserve and protect the natural world in future much of what survived would be due to the Scotts' legacy.

Brought up in South Africa, Philippa Talbot-Ponsonby moved to England after the death of her father. She worked for the Women's Land Army during the Second World War and then for the Foreign Office in Belgrade. She was employed by Peter Scott as his assistant in London from 1948, and accompanied him to Gloucestershire when he moved his office to Slimbridge, where he had inaugurated what was then the Severn Wildfowl Trust in 1947.

She married Sir Peter (who was divorced from his first wife, Elizabeth Jane Howard, earler that year) in 1951 in Reykjavik while they were on an expedition to ring pink-footed geese. A daughter, Dafila (a name taken from the genus of pintail ducks), who is now a wildlife artist, was born in 1952. A son, given Scott of the Antarctic's middle name, Falcon, followed in 1954, and he is now a civil engineer.

As a family the Scotts were totally committed to the work of their wildfowl trust, to extending its conservation work and to raising the money to support its expansion. While Sir Peter became successful as a wildlife artist, painting particularly ducks and geese in scenes which sold famously well as prints and cards as well as paintings, his wife turned to wildlife film-making and photography.

She accompanied him on many of his expeditions, because he disliked travelling alone, eventually completing 26 journeys together to almost every part of the world from the Arctic to Antarctica. Antarctica became a special interest, Lady Scott visiting in all six times, becoming vice-patron of the UK Atlantic Heritage Trust. The couple's other destinations included the Galapagos Islands, where they filmed the BBC's Faraway Look television programmes, Lady Scott becoming vice-president of the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

Both wrote books about their travels, and their interests, as with painting and photography, were often complementary. So while her husband was an enthusiastic ocean-going yachtsman, Lady Scott was a scuba diver and ichthyologist.

She became an honorary life member of the British Sub Aqua Club and president of its Cotswold branch, and she was also patron of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and president of the Nature in Art Trust. One of her special interests and concerns was the study and conservation of the great whales.

Martin Spray, chief executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said of her: "Lady Scott remained committed to and passionate about the work of the WWT. She will be sorely misseed by staff, volunteers and members of WWT."

Robin Young

Philippa Talbot-Ponsonby (Lady Scott), conservationist and wildlife photographer: born Bloemfontein, South Africa 22 November 1918; honorary director of Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, 1993-; married 1951 Peter Scott (one daughter, one son); died Slimbridge, Gloucestershire 5 January 2010.

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