(L-R): Dr. Elaine Turner, Dean, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Ron Magill, University of Florida Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient; Dr. Scott Angle, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, UF/IFAS

University of Florida alumnus Ron Magill was recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Student Recognition Ceremony on May 1.

The award is given to individuals for exceptional achievements in a chosen profession, for demonstrated leadership and for the other exemplary accomplishments that merit the special recognition of the university.  Nominees must be persons whose distinctive accomplishments merit the special recognition of the university.

Magill has spent most of his career changing the face of wildlife conservation. Known by others as the “Zoo Man,” Magill has been working at Zoo Miami for 42 years and counting, but he is also a world-renowned wildlife photographer who has brought wildlife conservation efforts into focus for thousands of people.

“On a trip to Panama, he was able to see for the first time a live harpy eagle, his favorite animal,” Turner said. “But the conditions of its habitat in captivity were so poor, he felt compelled to work for change.”

Magill raised money for this giant bird by meeting with the mayor of Panama City and creating the Harpy Eagle Project. His dedication to the native wildlife of Panama later earned him the key to Panama City on two separate occasions. He also spearheaded a campaign that designated the harpy eagle the national bird of Panama.

A six-time Emmy Award winner, Magill has also worked on numerous nature documentaries, including “Amazon and Beyond,” “Dreams of Alaska” and “Alligator Love.” As a producer, co-producer or photographer for these documentaries, Magill has been able to show the world the importance of wildlife conservation in a multitude of ecosystems on our planet.

According to Eric Hellgren, professor and chair of the wildlife ecology and conservation department at UF, Magill’s time at UF was the springboard to his impactful career.

Magill’s efforts in conservation help wildlife across the globe, but he also does his best to do right by people. He created the Ron Magill Conservation Scholarship, a $5,000 annual scholarship given to a wildlife ecology and conservation graduate student studying wildlife species in Central or South America.

In addition, Magill is a steadfast supporter of the University of Florida, often aiding the work conducted at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center and recently serving as emcee for the Tropical Research and Education Center’s “One Night in the Tropics” event.

As Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and Chief Executive of Wildlife SOS India, said, “Ron Magill is the consummate ambassador for all of us who care so deeply about our natural world and the desperate need to protect it. He is a true wildlife hero.”


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