Robert & Birgit Bateman

ROBERT BATEMAN is a Canadian naturalist and painter. Bateman started as a high school teacher of art and geography. In 1957-58, Robert travelled around the world for 14 months in a Land Rover with his friend Bristol Foster. As they made their way through Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia, Bateman painted and sketched what he saw. His work started to receive major recognition in the 1970s and 1980s. Robert Bateman's show in 1987, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, drew the largest crowd for a living artist. After two decades as a high school teacher, he became a full-time artist in 1976. Over the years, the sale of his prints have raised millions of dollars for environmental causes.

His work is featured in many public and private collections including the HRH The Prince Charles, HRH The Prince Philip, HRH The late Princess Grace of Monaco and HRH Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands

Books about his life and art have sold well over 1,000,000 copies. He has been the subject of several films and television programs. Three schools have been named after him. He has been awarded 14 honorary doctorates. In 1977, he received the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal, the Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984, the World Wildlife Fund Member of Honour Award  in 1985, the Rachel Carson Award in 1996, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada's President’s Medal  in 2005, the Amnesty International Human Rights Defender Award in 2007, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Gold Medal in 2013, and many others. In 1998, the National Audubon Society named Robert as one of 20th Century's 100 Champions of Conservation

In 2013 the Robert Bateman Foundation was established as well as The Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria, BC. He is widely regarded by the national and international conservation community as a “hero” for his lifelong support and clearly articulated perspective.

3 words to describe Nature?

Essential. Complex. Wonderful

3 things Nature taught you?

To pay attention

To go slowly

To care about the future

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Around my home on Salt Spring Island

Around my home in Toronto

East Africa

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel….?

Peaceful and inquisitive (what is on it and what is in it?)

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Also peaceful and inquisitive

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel….?

Not so peaceful and less to be inquisitive about

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Visually stimulated

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Nostalgic for times past when I was sheltered and cozy in our house during a storm

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

A bit unsettled and sinister

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest or Desert person?

More forest, but I have positive feelings for all forms

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is nature to our well being?


Share with us a childhood nature memory.

One day in May in the 1940’s, a warm front brought a mass of migratory birds into the Toronto area. They seemed to fill the ravine behind our house with their voices filling the air with song and their bodies gathering food everywhere. I did a painting of that day in 1944 titles, “Backyard Birds”. I was 14 years old at the time.

BIRGIT FREYBE BATEMAN is a retired high school art teacher. An accomplished artist in her own right, she is a published and exhibited photographer. She was for 10 years,  the Director of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and Friends of the Vancouver Island Marmot Foundation for 5 years. Since 1967 she has traveled throughout the world searching for images. After many exhibits around North America in both public and private galleries, her latest honour was an exhibit, Mindful Vision, sponsored by the State Russian Museum in the Stroganoff Palace in St.Petersburg, Russia in  2011. Her images have been published in the books of End of the Earth: Voyages to Antarctica by The National Geographic Society, Dangerous Beauty by Miramax, and Artists for Nature in Extremadura by Wildlife Art Gallery, as well as in Conde Nast Traveler, Outside Magazine, Northwest Travel, Geo Airone, National Geographic Adventure and Shambala Sun.

3 words to describe Nature?

Restorative. Comprehensive. Elaborate - “We are only part of nature!”

3 things Nature taught you?

No matter how destructive an event is to the environment, nature will come forth from the ashes.

That it is more complex than we can ever know.

Sometimes slow and steady wins the race and sometimes an all powerful thrust is needed to push through.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Sitting on top of a 4 x 4 observing the African Savanna.

In a deep green mossy forest of very tall Red Cedars and Douglas Firs as at our place on Salt Spring Island and in Helliwell Park on Hornby Island.

On a beach up the BC coast with waves crashing on the shore as on Hornby Island.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Insignificant and curious

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Impressed and protected

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Full of awe

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...? 

Calm and at peace, but also emotional

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Intrigued, since I didn’t hear it usually while I was growing up.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...? 

Afraid that some of our big firs and cedars will fall on the house!

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

All! Whatever setting I am in, I look all around, take a deep breath and am overwhelmed by the magnificence of all around me. The deep breathing immediately calms me. It is as if my genes are rejoicing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 


Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

The youngest of 3 children, I was 8 when my family immigrated to Vancouver in 1955. Living in the West End we were latch-key kids. My parents usually were at work, so we didn’t have regular weekends the way others did. But one of the first special outings was going to Stanley Park. I had never seen such towering giants of trees. But the most impressive was the hollow tree, which was a Western Red Cedar about 700 years old. My uncle, who had immigrated years earlier and now had a car, had driven us there. He drove the car into the hollow and took a photo of the car with all of us in it. I felt protected by the giant cedar walls wrapped all around us.