2023 Weatherby Award Winner – Béla Hidvégi

Béla Hidvégi was born in 1936 in a small Hungarian town called Nagyszénás. His parents were landowners and, after the war, they lost all their property and had to flee from the mob to the other side of the country. Béla studied at Keszthely Agricultural University and then in 1956 continued the studies in London, where he graduated as a food engineer. He married in England and has two daughters and five grandsons.

About 40 years ago, Béla started to spend more time in Hungary and started to hunt big game.  He took his first African safari when he was 56 years old. He donated his whole collection to the Hungarian Natural History Museum. The Museum, in turn, loaned it for an undefined period to the Keszthely Festetics Castle Museum and to the Sopron Forestry Museum. He has over 310 full mounts in dioramas in Keszthely and over 250 (mainly shoulder) mounts in Sopron from his early safaris.  The collection in Sopron has approximately 6,000 visitors a year (mainly students), and Keszthely has 95,000 visitors per year!

Béla has been active at SCI for many years and was the founding President of the Hungarian Chapter 18 years ago. He has been an SCI International Director since 2017, and is an advisor to the IADC of SCI. He received the 2016 Pantheon Award and the 2021 Conklin Award. In addition to numerous other international Hunting Awards, Béla is the recipient of the highest Hungarian Civil Award: “The Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic”. Béla received the Count Lajos Karolyi Award for his Hunting and Conservation efforts in 2022.  He also received SCI Foundation’s President Award, the Glass Statue, for his work on Wildlife Conservation, Outdoor Education, and Humanitarian Services.

Béla has published numerous DVDs and written eleven books.  Three of the books are on mountain hunting; two have been translated into English, and one into German. The late Ovis President, Dennis Campbell, called Béla’s book, “Beyond the Mountains”, one of the best ten hunting books he had ever read. Béla made an introductory speech in “A Conservationist’s Cry” by Ivan Carter, and was also in an animated film for children. These films have been shown to over six million people in six countries and have been shown during European Leadership meetings. He has also been working on a major conservation and anti-poaching project in Mozambique; he also made a five-part film about these efforts.  Béla regularly gives talks and interviews on radio and television, mainly on hunting and game conservation. He lectures extensively in Hungary, and in various countries in Europe, in addition to taking groups of visitors to his museums and exhibitions, explaining to them the importance of ethical hunting and why his favourite hunting is in the mountains and in the rain forests.

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