15 May 1924|
|Died||24 December 1971
Amazon Rainforest, Peru
Maria Koepcke (also spelled Köpcke), was a German and Peruvian ornithologist.
Koepcke, originally Maria Emilie Anna von Mikulicz-Radecki, was born and educated in Germany, earning a PhD in Zoology from Kiel University in 1949. She then moved to Peru, where she married zoologist Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke in 1950. Together they collaborated on much of their scientific work and publications, and had a daughter named Juliane. She was a successful Neotropical ornithologist at a time when South American ornithology was male-dominated.
On Christmas Eve 1971, Koepcke traveled with her 17-year-old daughter on LANSA Flight 508 from Lima to Pucallpa to join her husband for a holiday. The plane encountered a severe thunderstorm, was hit by lightning, and disintegrated above the Amazon Rainforest. Seated next to each other, the Koepkes were separated in mid-air (with Juliane remaining belted to their row of three seats), and both survived the fall. Coming to rest in different areas of the jungle floor, Maria was badly injured and died several days later. Juliane, despite sustaining a broken collar bone and an eye injury, was able enough to travel through the dense jungle for eleven days, before reaching a makeshift logging camp and being subsequently rescued on 3 January 1972.
Juliane returned to Germany in March 1972, where she fully recovered from her injuries, continued her studies, and became a PhD zoologist like her parents. Juliane returned to Panguana, the nature reserve founded by her parents, to study butterflies for her dissertation, and again to study the behavior of bats for her PhD. Juliane continues to return to Peru often, accompanied by her husband, where together they strive to continue the conservation legacy of her parents.
Koepcke is commemorated in the names of:
- Koepcke's screech owl, Megascops koepckeae
- Koepcke's hermit, Phaethornis koepckeae
- Selva cacique, Cacicus koepckeae
- Sira curassow, Pauxi koepckeae
- A Peruvian lizard, Microlophus koepckeorum (genitive plural), along with her husband
- Gastaña et al. 2011. DISTINCTIVE MORPHOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND FIRST VOCAL DESCRIPTIONS OF SIRA CURASSOW (PAUXI [UNICORNIS] KOEPCKEAE): EVIDENCE FOR SPECIES RANK. ORNITOLOGIA NEOTROPICAL 22: 267–279.
- Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Koepcke", p. 144).
- Niethammer, G. (1974). "Maria Koepcke geb. Mikulicz-Radecki". Journal of Ornithology. 115: 91. doi:10.1007/BF01647319.
- Rea, Amadeo M. & Kostritsky, B. León (1973). "Obituary: Maria Emilie Anna von Mikulicz-Radecki Koepcke" (PDF). Auk. 90 (3): 735–736. doi:10.2307/4084200.
- Vuilleumier, François (1995). "Five Great Neotropical Ornithologists: An Appreciation of Eugene Eisenmann, Maria Koepcke, Claës Olrog, Rodulfo Philippi, and Helmut Sick" (PDF). Ornitología Neotropical. 6 (2): 97–111.