Meet the team
December 28, 2022

Inspiring 2022 Highlights for Team Wildlife ACT

2022 has proven to be yet another inspiring year for Wildlife ACT. Despite contending with the knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, having a strong and determined team ensured continued successful impact for endangered species conservation in Africa.

We asked a few members of the team to share some of their 2022 highlights and hopes for 2023. We look forward to continuing to make a difference this coming year and to inviting many new and returning volunteers to help us do this!

As another busy (and tough) year comes to an end I am reminded, once again, of the importance of a reliable team. We have the privilege of working alongside some of the most committed and passionate humans on the planet. Always giving their all and going the extra mile, whether it’s in the field or in the office, the countless early mornings and late nights, 7 days a week, is what makes Wildlife ACT who we are.  In addition to this, we couldn’t achieve what we do without the support of our numerous partners and supporters. To all of those individuals and organisations that continue to work closely with us, we thank you. Bring on 2023 - with this dedicated team and network of support, we can take on anything!"  - Chris Kelly, Co-Founder and Conservation Director

I've always had a soft spot for Black Rhino and having been involved with the introduction and post-release monitoring of a new Black Rhino population was the most humbling and exhilarating highlight of my year. Collaborative, big-picture operations like these give me hope for the future of our endangered species, protected areas, and people. I hope to see more such bold ventures making a real difference in 2023. Anel Olivier, Operations Manager North, Research Coordinator & Vulture Conservation Programme Manager

2022, what a jam packed year for the Human-Wildlife Coexistence Programme. From the African Protected Area Congress in Rwanda, to the Earthranger User Conference in Kenya, it has been an incredibly rewarding period. However, one of the most important milestones for us this year is my signing off as a Wildlife Poisoning Trainer with our partner, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, in support of the Zululand Vulture Project. This really allows for a wider reach in terms of Poison Threat awareness, and upskilling field operatives to respond effectively to these crimes across KwaZulu-Natal. Next year holds great promise for some important collaboration in the space of Human-Wildlife Coexistence, and I am optimistic we will be able to achieve measurable impact by the end of 2023. - PJ Roberts, Human-Wildlife Coexistence Programme Manager & Applied Research Unit Coordinator

Short version of the Highlight: My highlight for 2022 was being part of the successful capture of a dispersal unit of African Wild Dogs in KZN. The team work, both within Wildlife ACT as well as with our strategic partners, ensured that we were able to respond and successfully capture the four females within 48 hours after the initial report. Looking to next year, I am extremely excited about helping to re-establish the Wild Dog population within KZN and see individuals from the KZN Metapopulation continue to contribute to the National Wild Dog Range Expansion program. - Mike Staegenmann, Wild Dog Species Programme Manager

Photo: Tegan Goldschmidt, Priority Species Monitor: Hluhluwe

This year, the Wildlife ACT Conservation Training Course on Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) has made great momentum into how to make an impact in the Habitat Management side of Conservation. Combining wildlife monitoring with habitat management is where a big of mine passion lies and being able to see our contribution in HiP over the last year has been so uplifting. From assisting in some of the first elephant deterrent “tree-wrapping”, to the erosion control of the many roads we traverse and monitor, we have been able to witness and assess some of the most beautiful scenes across the iconic HiP – this has truly made my year. Bring on the new adventures of 2023. - Megan Hudson, Operations Manager South, and Conservation Course & Training Manager

Having another year of successfully completed Leopard Surveys , it's awesome to look back and see some of the highlights . My greatest highlight was while I was working in Eastern Shores and having the most incredible sighting of a female leopard and two cubs - although of course I had forgotten my camera that day, thankfully I was still able to capture some foggy images on my phone. My hopes for 2023 is to grow the leopard programme and expand our monitoring of leopards throughout KwaZulu-Natal to grow our understanding of this cryptic species’ movements and threats to better manage the species. - Danielle Theron, Leopard Survey Project Coordinator & Manyoni Operations Manager

Photo: Priority Species Monitor: iMfolozi, Chris du Toit

The highlight of 2022 for me has definitely been being able to finally facilitate bookings for so many individuals who had to sadly postpone their trips due to the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 travel restrictions. We know how disappointing that was for you, so feeling your building excitement as these trips finally started becoming a reality, throughout all the planning and questions, was so heartwarming! Thank you to all our loyal and caring volunteers across the world, and we look forward to engaging with all those who will be joining us in 2023! - Bronwen Kelly, Reservations Manager

Photo: Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications

Having just joined Wildlife ACT this earlier year, my highlight has been meeting the members of this dedicated team and watching them in action. Witnessing African Wild Dogs being collared and released was surreal and experiencing the extent of hard work and expertise of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Game Capture Unit during a Black Rhino relocation was humbling. I will never forget my first monitoring session and the feeling of being on the back of a Wildlife ACT vehicle with a flask of tea in hand at sunrise. In 2023, I hope that first monitoring session comes full circle and I finally catch a glimpse of the elusive CF9. - Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications

Photo: Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications

It's hard to pinpoint the highlights of a year filled with so many great memories that will last a lifetime.  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know so many new people and friends all over the world. I’ve  had the chance to work hands-on with wildlife with an amazing team from Wildlife ACT, as well as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. I even had the chance to fly in a helicopter! But I think the thing that stands out for me was seeing a wild Honey Badger for the first time. 2022 has been absolutely amazing and if 2023 is even half as good as this one, it will be a great year ahead for us all. - Gareth Robinson, Priority Species Monitor: iMfolozi

Photo: Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications

Having been exposed to the wonderful world of Vulture Conservation early this year, my eyes have been opened to these majestic and wonderful creatures.  Working with people that have such a huge passion for conservation has really energised me to try my best to make a difference. 2022 has been filled with amazing close-up sightings of Bearded Vultures and with visits to Lesotho to do nest monitoring on the Bearded Vulture population.  My hopes for 2023 are to continue with the important work that we do and make an even bigger conservation impact on the species we monitor and be part of a big Vulture tagging event! - Phillip Swart, Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project Priority Species Monitor

Earlier this year, I made the move from South Africa to Seychelles, and took up the position of Conservation Coordinator on North Island. It has been such a privilege to contribute towards returning the Eco-tourist programme to its former glory while learning and experiencing everything the incredibly beautiful and unique natural world that Seychelles has to offer. I have already met some truly inspirational and enthusiastic eco-tourists and shared many beautiful sunsets on the beach watching baby turtles entering the sea for the first time. I look forward to all the exciting and diverse experiences still to come. - Kaeleah Andrew, Conservation Coordinator: North Island

Having been with the company for over a decade, I have met different people, learnt about different cultures, and enjoyed different food. I have seen colleagues come and go and have faced lots of challenges. I’ve helped make a difference, felt such love for the species we work with, and have cried so many tears. I have shared knowledge with many people and have loved doing so. Thanks to everyone who has made Wildlife ACT what it is today, thank you for believing in us. - Marumo Nene, Priority Species Monitor: Hluhluwe

2022 has been good to me. After joining the Wildlife ACT team earlier this year, I have been so privileged to have witnessed some once in a lifetime sightings, met some incredible volunteers and students, and forged some lifelong friendships with this wonderful team. After all I've experienced this year it's hard to imagine much better can be on its way, but I've come to learn that the bush never ceases to surprise me. In 2023 I look forward to growing more with Wildlife ACT, as a conservationist, and as a person. I can't wait to meet more incredible volunteers and students and to welcome back some familiar faces too! - Tegan Goldschmidt, Priority Species Monitor: Hluhluwe

Photo: Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications

Joining Wildlife ACT earlier this year was a dream come true. Being a full-hearted conservationist, I enjoy working on Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Working so closely with Cheetahs and monitoring them daily is so rewarding. I got to witness them with their new cubs and watch them grow up. The highlight of the year so far was to watch the teams at Manyoni do wonderful work to help conserve our Rhino population. I am looking forward to working with all of you in 2023 and preserving our beautiful wildlife for future generations. - Corrie van Greune, Priority Species Monitor: Manyoni

Corrie van Greune, Priority Species Monitor: Manyoni

I only joined Wildlife ACT in September but I already feel like part of the team and I am so grateful to everyone for how welcome they have made me feel. My highlight has been getting to know the African Wild Dog pack on the reserve I’m based on so well that I know each of their individual personalities. I cannot wait to go back in the New Year and see more of them. - Lucy Chimes, Wildlife ACT Intern

Photo: Megan Whittington, Marketing and Communications