When did you know you wanted to be a Wildlife Manager? 

It was never a question whether I want to work with animals, just had to choose between marine and land. Since I was a small kid, I always wanted to work with animals and outside. During my studies of Nature Conservation and Animal Health I really learnt where my passion lies.


Have you served as Wildlife Manager elsewhere?

For my practical year of Nature Conservation I worked at Addo Elephant park in 2012 and that year just confirmed my passion for wildlife. In 2013 I got my first ‘real job’ at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve as part of the Eco team, doing mostly ecological work and Rhino monitoring. In 2014 the Breeding section of Kwandwe was developed by my husband and I soon joined him on his venture. We have been here ever since, turning the then sheep farm into a functional semi intensive wildlife breeding farm.


Have you had any mentor(s) along the way & how important were they to your development?

Wow, yes can’t describe how important it is. My introduction into wildlife and conservation was with John Adendorf that was with Sanparks for many years! When I started at Kwandwe I worked with some amazing guys who taught me a lot about rhino’s and the monitoring of them, Bulelani and Gibson are the best. The person who by far has played the biggest role in my ‘working life’ is Angus Sholto-Douglas. He is the Director here on Kwandwe and has the most incredible knowledge about wildlife. His experiences and stories makes us want to improve and push ourselves on a daily basis. We still work with Angus, and after almost 10 years we still hear new stories!

Please let us know what a day, in your work life, looks like. 

This differs daily! But an average day… where nothing breaks out, or go’s wrong, a day with no surprises… I start the day by working through all our camps , looking for the herds and checking on mostly the big breeding bulls. We have 2 main Buffalo bulls. Not only seeing them but looking for any behaviour or condition changes is important. I have check sheets of each herd , sables and buffalo, and try to at least weekly check each individual and check calving and condition. I have a wonderful team who helps me with this and they will inform met to look at a specific animal if anything is up. During Auction times (before and after) we mostly spend our mornings darting and getting all the info needed for the auction. All photography is done by myself, so I spend hours behind the lens, while I am doing my rounds. We have a laboratory on site, so we try do as much Animal health work here as possible, for he tests we can’t do, we send blood and DNA away. Other than that constant updating of our GMS (Game Management system) program is done after each calving and darting.  I also manage the rotation of the camps, we have resting camps and grazing camps, and lands.


From the first day you started working as a Wildlife Manager, until today, you must have learnt so much. If you could share any one piece of sage guidance, to those starting out, what would it be?

There is a few! Wildlife work is so unpredictable. Hurry up and wait. Plan and do nothing on your plan but always have a plan incase. Working with staff is almost harder than animals! Wildlife management has a lot of staff management and you need to earn respect and show hard work and work with the staff to appreciate time management. Being a ‘bakkie boer’ is not an option.


Can you let readers know a bit about Wildlife Breeding on the African Continent. Are other countries importing wildlife and repopulating their reserves? 

Breeding in South Africa is such an important factor. People think it’s about breeding hunting animals, but its most definitely not just that. Yes there is a hunting outlet, and this is a whole different topic. For us the main priority is to breed strong, big and genetically healthy animals. We take buffalo from all over SA and put them together in a breeding operation in the hopes to widen our genetic pool, and off course if we get the recipe right we breed strong and phenotypically approved animals. We believe that when an animal leaves the breeding farm, it should be able to survive in any area and not dependant on supplement feed. We are not breeding with sheep and cattle, and we want our animals to remain wildlife! There are many different breeding operations with different methods. The key is to find the objective of the reserve you are managing.  We are lucky to have Kwandwe Private Game Reserve (20000ha+) where we annually release multiple species back onto the reserve where they thrive without supplement feeding and by doing so we are constantly adding new genetics in the extensive herds. We have noticed an increase in bordering counties importing our wildlife, and re introducing them in areas they might have been before. This is an exciting thing to see.


Being a Wildlife Manager, during the Coronavirus Pandemic must have had its own set of challenges. What was the key to survival and did you gain or learn anything, from the adverse situation?

This was a big eye opener for us, as hard as it was , it was also a blessing in disguise. We have learnt how to be more efficient and have less wastage of resources and time.


Your favourite thing about serving, at your current post?  

Most definitely the unpredictability and working with Rhino every other day.


How important is it, for Wildlife Managers to visit other breeding operations?

Very! We Can be so stubborn and think our way is the best, but by visiting other breeding operations we have learnt so much. Learn through each other mistakes, that’s the best!


How is your establishment contributing to the greater good & making the world a better place?

Kwandwe has its own projects and schools, but I will not touch on that as we personally are not involved in the amazing work they do. What we on the breeding farm focus on is teaching skills. Myself and my husband take pride is enhancing our general staff and teaching them skills that can ensure growth in a personal capacity for them. Taking them out of the ‘general worker’ mind set for us is a big deal! From Erosion work and understanding the waterflow, to driving and operating big machines, welding and grinding, animal behaviours and how to pick up condition loss,  we believe in pushing our team to be better, even if that means they leave us and find a better jobs, then we have done it right.


Interesting Insights about the Wildlife Manager:


What is your ideal or favourite vacation destination? 

Bush holidays are great, but if we really want to relax and switch off, a beach holiday with fishing, tanning, crayfish and day drinking J Bahamas, Maldives, Bali, will be happy with any of these!


What is your favourite wine? 

Love Leopards Leap Merlot, but when I’m feeling fancy give me a Springfield – work of time blend. Not fussy, as long as its red and in a nice glass.


What is your favourite dish?

Definitely Sushi or second prize is a nice rear streak (Beef! We have enough venison here)


What favourite hidden gem or attraction, near your establishment, should we visit? 

A few stunning little towns in the area, if you are like me and like to walk through cute shops and have fun local meals at different spots  then Hogback is a must – especially when it snows. Bathurst also lovely – good ice-cream and cute local shops.  Beautiful hidden beaches  on the coast here – Kasouga and Riet rivier being my favourite!


Best question you were never asked or a fun fact about yourself?

“If you were not a wildlife manager, what would you do?”

Is having a beach house , surfing and painting all day a job?