celebrating women in conservation

Azél crous


Helicopter Pilot


Azél is a keen conservationist and bush lover - which stems from her time growing up on her grandfather’s farm in the Vaalwater area - in the North of South Africa.Her fond memories of her time spent in the bushveld led her to decide to dedicate her life to conserving the natural habitats which foster the wildlife she so dearly loves. During her studies, she first tasted flight through an introductory flight at a flight school in Cape Town. “I knew then and there that I wanted to be a pilot”. The financial means where not available to her in order to obtain her pilots license, but she says that “she never forgot that feeling of hovering and flight”.
After finishing her Honours degree in Conservation ecology at the University of Stellenbosch, her career started as a volunteer program coordinator at the beautiful Kariega Game reserve in the Eastern Cape.It was here that she got exposed to game capturing and helicopter operations on game reserves. “I saw that it was possible to merge my 2 passions - conservation and aviation”.
After completing her PPL at Cape Town International airport later that year, she worked in Chobe, Botswana as a human-wildlife conflict researcher for Wildlife Act. An unbelievable and unheard of opportunity presented itself in 2014 when she had the opportunity to build her much-needed commercial hours by ferrying R44 helicopters to- and from game capture operations in Thabazimbi (Limpopo), at a company called True North Aviation.
This opportunity proved to be golden as she now accredits most of her understanding of game capture operations to her time spent on the ground as part of the ground crew during game capture operations. This included retrieving darted animals as a driver or crew on the back of the vehicle, running curtains at capture bomas and filling in as a veterinary assistant. Other responsibilities included all aviation-related preparations needed before and after the job. As time passed and her hours became closer to the total needed for a commercial pilots license - the True North pilots started teaching her how to dart animals and herd animals toward a capture boma.
This time was during the peak of the private sector game industry and she speaks fondly of the bond between game capturers, vets and pilots. Her aviation career then lead her to Marken, Pilanesberg, Kruger, Kalahari, Bloemfontein, Namibia, Madagascar and finally Malawi - where she now flies for African Parks, a reputable conservation organisation which conserves natural habitat and the organisms that inhabit these areas by assisting governments across Africa to optimally manage and conserve these areas with their provided expertise.
The organisation is doing brilliant work all over Africa to stabilise, protect and develop natural areas of concern in various counties. Her job as helicopter pilot in Liwonde National Park includes surveillance, anti-poaching, law enforcement reaction, ranger deployments into strategic positions in the Park, wildlife darting, game capture, census and scenic flights.
“There is no way of planning a day in Liwonde” she says. “You always have to be ready to react to any emergency that may present itself”.
“My job is very exciting. The flying is rewarding and I feel like I’m making a real difference out here”. She explains that it finally feels like her 2 passions have merged - conservation and aviation.
“It is an honour flying for African Parks and being involved in these great conservation initiatives and projects. I look forward to playing a role in conservation through aviation for many more years to come”.

img 20210702 wa0012
img 20210702 wa0013
img 20210702 wa0016
img 20210702 wa0018
img 20210702 wa0019
img 20210702 wa0020
img 20210702 wa0021


Black Rhino Monitor

Ester van der Merwe is a Rhino Monitor. With a lengthy history in monitoring large predators she now has over 7 years’ experience exclusively focused on Black Rhino. She is a passionate individual with an absolute love for the African bush and teaching others.


Nkateko Mzimba 


Black Mamba Anti-poaching



Nkateko Mzimba is one of The Black Mambas who is currently deployed in Gritjie area of the Balule Nature Reserve. After the training and exams, which she passed with flying colours in 2014, she started working as a Ranger in The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit (all female Anti-Poaching Unit).

Besides doing her Anti-Poaching duties, Nkateko is a leader in her community and is passionate about people and educating them, “It is important to sit down with them and talk about poaching and animals and explain why we protect them”. She also started her own food security initiative in her community, helping children in need. In 2017 she represented The Black Mambas APU in New York where she gave a speech and presentation to the US audience.


44 ilan godfreygetty x lumix project 2019 ig 1022524
134 getty x lumix project 2019 ig 1011317
nkateko mzimba by dale rio photography
nkateko mzimba credit rivoni mkansi

Christa BÖhmer


Field Guide and Lead Trails Guide



My name is Christa Bohmer and I am working as a Field Guide and Lead Trails guide at Lukimbi Safari Lodge, which is a private lodge situated in the south ern part of the Kruger National Park. I was born in Ermelo, a small town on the Mpumalanga Highveld and was very fortunate to spend my time as a child on our family farm. I matriculated in 2001 at Ermelo High School. After finishing school I attended college and started working as an accountant assistant. During those times you havent heard about female Guides and the industry was mainly for men. While working full time, I decided to start with my Field Guide studies through FGASA and African Nature Training.  It was only the beginning of my dreams.

I completed my FGASA Level 1 (NQF2) and I didnt stop there. For me, working in the bush wasnt just about driving around and show wildlife to the guests, it was more of being on foot and to experience the bush in a different way.  Trails Guiding was very special to me. I had so much assistance, inspiration and guidance from great mentors who inspired me to be so much more in life. They assisted me in following my dreams and be what I am today.

I will always be thankful for all of you who have played a very important role in my life. Today I am a Lead Trails guide leading guests out on walking safaris amongst the big 5. For me, personally, always beautiful to get Elephants on foot. Very majestic creatures that I love spending time with. In my free time, I enjoy camping, visiting the northern part of the Kruger National Park, spending time with family and loved ones or go for long walks on Cape Vidals beautiful beaches. Nature and the bush is in my blood, and as long as I can inspire young people and people to follow their dreams, interact, protect and respect nature, it will make me happy and make me feel like I have accomplished my dreams and so much more.


img 20201210 wa0006

Jana meyer

Helicopter Pilot


Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a “Wildbewaarder”, someone who takes care of and protects wildlife - specifically in the African bush. It was only later in life, after being exposed to different sectors in wildlife conservation that I discovered I had an affinity for helicopters and a natural talent for flying them.

In the beginning…

Doing my part to look after and protect God's creation is my calling, and I have never wanted to do anything else. Post-school, I tracked straight into nature conservation studies, finishing in 2000 and going on to merge my love of the natural world with a career as a Field Guide in the Kruger National Park. During this time, I learned to deal with dangerous animals on foot, fine-tuning my tracking skills, and developing a comfortable familiarity with wild animal behavior. I conducted game drives and walking safaris for high profile guests. Some years later, I moved north to the Limpopo area and took up game management on a private game reserve: work that involved herd monitoring, game counts, and captures from the air. Here I spent many hours in the passenger seat of helicopters and I quickly recognized the potential to make an even more significant impact in my field as a conservationist.

I completed my Commercial Helicopter Licence and accompanying game capture rating in under 18 months. All of my training was done in the field, counter-poaching and game monitoring, working to a very high standard, specialized for the roles I would fill in the industry. I completed my night rating soon after and was signed off to operate the R22, R44, R66, and AS350. Having a full time job and three year old twin girls at the time was no walk in the park!


It is not always easy to help, contribute or fulfill a purpose the way one would like to. In my case I eventually developed my own “tool” / company called Hope for Wildlife Helicopter Services. With the current economic crisis and the tourism industry scarred due to lockdown, the nearly impossible task of protecting our rhinos is made even more difficult. Reserves are cutting budgets to the core. People are so desperately trying to survive that a rhino’s existence seems insignificant to many at this stage. Through obtaining funding to support wildlife emergencies, dehorning programs and other proactive initiatives I feel that a difference is being made. I have been involved in numerous success stories and hopefully there will be many more to come!


My conservation work would typically involve wildlife emergencies, for instance: snare removals, gunshot treatments (mainly rhinos) and orphaned rhino calf rescue missions. Human animal conflict, for instance evicting destructive elephants from camps or darting lions in rural communities. Rhino dehorning operations, elephant relocations and elephant contraception. Normal wildlife management and game counts also form part of what I do. The recreational flying I do with guests over our beautiful landscape helps to sustain the business and helps to subsidize conservation work.


Counter-poaching training and helicopter familiarization with rangers and K9s are equally important and help to streamline operations whenever there is a real crisis.

Own the Night…

This is my latest success story! Up until very recently we have been extremely crippled by not being able to do counter-poaching helicopter operations at night. Darkness falls covering brutal poachers like a safe blanket, making them unbeatable at night, leaving them to continue with their evil, unthinkable actions. Through hard work, and God given sponsors, I have managed to obtain my NVG (Night Vision Goggle) equipment and endorsement. We own the night now! Dedicated teams and K9’s are doing regular training exercises in conjunction with the helicopter, developing a flawless strategy to become extremely effective at night. This is truly ground breaking to our area and I would say all involved are going more than the extra mile!



img 20210630 wa0016
img 20210630 wa0017
img 20210630 wa0018
img 20210630 wa0019
img 20210630 wa0021

Megan taplin

SANParks Park Manager 

Born and schooled in Cape Town, Megan studied her Bachelor of Science (majors Nature Conservation, Zoology and Animal Physiology) at the University of Stellenbosch before starting her career at the national office of Working for Water in the mother city. During her younger years, Megan’s love of nature was nurtured by her grandparents and parents on a small holding at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains and on trips to national parks in SA and Namibia. She volunteered at the Cape Wetlands Trust, SPCA and joined the Cape Bird Club. In 2002, Megan left city life and rush hour traffic for good to join the Addo Elephant National Park’s expansion and consolidation programme, serving as an Environmental Control Officer and later Roads Project leader. She was appointed as a Social Ecologist in 2003, working with local communities and environmental education programmes at schools.

As local and international interest in the expanding AENP grew, Megan started working as a media liaison person for the park, eventually being appointed as the Regional Communications Manager in 2006 and later Communications & Marketing Manager for the Frontier Region (Addo Elephant, Camdeboo, Mountain Zebra and Karoo National Parks). In 2012, Megan had the opportunity to go back to her nature conservation operations roots when she was appointed as a Park Manager of Mountain Zebra National Park where she served until late 2017. Megan was then transferred to the Park Manager position for the Knysna Area of the Garden Route National Park. She is currently busy with her (part-time) Masters of Environmental Science.


Sam suter


Director and Producer

Sam Suter is a Director and Producer at Black Bean Productions, an independent production company that creates purpose-filled cause related content,  and a Founder of ‘The Matriarchs’ , a community focused on celebrating and empowering women working to address humanitarian and environmental issues.
Sam studied Marketing and comes from a background of Human Resources, Community Development and Production. She is involved in every aspect of the production at Black Bean and The Matriarchs, with a specific focus on the financial, managerial and creative aspects of the making of each film. Sam has seen first-hand the importance of conservation and is passionate about creating films that are impactful, empowering and inspire positive change.


ursina rusch

Black Rhino Range Expansion Project



Ursina grew up in Canada and completed her Honors BSc in Biology before moving to South Africa in 2010 where she graduated with an MSc Zoology from Stellenbosch University. She spent a short time as an environmental consultant before following her calling and taking on a position as ecologist on a game reserve in KZN. Following on from there, Ursina moved to WWF South Africa in 2016 to join the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project as the project coordinator. Her primary role is to provide population management support to the project’s thirteen existing black rhino sites.

Ursina is also leading work on black rhino genetics to provide best-practice decision making around black rhino population management. During the establishment of new black rhino populations she also plays an integral part in the selection of rhinos for translocation and release. Ursina has a keen interest in understanding the physiological effects of translocations on rhinos, particularly the use of helicopters to airlift rhinos out of inaccessible areas. She led a study to understand the effects of airlifting on the respiratory and pulmonary system of black rhinos. In her spare time Ursina is an avid trail runner, horseback rider and has her private pilot license for airplanes.



photograph melissa du preez wwf sa
photographer christopher laurenz
photographer micky wiswedel wwf sa 2
photographer micky wiswedel wwf sa

Kate church


Founder of African Wildlife Vets


Kate Church is one of the founding members of African Wildlife Vets, a non-profit organisation that provides veterinary support to wildlife protected areas. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Pretoria. She taught for one year in Johannesburg before realizing that her true passion lies in the conservation of biodiversity. In her determination to make a difference she identified an area that was under funded and required support. She moved to Zululand to start African Wildlife Vets.
Kate has built African Wildlife Vets (AWV) from the ground up. Since 2017 she has been responsible for the management and administration of the organisation. From assisting the wildlife vets in the field to managing donations, social media and marketing, building a website, fundraising, event planning and recently the employment of a wildlife vet, Kate's will to learn has ensured the survival and growth of AWV.
"As African Wildlife Vets grows, I continue to learn new skills and adapt and grow with it. Every day brings a new challenge. Every challenge is worth conquering for our wildlife. I am honoured to work with true conservation heroes and I am equally honoured to be able to assist with the preservation of our wild and natural world."


Francoise malby anthony


Francoise Malby Anthony is the owner and managing director of Thula Thula Private Game Reserve


In 1998, Lawrence and Francoise bought a rundown hunting game reserve in the heart of Zululand, and named it Thula Thula, Zulu word for “peace and tranquillity”. After Lawrence wrote the best seller “The Elephant Whisperer” in 2010, the emotional story of how he saved a herd of wild elephants from death by rescuing them and bringing trust into humans for the first time, he became recognised as an international best-selling author and conservationist. Lawrence passed away on the 2nd of March 2012 from a heart attack. Francoise carries on their conservation work at Thula Thula game reserve.
In August 2012 she created the Thula Thula Rhino Fund, after one of her orphan rhinos were shot at by poachers just 2 weeks after Lawrence passed. The Rhino Fund initiated several projects aimed at the protection of the rhinos and the creation of a rehabilitation centre for rhinos who have been orphaned from poaching. In 2016, Francoise founded the South African Conservation Fund, Thula Thula non-profit organisation, which incorporated the Rhino fund and wildlife protection actions, as well other conservation projects.
Francoise’s is also an author, with her book AN ELEPHANT IN MY KITCHEN, the sequel of THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER by Lawrence Anthony, and her next book “AN ELEPHANT IN MY GARDEN” being launched in 2022.
Francoise received the prestigious award “Prix du Public des Trophées des Français de l’étranger» in March 2019 in Paris, at the Ministry of Foreign affairs, in recognition for her work in conservation in South Africa.
She has been nominated in January 2021 to receive the prestigious Medal of “Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Merite” by the French Government. She will receive this Medal in October 2021 for her work in Wildlife Conservation at Thula Thula Game Reserve.


Charmain Gradwell


Lalibela Game Reserve's Head of Community Development


Charmain is actively involved in community work and educating people on conservation as she believes this is our future which needs to be looked after proactively.
"My focus is always education, my motivation and passion the earth and inhabitants we need to look after".


Candice momberg


Vet Nurse


Candice Momberg is a qualified Vet Nurse. With a keen interest and love of wildlife, especially the fight against rhino poaching, she joined the Ikhala Veterinary Wildlife Services team in May 2016.
Candice currently works as both Dr William Fowld's Veterinary Nurse as well as supporting the clinic and helping treat small animals - best of both worlds.


Partners of the 'celebrating Women in conservation' campaign

garminlogohigh res
klaseriedrift logo brown transparent
logo 2
logo black on clear
rooibos logo
mount camdeboo
africancraft gin logo
new logo

environmental crime hotline 0800 205 005 or the SAPS number 10111

Report any suspicious activities around wildlife!

OK / Close
Who doesn't like cookies?
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Read more...