Predator Research Team


Matt Wijers

Matt is the latest addition to the predator research team. In 2010, he worked for WildCRU in Hwange National Park as a volunteer pilot and field assistant before going to Stellenbosch University where he completed his honours degree in Conservation Ecology. His final-year thesis focused on wild dog denning behaviour in Save Valley Conservancy in eastern Zimbabwe. In 2015 he was awarded The Beit Trust Scholarship to read for a MSc(Res) in Zoology at the University of Oxford. Matt’s research will focus on lion behavioural ecology using cutting edge analytical methods and technology.

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TEAM-ItaiOliver Oliver Makweja and Itai Mafurutu

Oliver (standing) and Itai (seated) are indispensable members of the survey team that collects baseline ecological data and allows to monitor population trends of both predators (spoor transects) and prey (sighted transects). Even after weeks of camping and long days of surveys, Oliver brings a sense of humour to the group that makes the job enjoyable, whilst Itai’s keen eyes give one the peace of mind that absolutely nothing has been missed. Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye Bubye

Pete Fick

Pete is an honourary member of this team. One of the dedicated professional hunters at the Bubye Valley Conservancy, Pete began his vocation with wildlife as Ranger for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, working alongside Blondie Leathem. Pete is of the old-school, and believes in conservation first and foremost. Having spent most of his life in the bush, he is a true character, with endless annecdotes of his adventures. But Pete is genuiunely worried about the future of Africa’s wildlife, and so he spends a huge amount of time fund-raising for us to be able keep our research going – and covers any shortfalls with his own money. The word ‘team’ is a collective noun, but without this one player we would not be winning.

Rhino Anti-Poaching – BVC

TEAM-Norman Norman English

Norman joined the Zimbabwean National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in 1982, and worked for them until the end of 2006, serving all over our fantastic country in areas such as Kyle, Gonarezhou, Hwange, Chete Safari Area, and the Midlands. He then moved to the Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy, before joining the Bubye Valley Conservancy in 2008 as the head of our anti-poaching unit. Norman brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the bush gathered over a lifetime’s career outdoors, which he puts to excellent use in the ever more complex task of anti-poaching against the ever more sophisticated syndicates. Norman and his wife Penny also deploy camera-traps at water points to help monitor the rhinos, and in so doing gather some of the most incredible wildlife photos.

Orphan Rhino Rehabilitation – Mazunga

TEAM-Katrina Katrina Leathem

Katrina Leathem is the rhino lady of Bubye, having successfully hand-raised and rewilded 13 orphan rhinos to date, and currently raising Sabi and Squirt (orphans 14 and 15). In fact, orphans from all over the country have been nurtured by Katrina, such is her reputation. Taking a practical approach, Katrina has never given in to the temptation to raise rhinos in her house – keeping them in a specially designed massive outdoor enclosure in the Conservancy; where they are not overly in contact with humans, but surrounded by the sounds and smells of the bush in which they will soon fend for themselves. Three times a day Katrina prepares gallons of a specially formulated milk for the orphans that keeps them in great condition, and which they love and anticipate – excitedly making the characteristic chirping sound of their species the closer it gets to feeding time. Katrina is passionate about all animals, and other species she has raised include eland, nyala and zebra – not to mention her constant company of 3 golden labradors!

TEAM-Tendai Tendai Mafurutu

Though an awesome job, Tendai takes caring for the orphan rhino calves very seriously! At dawn he has gathered the calves into the feeding bay, and lined them up in their own pecking-order. He gives each calf their bottles of milk simultaneously, carefully controlling the rate of flow so that they all finish simultaneously. After milk, the horse-cubes are dished out, and Tendai sets about clearing up all the browse he cut the previous afternoon and carefully positioned around the rhino pen. More milk and horse-cubes are served at noon, and the rhinos get a hosing down – before inevitably diving into their mud-bath in case they actually got clean! Tendai spends the afternoon carefully selecting vegetation for the orphans to learn to feed on. Evening bottles and a run around signals the end of another day in Africa – but not for Tendai who has a pile of bottles still to clean. (The goats were brought in as company for Sabi when he was orphaned by poachers at only a few days old).

Rhino Monitoring – Lowveld Rhino Trust

TEAM-Natasha Natasha Anderson

Australian-born Natasha Anderson came to Zimbabwe in 1996 as a volunteer worker after completing a Master of Environmental Studies degree at the University of Melbourne. Her initial work focused on natural resource management and education projects in the rural communities immediately north of BVC. Post 2000 she became involved with the Lowveld Rhino Trust helping to monitor rhinos living in areas impacted by the land reform program. These, and other seriously threatened rhinos, became the founders of the BVC black rhino population which has grown to become the third largest in the world. On the ground LRT provides independent rhino monitoring and management which, in addition to ear notching individuals for identification, includes emergency treatment of injuries and translocating vulnerable rhinos. Though based in BVC Natasha also coordinates the rhino monitoring and management in the Save Valley Conservancy.

The Bubye Valley Conservancy

TEAM-Blondie Blondie Leathem

The captain of this team, and general manager of the Bubye Valley Conservancy, Blondie has been in wildlife most of his life. He started his career as a Ranger for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, living in some of the most beautiful areas in the country, and gaining an appreciation for the potential benefits of meaningful research (as conducted by legends Clive Swanepoel and Dave Cummings). After Parks, Blondie then started working on what was the beef production empire of Zimbabwe, Lemco Ranch (later to become the Bubye Valley Conservancy), where a part of his job involved problem animal control. Maybe this is what drives Blondie’s passion for conservation today – taking a personal interest in the predator research, as well as the rhino monitoring, anti-poaching, and rehabilitation. Blondie is hugely respected in the wildlife industry, and is not scared to tackle the big issues.

TEAM-Peter Peter Masamba

Peter is not directly involved with either lion research or rhino anti-poaching… But he was so put out that his friend Oliver Makweja had his photo up on the website and he didn’t – even though Peter has been working for the Bubye Valley Conservancy much longer than Oliver has and, in fact, longer than most of the other managers – that we eventually relented when he sent us this picture with the assurance that he is much better looking than Oliver, and would improve the aesthetics of this page! In all seriousness, Peter works in the Bubye Valley Conservancy’s Bulwayo office, where he handles the accounts and payments for the materials and equipment that does keep the research and anti-poaching operational and his good nature and willingness to help is appreciated by all.