Addo appoints first female Head of Conservation

Posted on 25 October 2019

A former conservation student at Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) has returned to the Eastern Cape park as its Conservation Manager. Cathy Dreyer, who started her career in Addo just outside Port Elizabeth nearly 20 years ago, has become the park’s first female Head of Conservation.

Image: SANParks

‘I am looking forward to supporting the Park’s terrestrial and marine conservation efforts and feel incredibly privileged to be a part of such a passionate, dedicated and committed team of rangers,’ Cathy commented on her new appointment.

According to South African National Parks (SANParks), Dreyer completed her degree in Nature Conservation at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, whereafter she completed her experiential training at Addo. She worked closely with the SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Service Unit based in Kimberley, and after training for a year, she joined the game capture team permanently. She worked with the team for 12 years, capturing and relocating a wide variety of species throughout Southern Africa and the rest of the continent.

In 2012 she left SANParks and took up the position of Conservation Manager at the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. Five years later she returned to SANParks as the Black Rhino Surveillance and Monitoring Co-ordinator for Kruger National Park. Over the years, Cathy became affectionately known as the ‘Rhino Whisperer’.

Dreyer now heads up conservation in Addo Elephant National Park, home to the ‘Big 7’ – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard, as well as the southern right whale and great white shark in the marine section of the park. Addo is the third-largest national park in the country and is comprised of 182,000 hectares of land and 116,000 hectares of Marine Protected Areas. According to SANParks it’s been a busy two weeks in Addo for Cathy, who spent her first week participating in her first aerial census as well as being involved in an elephant contraception exercise.

Dreyer pictured with Prince William, Sir David Attenborough and fellow nominees. Image: Tusk Conservation Awards.

Cathy says the highlight of her career was being awarded the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa in London in 2016. She was the first South African recipient of the award and the first female to have won it. The Tusk Conservation Award is given to an individual who has been judged to be an emerging leader in conservation in Africa and is recognised for his or her outstanding contribution and considerable successes in their chosen field. The award was presented to Dreyer by Sir David Attenborough, and she claims that meeting him was one of the most memorable experiences of her life.


Image: SANParks

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