Meet the Team

Landscape Conservation Programme

Left to right (Top) Kyle Walker; Nolumanyano Camagu; Dr Kyle Lloyd; Elelwani Makhuvha; Carina Coetzer; Samantha Ralston-Paton;(Bottom) Dr Melissa Whitecross and Linda van den Heever. Absent: Giselle Murison

Dr Melissa Whitecross

Landscape Conservation Programme Manager
Melissa completed her PhD in savanna ecology at Wits in 2017 and subsequently joined the Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme (TBCP) on a one-year internship. In January 2018 she joined the team permanently as the Threatened Species Project Manager where she coordinated projects on South Africa’s threatened raptors and large terrestrial bird species including the Secretarybird, Black Stork and Southern Banded Snake Eagle. Melissa became the acting programme manager for the TBCP for the latter half of 2019 and started as the new manager for the Landscape Conservation Programme in January 2020. Melissa oversees a dedicated team of conservationists working to protect and preserve South Africa’s key bird species and ecosystems. Melissa oversees the organisation, coordination and running of the biennial Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference as well as the Kruger Bird & Wildlife Challenge. She also assists with the stream of bird identification requests that are sent to BirdLife South Africa. Melissa is also the host and producer of the weekly webinar series Conservation Conversations with BirdLife South Africa. Melissa is a keen birdwatcher with a southern African life list of over 765 birds.


Preventing Extinctions

Linda van den Heever

Vulture Project Manager 

Linda has conducted extensive research on the unusually high levels of lead poisoning in South Africa’s vulture species, with current research focusing on the use of lead isotopes to determine the source of the lead poisoning, as well as an investigation into the physiological impacts of lead poisoning on White-backed Vulture chicks at Dronfield Nature Reserve (Kimberley, NC). Linda represents BirdLife South Africa on the national Lead Task Team (with the aim to minimise the threat of lead poisoning to South Africa’s wildlife), the National Wildlife Poisoning Prevention Working Group, the National Vulture Task Force and the Bearded Vulture Recovery Programme. Linda actively engages with farmers, game ranch managers and hunters to highlight the hazards lead poisoning poses, not only to vultures and other wildlife, but also to humans themselves. Linda is also responsible for the implementation of Vulture Safe Zones in South Africa, a new conservation measure recommended by the Multi-Species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures, where owners of large tracts of land in key areas of vulture occurrence are approached and convinced to manage their properties in ways that are conducive to vulture survival. Linda is also secretary to the BirdLife South Africa Animal Ethics Committee.

Dr Kyle Lloyd

Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation

Kyle oversees the research and conservation of the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail (WwF). The WwF serves as a flagship species for safeguarding South Africa’s peat-based wetlands that are inhabited by a diversity of unique animals and plants. Kyle’s responsibilities are broadly divided into (1) conducting research on WwF population dynamics, breeding biology and movement patterns; and (2) protecting WwF habitat by engaging with local landowners, improving habitat quality and identifying potential threats which can be mitigated through effective conservation measures.


Protecting Ecosystems

Dr Giselle Murison

Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project Manager
As the Project Manager for BirdLife South Africa’s Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project, Giselle is responsible for facilitating improved protection and appropriate management of priority estuaries within IBAs in the Western Cape, in partnership with government organisations, other NPOs and local stakeholders. This includes relevant policy input and support, and the initiation, implementation and support of conservation initiatives to benefit estuarine ecosystem health, including habitat management and rehabilitation projects, such as alien clearing, saltmarsh restoration and fynbos management, environmental awareness and education, and scientific research and monitoring in key estuarine IBAs.

Carina Pienaar 

Ingula Project Manager 

As Ingula Project Manager, Carina is primarily tasked with monitoring the avian populations on the newly declared Ingula Nature Reserve. This includes habitat management for three habitat types on-site (grasslands, escarpment forests, and wetlands), monitoring breeding populations of several threatened species, monthly avifaunal surveys, implementing and updating Species Action Plans, and managing the national Southern Bald Ibis database. She is also assisting in the Wilge Stewardship Initiative, aimed at declaring the Greater Wilge catchment surrounding the upper site of Ingula as a Protected Environment. In doing so, this will add value to the protection of South Africa’s highly threatened grasslands.

Steve McKean

Director of Conservation Outcomes

Steve McKean is a director of Conservation Outcomes, implementing incentive-based mechanisms for conservation. He has over 28 years’ experience as an ecologist specialising mainly in sustainable resource use, natural resource management, vegetation ecology, protected area management, resource economics and in developing and implementing market-based solutions to conservation challenges. He was one of the initiators of the innovative and successful KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme in 2005/6. Steve’s work has involved working with a variety of people in developing sustainable solutions to complex conservation issues.  He has focused more recently on developing and facilitating mechanisms for rural people to benefit from sustainable natural resource management. Steve is currently leading processes to secure 9 new Protected Areas in KwaZulu-Natal and coordinates post declaration support to over 20 areas already secured. He has written over 58 scientific reports, policy documents, papers, book chapters and articles and presented more than 39 papers at national and international conferences on various aspects of conservation, sustainable natural resource use and management. Steve has an MSc in Ecology from the University of the Witwatersrand and is a registered professional natural scientist.

Through the partnership between BirdLife SA and Conservation Outcomes, Steve is responsible for expanding the work of the Landscape Conservation Programme in KwaZulu-Natal. Steve is working with private and communal land holders to conserve critical bird habitat outside formal Protected Areas, primarily through the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. Steve, together with partners such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is also coordinating the Blue Swallow monitoring programme in KwaZulu-Natal.


Conservation Intern

Elelwani Makhuvha

Conservation Administrative Intern

Elelwani joins the BirdLife team, this time as the Conservation Administrative Intern. She is responsible for assisting the Conservation Division manager and the (acting) Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme manager with administrative tasks, media and website content. Elelwani job-shadowed the Policy & Advocacy Programme manager (Candice Stevens) as their first Vacation-work candidate in 2018. She recently graduated her BSc Honours degree in Environmental Science from Wits University and spent the last six months volunteering at Nature’s Valley Trust, where she was involved with their various Conservation projects.


Kyle Lloyd
Elelwani Makhuvha 1