meet the team resized
Senior Management

Mark D. Anderson

Chief Executive Officer
Mark’s main responsibility is to grow BirdLife South Africa into a leading conservation organisation, and one in which all aspects of the organisation’s work is done professionally and on a scientific basis.

Fanie du Plessis

Chief Financial Officer
Fanie oversees the activities of the Business Division, consisting of bookkeeping, administration, events, membership, publications and the Wakkerstroom Centre. He is responsible for the financial management of the organisation, including financial reporting to the Board of Directors and the Audit and Risk Committee. Fanie serves on several organisational committees, including the African Birdlife Magazine Management, Marketing and Fundraising Committees. He is also responsible for the financial management of the BirdLife National Trust and the Middelpunt Wetland Trust.

Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson

Head of Conservation
Hanneline recently took up the position as Head of BirdLife South Africa’s Conservation Division. Her key responsibilities include oversight of the Terrestrial Bird and Seabird Conservation Programmes, Important Bird and Biodiversity Area/Key Biodiversity Area Programme, Policy and Advocacy engagement, regional support and avitourism projects. For the past nine years, Hanneline spearheaded the programme responsible for the conservation of the country’s most threatened terrestrial (landbird) species.

BirdLife South Africa’s staff

Andy Wassung

Communications Manager
Andy joined BirdLife South Africa in January 2022 as Communications Manager. He is responsible for the organisation’s internal and external marketing, media and communication; including website administration, newsletters, social media, media relations, etc. Andy caught the birding bug aged 7 when his family moved to the shores of the Zambezi River. He has a Bachelor of Journalism & Media Studies from Rhodes University, and 11 years of experience in marketing & communications. He is passionate about creating compelling multimedia stories that inspire the next generation of conservationists.


Andrea Angel

Albatross Task Force Leader
Andrea is a Chilean national, but a Capetonian at heart. She is responsible for managing the Albatross Task Force team in South Africa and lead BirdLife International policy and advocacy at the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation. Her role also includes engaging with BirdLife’s Common Oceans project and assisting with the upcoming project to eradicate mice from South Africa’s Marion Island.

Julia Coldham (1)

Julia Coldham

Julia is responsible for assisting Rose Knight in BirdLife South Africa’s day to day financial administration
and bookkeeping functions. She also fulfils this function for the BirdLife National Trust and the Middelpunt Wetland Trust.


Steven Segang

Ingula Project Assistant
Steven is primarily tasked at conducting avifaunal surveys, guiding of visitors, and assisting with environmental awareness and education at the Ingula Nature Reserve. Steven is well qualified, holding various certificates such as a Tourist Guide Certificate from Unisa and a Community Based Natural Resource Management Certificate from the Southern African Wildlife College. Steven is passionate about bird watching.

Kathleen April-Okoye

Kathleen is responsible for all the front office reception duties and also provides administrative support to the membership programme.

Dr Simeon Bezeng

Regional Conservation Programme Manager
Bezeng is the Regional Red List and KBA Programme Officer at the IUCN SSC and BirdLife South Africa. Bezeng is actively involved in supporting African countries in the development of the IUCN’s species and ecosystem Red List and the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas. In addition, Bezeng serves on the IUCN SSC Steering and Red List Committees and the National Red List Alliance.

Dr Melissa Lewis

Policy and Advocacy Programme Manager
Melissa is responsible for overseeing and coordinating BirdLife South Africa’s policy and advocacy work. She works closely with government, other NGOs, and a variety of other stakeholders with a view to ensuring that birds and their habitats are properly considered in policy- and decision-making in South Africa, other African countries, and at the international level. Melissa represents BirdLife South Africa on the national Lead (Pb) Task Team, the Offshore Operations Stakeholder Forum and its Environmental Working Group, and the national White-winged Flufftail Working Group. She also sits on the BirdLife Partnership’s Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) Coordination Group and African Site Casework and Emerging Threats Taskforce (ASCET), is the Regional Representative for Southern Africa on the Technical Committee of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), and coordinates the AEWA International Working Group for the Lesser Flamingo.

Joshua Chimaliro


Joshua is responsible for maintaining the beautiful indigenous garden at Isdell House.

Carina Pienaar

Ingula and Grasslands Conservation Project Manager
Carina Pienaar is largely responsible for providing scientific input into and coordinating ecological monitoring and research at Ingula Nature Reserve, including avifaunal-, breeding- and habitat monitoring. For the national Southern Bald Ibis project, she researches the species and coordinates the volunteer monitoring programme. Furthermore, she is acting as the contact-person for the Wilge Stewardship Initiative in the Greater Wilge Catchment area, assisting the BirdLife South Africa IBA team with acquiring formal protection for this critical water area.

Nandi Thobela

Empowering People Programme Manager
Nandi Thobela is BirdLife South Africa’s Empowering People Programme Manager. Nandi is responsible for the implementation of BirdLife South Africa’s northern KwaZulu-Natal community conservation project and oversees all other related projects within the Empowering People Programme, including the Avitourism Project. Having worked in the field of conservation for over a decade, Nandi has spent the bulk of her career managing many aspects of community conservation, protected area management, environmental education with a strong focus on training and learning material development.

Andrew de Blocq

Avitourism Project Manager
Andrew oversees all of our avitourism-related work, chief among which is the community bird guide training project. Andrew holds an MSc in Biological Sciences from the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, with his thesis centring on the nexus of ecotourism and conservation. The Avitourism Project is generously supported by Swarovski Optik, Whylo Distributors, and Nick and Jane Prentice. 

Kristi Garland

Wakkerstroom Tourism and Education Centre
Kristi is based at our Centre in Wakkerstroom where she manages both the accommodation and guide bookings, along with the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Kristi is involved in environmental education initiatives in and around Wakkerstroom  She currently supports three junior bird clubs as well as a number of schools in southern Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal. Krisit’s heart lies in Wakkerstroom where she represents BirdLife South Africa on a host of local committees and projects relating to tourism and environmental education.

Janine Goosen

Office and Subscriptions Administrator;
Janine is responsible for the administration of the subscription data base of African Birdlife as well as day-to-day administration at Isdell House.

Shireen Gould

Membership Programme Manager
Shireen is responsible for the overall management of BirdLife South Africa’s membership programme. This includes the administration of current members and, at various events, the recruitment, of new members.

Christina Hagen

Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation
Christina Hagen is responsible for BirdLife South Africa’s attempt to establish new African Penguin colonies. She has worked on the African Penguin for almost 10 years, focusing on a lack of food as the key threat to the species. Christina has an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town’s Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Her thesis on the foraging ecology and physiology of the Cape Gannet kickstarted her career in seabird conservation.

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 their habitats. 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 a keen birdwatcher with a southern African life list of over 770 birds.

Dr Isabel Human

HR Manager and Executive Assistant
Isabel oversee all HR related functions of the organisation, including recruitment, the annual skills audit, job satisfaction review, policies and procedures, employment equity reporting and other people management related tasks. She is responsible for the meeting management of the Board of Directors, AGM, Fundraising Committee, Senior Management Committee and Managers’ Meeting. She also provides assistance to the Chief Executive Officer.

Rose Knight

Senior Bookkeeper
Rose is responsible for BirdLife South Africa’s day-to-day financial administration and bookkeeping functions. She also fulfils this function for the BirdLife National Trust and the Middelpunt Wetland Trust.

Kyle Lloyd

Dr Kyle Lloyd

Wetland Conservation Project Manager/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.

Dr Alistair McInnes

Seabird Conservation Programme Manager
Alistair is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the core seabird projects including the ATF, Coastal Seabirds, and Mouse Free Marion projects. Alistair has a background in applied marine ecology with a special interest in solution-driven approaches to seabird conservation.

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.

Lucky Ngwenya

Resident Bird Guide, Wakkerstroom Centre

Lucky has been with BirdLife South Africa for many years, and has been based at the Wakkerstroom Centre. He spends most of his time with guests out in the field where he puts his birding skills into practise. He has earned the name ‘the lark whisperer’. Lucky also supports the Centre with maintenance and gardening tasks. When required, Lucky also assists with education programmes taking place in the area.

Reason Nyengera

Albatross Task Force Project Manager
Reason is responsible for our multilevel engagements with South African fisheries by working directly with fishers at sea, collecting scientific data, conducting port visits and developing Bird Mitigation Plans tailored to the various types of fishing vessels within the fleet. He assesses the level of seabird by-catch in our target fisheries, conducts at-sea experiments and promotes the use of seabird bycatch mitigation tools. He also works in collaboration with the Ocean View Association for Persons with Disabilities (OVAPD) on the manufacturing of bird scaring lines.

Samantha Ralston-Paton

Birds and Renewable Energy Project Manager
Samantha works with government, the renewable energy industry, environmental assessment practitioners, consulting bird specialists and academics to help renewable energy develop in harmony with nature. She has an MSc in Conservation Biology and over 13 years’ experience in environmental management. She is passionate about environmental sustainability, and likes to challenge herself, and other people, to have a more positive impact on the planet.

Ernst Retief

Spatial Planning and Data Project Manager
Ernst’s main responsibility is to manage species data by supporting data collection projects (such as BirdLasser and SABAP2), assist with the analyses of data (through the use of GIS) and provide data to conservation planners and other organisations. He is also responsible for the implementation of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme in the Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State Provinces through the use of Biodiversity Stewardship.

Baile Sechabe

Membership Administrator
Baile is responsible for administering membership applications, the renewal of existing memberships, printing of membership cards, and administering payments.

Linda van den Heever

Species Conservation 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.

Clare Neall

Clare Neall

Events Manager
Clare Neall, our Events Manager, is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP).  Her career has spanned many years in the global events, conference, incentive and exhibition industry.  Clare will be working with the team at Isdell House in Johannesburg and be responsible for coordinating the Virtual African Bird Fair and Flock to Marion voyage.

Dr Alan K. Lee

Science and Innovation Programme Manager
The Science and Innovation Programme Manager will build and sustain a Programme dedicated to the design and execution of high-quality peer-reviewed scientific publications, including conservation and spatial models and population viability analyses, that will benefit the conservation of birds and their habitats. The Programme will develop innovative and pioneering approaches to solve challenging research and conservation problems across BirdLife South Africa’s projects. He will also oversee and be actively involved in the Red List review of South Africa’s birds.

Ntombi Mbuli

Cleaning Specialist

Ntombi Mbuli has been an integral part of the BirdLife South Africa team since 2018 and is responsible for the professional housekeeping and cleaning of Isdell House and the R.J. Downie Conservation Wing.

Dr Kirsten Day

Advocacy Officer
Kirsten works part-time for the Policy and Advocacy Programme. She is responsible for coordinating many of BirdLife South Africa’s responses to development applications and authorisations which threaten priority species and habitats. She also contributes to BirdLife South Africa’s inputs on relevant legal and policy developments, and to the development and dissemination of various position statements and guidance documents.

Mpho Magidi

Mpho Magidi

Communications Intern
Mpho graduated in Information Systems, Journalism and Media Studies from Rhodes University. With a bubbly personality, she is passionate about helping others and is goal driven and dedicated to her work. She enjoys learning about new things and meeting new people. Mpho is responsible for assisting with BirdLife South Africa’s internal and external marketing, media and communications, including writing, website administration, newsletters and social media.

Johann (Cassie) Carstens

Cassie Carstens

Secretarybird Conservation Project Officer
Cassie is responsible for monitoring nesting behaviour and distribution of the Secretarybird and he will engage extensively with farmers and other stakeholders. He has been involved in bird research and conservation work for almost a decade, having previously worked with Southern Ground-Hornbills and Cape Parrots. A highly qualified bird, field and cultural guide with more than 20 years’ experience, Cassie also holds a BA Honours in Heritage and Cultural Tourism and a BSc Honours in Geography.

Valery Phakoago

Valery Phakoago

Landscape Conservation Intern
Valery holds an MSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of Venda, where she studied geophagic practices (consumption of earthy materials) in the Sekhukhune area. She is currently in the final stages of submitting her PhD in Wildlife Conservation Physiology at the University of the Witwatersrand, working on the ecology of aardvarks and Temminck’s pangolins in the Kalahari. Valery is responsible for assisting the Landscape Conservation Programme Manager with administrative duties, including report writing, taking minutes, social media and website updates. During her internship she will also assist in field work and in the coordination of events, such as the Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference.

Christie Wooding

Christie Wooding

Conservation Assistant

In her role as Conservation Assistant, Christie works closely with Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson in the Conservation Division and in the Regional Conservation Programme. She assists mainly with administrative tasks, events and social media, making use of her experience of more than 15 years in online education, project management, administration and wildlife television. She is looking forward to applying her skills in the field of conservation.

Marlize Muller

Marlize Muller

Conservation Biology Intern

Marlize is the Conservation Biology intern under the mentorship of Dr Kyle Lloyd. This internship forms part of SANBI’s Groen Sebenza Phase II Programme, which aims to develop the competence and confidence of graduates in the management of biodiversity. Marlize assists primarily with data processing and analysis, which forms part of a larger project to conserve the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail and its wetlands. She is also finalising her PhD in Grassland Ecology, which stemmed from a love for nature while growing up on nature reserves.

Thandulwazi Ndaba

Thandulwazi Ndaba

Empowering People Programme Intern

Thandulwazi holds an Honours degree majoring in Curriculum Studies and has a strong background in the development of learning material. She believes that education is the foundation upon which we build our future, so she is excited to be part of BirdLife South Africa’s Empowering People Programme. In her role as an intern, Thandulwazi assists in environmental education and awareness, avitourism, an approach to sustainable livelihoods and programme administration.

Eleanor Weideman

Eleanor Weideman

Coastal Seabird Project Manager

Eleanor’s work focuses on using tracking data from endangered African Penguins, Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants to inform an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and marine spatial planning initiatives. She holds an MSc from the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and has spent 13 months on sub-Antarctic Marion Island conducting research on the effects of invasive mice and climate change on albatrosses, petrels and several species of avian scavengers.

Anton Wolfaardt

Dr. Anton Wolfaardt

Mouse-Free Marion Project Manager
Anton is the Project Manager for the Mouse Free Marion project ( The project is being implemented to help save Marion Island’s seabirds and contribute to its restoration by eradicating introduced House Mice that were accidentally introduced in the early 19th century. Anton is employed by the Mouse-Free Marion Non-Profit Company (NPC), an entity that has been set up specifically to undertake this important work. The project is a joint endeavour between the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and BirdLife South Africa, with support from a number of other organisations, such as the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Anton has worked for more than 25 years in the field of seabird and marine conservation, a journey which started on Marion Island in 1994, where he spent a year working as a seabird field researcher.

Keith BLSA pic

Keith Springer

Operations Manager
Keith is the Operations Manager for the Mouse-Free Marion Project. In this role he works with Anton Wolfaardt to deliver the planning phase of the project. This includes progressing regulatory requirements and the procurement of project components such as helicopter services, bait, staff and shipping. Keith has a background in conservation and forestry and has been involved with a number of eradication projects on sub-Antarctic islands. He is based in New Zealand.

Mouse-Free Marion Project BirdLife South Africa Sue Jackson Tonin

Dr Sue Tonin

Mouse-Free Marion Assistant Project Manager
Sue’s role is to support the MFM Project Manager, Project Team, and Management Committee in developing and delivering a range of activities associated with the planning work for the project. Sue will also assist with logistics, procurement, and the ongoing development and refinement of pre- and post-eradication monitoring programmes.


Robyn Adams

Mouse-Free Marion Communications Officer and Project Assistant
Robyn is responsible for producing and coordinating relevant communications for the Mouse-free-Marion project, including social media content, website updates and informative graphics. She also assists with administrative and management tasks for the Mouse-Free-Marion project

Mouse-Free Marion Project BirdLife South Africa Heidi Whitman

Heidi Whitman

Mouse-Free Marion Chief Philanthropy Officer
Heidi is responsible for leading the fundraising efforts for the Mouse-Free Marion Project, sourcing and securing the funds required to undertake the project. Heidi is a Certified Fund-Raising Executive and has worked as a fundraiser for over 20 years. She is based in California, USA.

Mouse-Free Marion Project BirdLife South Africa Tarryn Havemann

Tarryn Havemann

Mouse-Free Marion Project Development Officer
Tarryn actively supports the fundraising component of the project, including its administrative, financial, logistical and management aspects. She also manages the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database and maintains communications with project donors and sponsors.

Mouse-Free Marion Project BirdLife South Africa John Cooper

John Cooper

Mouse-Free Marion News Correspondent
John is a voluntary member of the Project Team, and the one with most experience of Marion Island. A globally respected seabird biologist, John first visited the island in 1978, with a total of 31 visits under his belt. He was responsible for setting up several of the long-term seabird monitoring studies on the island in the 1980s, nearly all of which have continued to be implemented ever since.