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.

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.

Fanie du Plessis

Head of Finance and Operations
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.

BirdLife South Africa’s staff

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.

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 Red List and KBA Programme Officer
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 Manager
Melissa is responsible for spearheading BirdLife South Africa’s policy and advocacy work. Her responsibilities include working to integrate conservation objectives into environmental laws and policies; supporting government in respect of its national and international conservation obligations; and engaging in reactive advocacy work to address the environmental challenges facing BirdLife South Africa’s conservation programmes. She also supports the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the provision of policy and advocacy support to BirdLife partners across Africa, with a particular focus on the East Atlantic Flyway.

Joshua Chimaliro


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

Carina Coetzer

Ingula and Grasslands Conservation Project Manager
Carina Coetzer 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.

Robin Colyn

Science and Innovation Programme Manager
Robin is responsible for providing scientific input into and coordinating ecological monitoring and research on arid bird species in the Northern Cape, including Red Lark, Sclater’s Lark and Ludwig’s Bustard.  Robin also assists the team with complex remote sensing and modelling skills which can be used to determine ideal habitat requirements for birds.

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 Howes-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 sites and species. Melissa oversees the organisation, coordination and running of the biennial Learn About Birds (LAB) Conferences 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 760 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

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

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.

Elelwani Makhuvha

Conservation Administrative Intern
Elelwani re-joins the BirdLife team 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 will also be involved with the annual Flufftail Festival and Soweto Schools Programme educating the youth about water, wetlands and waterbirds. In 2018, Elelwani job-shadowed the Policy & Advocacy Programme Manager as the first Vacation-work candidate. She recently graduated her BSC Honours degree in Environmental Science from Wits University and spent six months volunteering at Nature’s Valley Trust as a conservation intern.

Daniel Marnewick

Regional Conservation Programme Manager
Daniel Marnewick leads the IBA Programme, and drives the overall strategic intent of the Programme by directing strategic landscape level projects aimed at protecting, safeguarding and management priority IBAs. The Programme has primarily used Biodiversity Stewardship to achieve these objectives, and today Daniel and his team are considered implementation and thought leaders in the sector. Daniel holds a seat on the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) global Committee as the KBA Community Chairperson. Daniel is assisting various countries to establish their KBA National Coordination Groups. As regional focal point for Africa, Daniel will assist countries to propose and review KBA proposals.

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.

Hiral Naik

Important Bird and Biodiversity Area Admin Assistant
Hiral undertakes various administration tasks to ensure the IBA and P&A programmes run smoothly. Her work included meeting coordination, marketing and media, communications, fundraising and database management.

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

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.

Nini van der Merwe

Island Restoration Project Manager
Nini works in Island Restoration. She is currently working with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP). She forms part of the core team responsible for delivering the project and is the South African contact point for the various logistical aspects of the operation. She also works on the biosecurity component of the project. Closer to home, she manages the fundraising website and communications for the Mouse Free Marion project.