Volunteer Team

Koos Niemann – Programme Manager – Lion and Black Rhino Monitoring Programme koos

Koos has had many years of experience in the bush and has worked in the Lowveld for over ten years. His previous jobs include Reserve Manager for a neighbouring Big 5 reserve and he has experience with game capture and reserve maintenance. He knows the reserve extremely well and is an expert at tracking lions with or without telemetry. Koos has a passion for conservation through the sustainable utilisation of African wildlife and also has a great interest in alien plant species and their removal.


Sabrina -Lion and Black Rhino Monitoring Programme sabrina lion monitoring africa

Sabrina is from Milan in Italy, and after having played tennis for 20 years at high levels, obtaining a degree in tourism and working in luxury hotels, she decided to live the second dream of her life: studying lions! She came to LEO in 2011 (the first time as volunteer) and she literally fell in love with the lions, LEO and the Selati Game Reserve. She decided to go back to Italy, work for some months and come back to South Africa to do her FGASA Studies and become a field guide. She’s now FGASA Level 1 and she got her Track and Sign Level 3. She started working at LEO in August 2012 as both a manager and guide. Her main passions are sport, nature, conservation, and in particular lions, predators, trees and flowers.

Katie Rooke – Wilderness Conservation and Wildlife Research Project katie and a caracol in south africa

Katie decided at the mere age of 11 that she wanted to work as a guide in the African bush…..and 18 years later, here she is! Katie graduated in 2005 with a BSc in Zoology and Marine biology and soon moved to South Africa to embark on her bush training. Leaving Bush academy as a qualified FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) Level 1 guide she took on her first guiding job at Entabeni Private reserve in the Waterberg. Living out her dream was all she had hoped it would be and Katie really enjoyed the chance to take guests out and teach them about the bush. During her time at Entabeni, Katie gained her Level 2 award and a little while later, her Trails guide qualification.

Katie then moved to the lowveld where she got her first taste of working with volunteers on a predator research programme. Here, Katie was the science officer and responsible for volunteer training, data design and analysis as well as the production of annual reports. When she got the chance to move to the wilderness programme, she didn’t hesitate for a second and has now been at the project for almost 3 years. Katie organises and leads the reserve activities and guides you around the reserve to see the amazing array of wildlife. She has a real soft spot for the lions and is hoping to take on a masters study in the not too distant future incorporating the research from project. She is an avid traveller having been to more than 40 countries in 6 continents (just the Antarctic missing!). She loves sport, snowboarding being her favourite, although there is a severe lack of snow for that in her current country of residence!

Georgie, Penny and Tanja – Equestrian Rehabilitation Programme  team horse africa

Small horse loving family business started in 1998 by Georgie, Tanja and Penny Dickerson. Georgie [the Mum] originally from the UK worked with horses from a young age gained her BHSI and moved to Zambia in her early 20’s. Her love of horses was passed on to her two daughters Tanja and Penny and they were always involved with horsey people. Tanja and Penny started a small beach horse trail venture and on doing this found they did not have the finances to buy ‘prime stock’ and tended to buy poorer stock which they built up for their trails. Georgie continued in her employment until things were off the ground managing to subsidies the venture.

Tanja and Penny became well known in the area for buying horses that were in need of attention and having a very good success rate. They were approached by one of the anti-cruelty departments and were directed to horses in need, in January 2002 we took the responsibility of 9 horses and ponies from the Tranksei area which were in the most horrendous condition, needless to say they then achieved all their goals and now run a successful rehabilitation project.

Ian and Michelle Merrifield – The Bush School and Wildlife OrphanageIan and Michelle Merrifield

Ian was born in Zimbabwe and Michele in France. Ian is a ex game ranger and Michele worked in a Hotel group in France. Ian and Michele Merrifield met in 1999 while Michele was travelling in South Africa. Ian was working as the head ranger in a private Game Lodge while Michele was visiting as a tourist. They got married a year later and opened a restaurant in Hoespruit to get enough fund to create the Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage, their dream


Silke von Eynern – Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm silke and vervet monkey in the sun

Silke von Eynern immigrated from Germany to South Africa in 1990. Here her love and passion for wildlife was ignited. In 2003 she opened her bushveld farm to orphaned and injured wild animals, helping them by rehabilitating them to be released back into the wild again. From Antelopes to Zebras, predatory cats and Rhino, no baby too small or too big for receiving Silke’s care. In 2005 an orphaned Vervet Monkey was brought to Silke and she discovered that she had a special connection to Vervet monkeys and made it her main cause to help save the persecuted Vervet Monkeys. The Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Farm was founded. Not even ten years later the team has rehabilitated and released nine Vervet Monkey troops back into the wild successfully and is actively involved in creating awareness and educating the public to promote a peaceful co-existence between people and monkeys in an endeavour to assist with the survival of the species.

Savannah (Cat) Heuser – Bahati Working Farm and Big Cat Sanctuary

An individual who embodies the heartbeat that is Bahati, Cat is largely considered the one behind the brainchild that was the big cat sanctuary. A single child raised by only her mother, she was raised between the farm and the city, and has been home schooled.

Her love affair with cats started walking with lions in Zambia when she was 13 years old. What started as a childlike desire to own a cub, evolved into a dream to develop a sanctuary, to protect cubs from canned hunting. Cat says: “It was when we started the sanctuary, that I found my voice, making the decision that I would speak for them (big cats).” Today it is a home for all big cats in need and Cat draws her energy from their grace, focus, flexibility, adaptability and purity of character. An exercise and health junkie, she says her family means the world to her, in particular her mother.

Minunette Heuser – Bahati Working Farm and Big Cat Sanctuary

Bahati is also home to Minunette who describes herself as a young philosopher type of person who is 50% workaholic, 30% recluse and 20% playful. A pragmatic, but spontaneous individual, who is considered nurturing and peaceful at heart, but also competitive and energetic she adds a wonderful element to the team. While she is old fashioned to a degree, she loves the bush, the sea, coffee, a challenge, feel good movies and inspirational people. Her mottos are simply that she believes in the laws of attraction, she will laugh at every chance she gets and she eats to live, not lives to eat. Some of her hobbies include travelling, weight training and photography.

Her DNA is tightly wound around spontaneity, simplicity, respect, the smell of soil after the rain, the big cats, her work, her family, the wind, sunsets, peanut butter, words, thunderstorms and Savannah.