Dr Michelle Henley

In 2017 she was named as one of “The ten most inspiring women in South Africa” and in 2013 she won WESSA (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa)’s National Award for an Individual.

Director, Co-founder & Principal Researcher

Dr Michelle Henley

Michelle has been studying elephants for 25 years, and has adopted an interdisciplinary approach, skilfully combining scientific research with education and awareness-raising. She works closely with scientists, private landowners, subsistence farmers and politicians.

She has a PhD, from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Applied Behavioural Ecology and Environmental Research Unit of the University of South Africa, Trustee of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group of South Africa and Elephants for Africa. She is an invited member for the African Elephant Specialist Group for the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN.

Michelle has published more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications and contributed to numerous books and popular publications. In 2009 she undertook a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in order to be better equipped to teach children about the environment.

In 2019 Michelle won South Africa’s prestigious SANParks Kudu Award for Conservation and was listed as one of 50 most influential voices in all aspects of the environment in South Africa.

Tracking Projects Manager

Anka Bedetti

Anka joined Elephants Alive in 2016. She has an MSc in Population Dynamics focused on spatial ecology.

Originally from Belgium, she grew up overseas and started her conservation career over 10 years ago in South Africa, from an intern for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (Wildlife and Roads Project), to guiding students, becoming an elephant research assistant in the Greater Mapungubwe area, and an assistant manager on a private game reserve in the Lowveld. Her passion for wildlife and elephant conservation has always been a main driver in her life.

She is also currently tackling her PhD on identifying movement signatures of elephants navigating through human dominated landscapes.

Anka Bedetti
Kayla Geenen
Tracking Project GIS Technician

Kayla Geenen

In 2020, Kayla’s dream of researching elephants came true when she joined Elephants Alive. After her first family visit to Kruger National Park, Kayla knew this was where her conservation career would lead her.

Soon after completing her Honours degree, she trained to be a Field Guide with Bushwise. Prior to joining the team she was the Science Officer at a volunteer base in the Lowveld.

Kayla has an MSc in Conservation Ecology and spent a year in Malawi conducting her fieldwork in Majete Wildlife Reserve.

Researcher, Bee Project, and Education Liaison Officer

Ronny Makukule

Ronny has been involved with Elephants Alive since he was a young boy, and his remarkable ability to identify known individual elephants continues to be a very valuable asset to the team.

After matriculating in 2012, he studied Environmental Education at Southern African Wildlife College, and then joined the Timbavati Foundation as an Environmental Monitor working with local community schools. After 2 years, Ronny returned to his roots, joining Elephants Alive in 2016 as a Research Assistant.

Ronny has also become our leading beekeeper, gaining experience and knowledge in bee husbandry.

Robin Cook
Big Trees Project Manager

Robin Cook

Although Robin grew up in Johannesburg, his passion for conservation grew stronger with every family visit to the Kruger National Park.

He began working with Elephants Alive in 2014 when he started his post-graduate studies at the University of Witwatersrand. After completing his Master’s degree in elephant ecology, Robin spent three months in Sri Lanka as a project coordinator for the Asian ‘Elephants and Bees Project’, allowing his interest in the use of mitigation methods to solve human-elephant conflict to grow. 

Robin is now pursuing his doctorate on the value of big trees where they co-exist with elephants.

Researcher and Education Liaison Officer

Joel Sithole

Joel’s love and passion for wildlife started early in high school. He studied nature guiding, game range management and community based natural resource management, with a Higher Certificate in Nature Conservation with Southern African Wildlife College.

He then spent 9 years running community outreach programmes for the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. He first joined Elephants Alive on a short-term contract in 2007, and then joined the team full time in 2019.

Joel is also currently doing a BA in Environmental Management with UNISA.

Office Administrator

Tinyiko Bosch

Tinyiko brings a wealth of administrative experience to the team, having worked in a variety of corporate companies and government departments before joining Elephants Alive in 2019.

As well as being our officer administrator, Tinyiko also makes the bees wax wraps and is learning to make the soaps and lip balms.

She assists with Elephants Outreach activities and provides the catering for Elephants Alive’s Gogos “When the wise meet the Wise” programme.

Coexistence Garden Project Manager

Jessica Wilmot

Jessica has always had a passion for conservation, having grown up in the Jonkershoek mountains and completing her post-graduate Conservation Ecology degree at the University of Stellenbosch.

When she got offered the opportunity to join the EA team after being in Botswana, she jumped at the chance. After working as a field researcher for a year and a half, an opportunity arose to join an Erasmus Mundus masters degree in Europe.

Having completed her Masters in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management after two years, she has returned to manage and implement an exciting proof of concept for a coexistence corridor in Mozambique.

Jessica Wilmot