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.

Marketing Manager

Evelyn Poole

Evelyn is passionate about communicating the successes but also the hard work that goes into wildlife conservation with as wide an audience as possible. Belgian turned South African at heart, she moved across the world to South Africa in 2019 and hasn't looked back since.

After a degree in modern history, completing a PhD in trade politics in Belgium, and running a family business in South Africa, Evelyn started her own digital marketing agency in 2021. Living in both the Kruger National Park and surrounding private game reserves, gave Evelyn a distinct insight into the complexities of wildlife conservation. It also highlighted a need for professional digital marketing skills within the African conservation sphere, as a means to build trust, tangible relationships and community with our audience and supporters.

Evelyn now combines freelance and volunteer work as a digital marketer and fundraiser in the safari and wildlife conservation industry. She has extensive experience in digital marketing for conservation organisations, including branding strategy, current wildlife conservation topics, copywriting, fundraising campaign management, email marketing, web design, social media strategy, and SEO.

Silvia Kirkman
Tracking Projects Manager

Silvia Kirkman

Silvia is passionate about nature and the environment, as well as contributing to the conservation of any and all forms of biodiversity, through research, education and awareness raising about the threats to and solutions for protecting our natural heritage.

She has a PhD in Zoology/Statistical Sciences from the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she examined patterns in long-term datasets of the Cape fur seal diet in Namibia and relationships with fisheries. Since then, she has managed and coordinated two national lepidoptera conservation and IUCN Red List assessment projects, in conjunction with the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Brenton Blue Trust and UCT. She was also the scientific coordinator of SANBI’s Karoo Biogaps Project.

Silvia has over 12 years of experience working with large databases. She has contributed to a number of scientific papers, science reports, popular science articles and workshops, as well as being editor of a book and co-author of some book chapters, and sub-editor of the scientific journal Metamorphosis.

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.

Research Coordinator

Katherine Bunney (PhD)

Katherine grew up in Zimbabwe and there developed a love of wilderness and a strong desire to study and conserve it.

After an undergraduate degree majoring in Botany and Zoology at Rhodes University, she went to work on a chimpanzee and gorilla tracking project in the Dja Forests of the Cameroon. Later she undertook an Honours degree at the University of Cape Town where she used the data she collected, to explore the seed dispersal service that chimpanzees and gorillas offer forest trees.
She followed this work with a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town on elephant seed dispersal in collaboration with Elephants Alive.

This work suggested that African savanna elephants transport seeds further than any other land animal. Most recently she was part of an African team that explored the role of fauna in African forests and savanna soils. Her PhD, borne out of this project, explored the role of termites in South African savanna ecology and was undertaken through a collaboration between the University of Pretoria, University of Liverpool, Oxford University and the Natural History Museum of London.
Katherine is fascinated by evolutionary ecology, elephants, savanna ecology and large-fruited trees.

Katherine Bunney
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.

ID Project Manager

Jennifer Blondeau

Jennifer is French and after graduating as a veterinarian in Belgium in 2010, she was a volunteer for Elephants Alive in 2011.

After practicing as a pet veterinarian in France for 6 years, she returned to the conservation field by working for a vet antipoison center and participating in a European project to reintroduction of Bearded vultures in France. And more particularly by monitoring the causes of mortality and performing autopsies on large raptors found dead in order to assess the threats (intoxication, electrocution, illegal shooting, etc.).
She then was an e-learning project manager for the training of veterinary nurses for 4 years, which allowed her to acquire skills in the field of pedagogy and digital technologies.

But after 20 years of going back and forth between France and South Africa, she has been working for Elephants Alive since March 2023 as an ID project manager. At the same time, she is pursuing a Master's degree in zoology with the University of Pretoria, focusing on the phenomenon of ear discharge in African elephants.
Jennifer loves music, photography and visiting the great outdoors.