Newly appointed head ranger of the Kruger National Park (KNP), Cathy Dreyer. Photo: SANParks.

KNP ranger corps to be headed by the Rhino Whisperer

Posted in News by Mariana Balt on 14 April, 2021 at 12:12 p.m.

Cathy Dreyer will take up the reigns as head ranger of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 1 May 2021. She will be the first female Head Ranger of this renowned park.

Dreyer has an exemplary record in conservation management, law enforcement, people and strategic management competencies.

She currently is the conservation manager at Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) in the Eastern Cape responsible for both terrestrial and marine areas but previously was based in the KNP where she made a worthwhile contribution to the protection and conservation of black rhino in the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) of the Park.

She was instrumental in drawing up protection strategies and patrol tactics aimed at protecting the endangered black rhino in the park and coordinated and participated in the implementation of aerial surveillance.

Prior to that, Dreyer was employed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency as conservation manager for the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, which is home to one of the key black rhino populations in South Africa.

Her career started at AENP nearly 20 years ago as a conservation student and she completed her degree in nature conservation at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She worked closely with SANParks’ Veterinary Wildlife Service Unit in Kimberley and with the game capture team for 12 years. 

Over the years she has affectionately become known as the Rhino Whisperer and has received several achievement awards at SANParks as well as the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa in London in 2016. 

She was the first South African recipient of this award as well as the first female to have won it.  It was presented to her by Sir David Attenborough. 

Dreyer’s appointment follows a successful strategy session with stakeholders and employees on preparing a Rhino Implementation Plan to curb the decline of the rhino population in KNP a month ago.  

KNP management said they are looking forward to welcoming Cathy back. “She is no stranger to the challenges faced by the ranger corps in conservation management and fighting wildlife crime,” managing executive of the KNP, Gareth Coleman, said. 

“She brings a wealth of conservation management experience and in conserving rhinos in particular and has proven herself as a dedicated conservationist and law enforcement officer”.

He added that SANParks is busy developing more effective management strategies to protect the rhino population and to manage conservation and wildlife crime in the park.

One of Dreyer’s first and utmost challenges will be to drive a turnaround plan to address these and other key security, infrastructure and human capital challenges. “We know that she will bring new energy, ideas and passion to our dedicated team,” he concluded.

Dreyer herself is overjoyed albeit humbled at being the successful candidate. “I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity, particularly at a time when the Kruger National Park is vigorously and earnestly working on its turnaround plan,” she said.  “Leadership is a privilege and I look forward to working alongside the park’s dedicated, committed and passionate ranger corps and conservation management teams.”

Cathy replaces Ken Maggs, who retired after serving SANParks for nearly four decades.


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