Recently appointed as head ranger for ranger services in Kruger National Park, Cathy Dreyer is a force to be reckoned with. Her years in the field learning about wildlife conservation at the sharp end shows in the relaxed way she gives a back rub to a huge white rhino as well as how she talks about the enormous responsibility of managing the ranger forces in Kruger National Park.
While the Peace Parks crew talk to Cathy, Lésa (Communications Coordinator for Peace Parks) is on the lookout for elephants, who are moving about nearby. This is a great reminder of just how ‘wild’ Kruger National Park is, and just how Peace Parks and partners are always aware of respectfully working around the wildlife.
So, how did Cathy land this important job? It seems that everything in Cathy’s life has been leading up to this role. Born and bred in Cape Town, a passion for wildlife and the outdoors led her to studying conservation. In Addo Elephant National Park, she became involved with black rhino, spending a lot of time with them across various African countries and terrain. After 13 years at SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Services Cathy moved to the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, where she was involved with conservation and law enforcement. When Kruger National Park approached her to head up the rhino security and surveillance in the park, Cathy jumped at the chance.
No mean task in a park that is over 2 million ha, with only around 400 rangers at hand. Prioritising is a vital part Cathy’s work. Using the latest technology to handle the poaching crisis in the south of the park, rangers are deployed tactically to tackle devastating rhino loss. In 2008, 57 animals were lost, but this rose to over 1000 animals in 2015.
Nevertheless, Cathy is optimistic that this trend can be reversed through collaboration and the use of innovative solutions, such as the Postcode Meerkat . Despite it being a huge responsibility – looking after the safety and security of the rangers and wildlife – she is hugely optimistic that Kruger’s rhino population will thrive again