By Independent Online (IOL)
History has been made at the Kruger National Park which has appointed its first female head ranger, Cathy Dreyer who takes up the position armed with a host of accolades in conservation management, law enforcement, and people and strategic management skills
Dreyer, who starts her new job on May 1, is currently the conservation manager at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape where she is responsible for terrestrial and marine areas.
Before moving to Addo, she was based in the Kruger National Park contributing to the protection and conservation of black rhino in the park’s intensive protection zone (IPZ). Her love for rhinos earned her the nickname, “Rhino Whisperer”.
She co-ordinated and participated in the implementation of aerial surveillance, and was instrumental in drawing up protection strategies and patrol tactics aimed at protecting black rhino in the park.
Dreyer was previously employed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency as the conservation manager for the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, home to one of the key black rhino populations in South Africa.
Now she is taking on the biggest challenge of her career as the head ranger of South Africa’s world-renowned national park.
Commenting on her appointment, she said: “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. Leadership is a privilege and I look forward to working alongside the dedicated, committed and passionate ranger corps and conservation management teams in the park,” she said.
Dreyer studied nature conservation and completed her degree at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, after which she did her experiential training at Addo.
Dreyer 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 the award and the first woman to have won it.
The Tusk Conservation Award honours emerging leaders in conservation in Africa who have made an outstanding contribution in their chosen field.
The award was presented Dreyer by Sir David Attenborough. She says meeting him was one of the most memorable experiences of her life.
Dreyer’s appointment comes soon after a strategy session held in March with stakeholders and employees on preparing a Rhino Implementation Plan aimed at halting the decline of the rhino population within the Kruger National Park.
The Kruger’s managing executive, Gareth Coleman, congratulated Dreyer on her new appointment.
“We are looking forward to welcoming Cathy back to the KNP. She is no stranger to the challenges faced by the ranger corps in conservation management and fighting wildlife crime. She brings with her a wealth of conservation management experience and in conserving rhinos in particular. She has proven herself as a dedicated conservationist and law enforcement officer,” he said
Dreyer is replacing Ken Maggs who has retired after nearly four decades with SANParks.