Michael is a PhD student at Dartmouth College’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He currently studies the population ecology of the largest wild population of Rothschild’s giraffe in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Prior to his work on giraffe, Michael was a zebra guy; after receiving his Master’s degree in conservation biology from Columbia University in 2012, Michael managed the Laikipia Zebra Project for Princeton University in Kenya. While in Kenya, Michael led monitoring efforts to understand population dynamics of the endangered Grevy’s zebra and managed studies to examine zebra movement ecology across the semi-arid rangelands. He now looks to translate these approaches into a nuanced understanding of the interplay of Rothschild’s giraffe population dynamics and spatial ecology. Michael brings a deep appreciation for both field research and applied quantitative ecology; seeking to integrate ecological understandings into meaningful conservation strategy.
Rachel du Raan
Rachel has a BSc in Environmental Studies, specialising in human-wildlife conflict. She was involved with the Namibia African Wild Dog Project (NAWDP) assessing species status and conflict management in the Mangetti Region of Namibia. As a registered Environmental Practitioner with EAPAN, she worked as an Environmental Officer in the mining sector in Namibia. Rachel is GCF’s Environmental Education Coordinator and is in charge of the Khomas Environmental Education Programme (KEEP).
As Co-Director and Co-Founder Steph handles GCF’s day-to-day business. She is a skilled and experienced project manager with a range of international expertise in the environmental and conservation sectors. With an MSc in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Infrastructure, she has successfully worked in diverse working cultures and multi-disciplinary teams within the private, Government and NGO sector on three continents – Africa, Australia and Europe – and her expertise ranges from community based natural resource management to technical sustainability solutions. For the past 15 years she has been involved in a wide range of giraffe projects across Africa and particularly enjoys the fieldwork component. She is a member and secretary of the IUCN SSC Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group.
Tom first met Julian Fennessy at the Zoos & Aquarium Committing to Conservation conference in 2013. Enthused by his passion for giraffe and their conservation, Tom has joined GCF in the field in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Uganda. Tom and Leiden Conservation Foundation have become key supporters of our giraffe conservation work. Tom looks forward to assisting GCF as a volunteer and, through the Leiden Conservation Foundation, providing operational support to help GCF grow as the leading organisation for giraffe conservation. Tom has been volunteering for wildlife conservation organisations for over 30 years while working for the family manufacturing company, Leiden Cabinet Company. Tom is currently a Trustee of the Cleveland Zoological Society and supportive of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo field conservation programme.
Penelope Jane Orford
Penelope, better known as Melle, graduated cum laude from Natal University’s Centre for Environment and Development, specialising in Biodiversity Conservation. When working as manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Poison Working Group to curb wildlife losses from poisoning, her previous six years experience in cattle farming in the pro Kalahari of Namibia gave Melle credibility when working with farmers across Southern Africa. In 1998, Melle moved back to Namibia and met Julian and Steph at the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia where they all worked on various projects. Melle also taught ecology at the Namibian University of Science and Technology, did EIAs and EMPs throughout Namibia, and has been actively involved with urban conservation as chairperson of Greenspace on and off for the past 15 years. She has a strong interest in wildlife conservation, is a keen birder and has a special interest in indigenous gardens and in wine.
Maria Pimenta Shaetonhodi
Born in Luanda, Angola, Maria has lived in Namibia since 2005. She is married to a Namibian and has a beautiful daughter. Maria has more than 8 years finance experience in the Namibian NGO sector; managed local and international donors funding such as the USAID, EU, NORAD, etc. She is enrolled with the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town in South Africa for a Master Degree in Development Finance. She is passionate about numbers, and feels fulfilled that in her working life she is contributing to improved livelihoods of local communities in Namibia. On top of providing her expertise to GCF in her spare time, she is also the treasure of the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS).
Billy is a former American Naval Officer who developed a passion for Africa during a 2001 mountain climbing trip to Tanzania. He became a professional nature photographer in 2005 with the primary goal of advancing the cause of wildlife preservation on the African continent. His photographs of African wildlife are now used by a number of conservation organisations for public relations and fund raising. His images have won several international prizes and are widely acclaimed. His work has been published in Outdoor Photographer, Nature’s Best Photography, Asian Photography and Africa Geographic (American edition) magazines. His photographs have been displayed in the Muscarelle Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He now leads photography tours to several African countries and writes about wildlife conservation, photography and a variety of other topics on his blog. He resides in Williamsburg, Virginia, with his wife Cynthia. Billy is an advisor to GCF and has provided many of the stunning giraffe images used in GCF publications and on this website.
Julian Fennessy, PhD
As Co-Founder and Co-Director of GCF Julian coordinates giraffe conservation as the technical expert. He is the Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe & Okapi Specialist Group, the Conservation Advisor for the EAZA Giraffe EEP and has >18 years experience in species and habitat ecology, conservation and land management across the African continent (and Australia), and in particular focal giraffe related activities. His experience in the field of giraffe conservation is something few others can boast, from individual field projects, supervision of students, population and country-wide assessments, to expert advisor on subspecies conservation strategies. Julian has conducted numerous conservation expeditions across all regions of the Africa continent. Julian holds a PhD in Biological Science from the University of Sydney, Australia based on his work in Namibia – the ecology of the desert-dwelling giraffe in Namibia’s northwest. His diverse skill base provides a solid science and conservation foundation from which GCF can grow.
Emma is a PhD student at University College Dublin’s School of Biology and Environmental Science. She currently studies the population ecology of the giraffe of north-western Namibia, investigating a variety of factors effecting the conservation of this unique population of giraffe. With a background in psychology, Emma brings an understanding of animal communication and social dynamics which she applies to her research. Recognising the importance of an ecosystem approach to conservation, Emma also investigates the impact of other mega-fauna, such as elephant and lion, on the study population. GCF provides significant support to make her study possible. Emma is passionate about sharing the story of Namibia’s desert-dwelling giraffe, and as part of her research provides regular updates for our Adopt a Giraffe Programme as well as offering opportunities for conservation supporters to join us in the field.
Arthur is GCF’s East Africa Coordinator, a new role set up to bring together research efforts and partnerships to secure the future of the three subspecies that occur in the region: Masai, reticulated, and Rothschild’s giraffe. At the same time, Arthur is pursuing his PhD at the Research on the Ecology of Carnivores and their Prey (RECaP) laboratory at Michigan State University (MSU). Originally from Rwanda, he spent his formative years living and learning in Kenya, one of the most biologically diverse countries in Africa, where he nurtured an interest in wildlife ecology and conservation. With the support of the highly prestigious MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program Scholarship, which recognises outstanding young Africans who show commitment to the development and protection of Africa’s resources, Arthur mapped the regional variation and severity of Giraffe Skin Disease (GSD) in Africa and studied the spatial distribution of GSD in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania for this Master’s studies at MSU. For his PhD (supported through a Leiden Conservation Foundation Fellowship), Arthur investigates a variety of factors affecting the survival and reproduction of giraffe populations across East Africa. Through his role at GCF and his PhD research, Arthur intends to contribute to securing a future for all giraffe in East Africa.
Hayden is an experienced wildlife television presenter, safari specialist and educator who reports from some of the wildest and most scenic places on earth. His love of animals led him to become a Senior Keeper at Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia, where he first got involved with giraffe while hand-rearing one. He eventually left the zoo to travel to Africa and work on international rhinoceros, elephant and chimpanzee conservation projects. He continues to increase awareness about the plight of giraffe and promotes the importance and profile of giraffe conservation on the international stage. After nearly 20 years associated with Nat Geo, hundreds of hours of broadcasts and a true love of Africa, he periodically presents on Nat Geo WILD’s SafariLIVEprogram online and across the USA. Hayden combines an understanding of the nature of entertainment and his audiences’ interests with an exceptional commitment to conservation. He recently returned to his native Australia as head of Guest Experience, People and Programs at the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. Hayden’s philosophy is that the most effective approach to conservation is through education, technology and inspiring people to care for the planet coupled with understanding people’s different perceptions of wildlife. Giraffe have been part of his life for nearly 30 years and he is excited to support GCF moving forward.