Work on the Wild Side: Wildlife Heroes

Category: Press Pack Article

Meet some of the British wildlife heroes who have dedicated their lives to saving the world’s most endangered species.

Emma De Jager (32) is in her own words ‘one of those crazy animal lovers’. Originally from Reading she moved to South Africa 14 years ago at the age of 18 and quickly realised she didn’t want to go home. She now runs her own wildlife sanctuary the Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre which is driven by a single goal to do its part in making the world a better place for all the South African wildlife needing help. From the tiny little dwarf mongoose to the majestic caracal, and many in between it strives to build productive relationships and make a positive impact with its pursuits. In this series Emma introduces us to the animals that have stolen her heart as she works to rehabilitate Hector the hippo, Mars the aardvark, No Name the warthog and many more back into the wild. 

Emma says: “We do it because we love it….it’s heartbreaking and amazing.”

At Care for Wild, the largest Rhino sanctuary in the World we meet Will Shortridge (age 25) a zookeeper from Colchester and Rachel Pfeiffer (age 30) a veterinary nurse assistant from Kent. Care for the Wild’s mission is to save the black and white rhinos from extinction and Will and Rachel share founder Petronel Nieuwoudt’s passion to rescue abandoned, injured, and orphaned rhinos and to rehabilitate them wherever possible. While filming the release of a baby Rhino she’s cared for…Rachel sums up her life in SA: “It’s moments like this and you don’t always know when they are going to come, but there are moments in the day, little bits of magic and you know exactly why you are here. You see the baby rhinos land in the helicopter, broken, literally broken, in spirit and body and we know what can be achieved, that’s what being a part of this team is all about. As a team we make a difference, we save Rhinos that’s what we do.”

Working in the frontline in the battle against poaching are MediVet’s – Dr Emily Baxter (29), Dr Annie Mears (27) and Dr Lisa Graham (33) from the UK. They’ve joined SA wildlife vet Dr Will Fowlds, to champion the plight of the rhino and other keystone species, being decimated due to the illicit trade in wildlife products.  These wildlife vets are involved in dangerous conservation work often having to capture and move elephants, lions, giraffes and cape buffalo by land and air to ensure their survival.  Emily says: “It’s my dream job we just get to work with the most amazing people and animals.”  

Harriet Nimmo (56) from Croydon and her husband Mike Kendrick have travelled the world, but it was always Africa that touched their hearts.  In 2011 they finally made the move, packing up their successful UK careers and moving to South Africa where they’ve now built a house in the bush and have giraffe, warthogs, porcupines and mongooses drinking out of their bird bath.  Harriet works with Elephants Alive whose mission is to ensure the survival of elephants and their habitats promoting harmonious coexistence between elephants and people.

A successful career with racehorses came to an abrupt end for Birmingham born Anna Mussi (30), who moved to South Africa to recover from a bad car accident. Now she’s saving rhinos at Rhino Revolution, located in the Greater Kruger Area.   Anna’s dream is: “To continue working in conservation, to make a difference to wildlife and educate people as to the reality of the illegal wildlife trafficking and trade.”

Josie du Toit (40) grew up in Portsmouth and has been passionate about helping animals from a young age. Qualified as a veterinary nurse she is now a Director of the Vervet Monkey Foundation, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.  They rehabilitate and provide sanctuary to over 500 primates, orphaned, injured, abused, ex-laboratory or unwanted pets.  Josie’s burning desire is to set up a Vervet Forest where these little primates can run free from human harm.

At Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), Marine Biologist Alison Towner (34) works with the Marine Big 5 - sharks, penguins, whales, seals and dolphins raising awareness worldwide of their plight. Alison is recognised globally as one of the leading experts in marine conservation.  Graduating from Bangor University in Wales in 2006, Alison joined the Dyer Island Trust 13 years ago which is close to the southern tip of Africa. Whenever a marine animal is in need in this area, at sea or on land, DICT is called in.

Jenna Hensman (36) was born in Dublin but grew up in Kent. While at university, she met Zimbabwean born Sean Hensman and moved to South Africa in 2011 to join him. The couple now work for the wildlife research centre set up in memory of Sean’s father, the Rory Hensman Conservation and Research Unit (RHCRU), dedicated to the conservation and protection of elephants through education and research efforts.

Surrey Born Debbie Morris (59went out to South Africa with her husband when they retired in 2018 to volunteer at the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation centre which specialises in the scientific rehabilitation of SA’s 5 primate and other wildlife species back into their natural native habitats.  The couple now have a 3 year visa and are back at Riverside looking after the centre’s many orphaned baboons and vervet monkeys who need constant care.