Les’ long history with &Beyond started in 1991 with the creation of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Les actually formed an integral part of the inaugural team that reintroduced predators and other species onto the reserve, as well as managed all of the game translocations that were required to get the reserve up and running. He also established the initial community relationships and development committees, and was influential in obtaining the legal and conservation permissions necessary for the establishment of a Big Five reserve on private land. Les spent several years carefully overseeing Phinda’s regional development, and as &Beyond grew, he became more and more involved in new developments and the investigation of other countries and opportunities.
Les’ current role as Group Conservation Manager is a broad role. He represents &Beyond on the boards of two conservation areas, assists the PR team with hosting media, and often advises the company on the proper management of conservation areas. Les also has the fortune of being invited to international conferences as a keynote speaker, where he talks passionately about &Beyond’s successful business model. He is heavily involved in sustainability initiatives, whereby he encourages &Beyond’s lodges and camps to maximise their positive impact while minimising their negative footprint.
Les often describes his education as “a doctorate from the University of Hard Knocks”. Despite a lack of formal training, he has had a long and highly successful career in conservation, professional game capture and wildlife management spanning nearly three decades. Being part of a team that refined chemical immobilisation of giraffe and the capture of Cape buffalo, he has translocated more than 40 000 head of game during his career, some from as far as Texas, USA, back to South Africa.
His history with &Beyond includes everything from the project management of the construction of our first lodges to erecting more than 120 km of fencing, as well as reintroducing more than 1 000 animals at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. The buffalo quarantine programme that he ran at Phinda led to new national protocol for buffalo on private land. With &Beyond backing Les all the way, Les’ team became the first to use sedation to socialise lions from different prides in acclimatisation pens prior to release, as well as the first to transport lions immobilised by Zoletil by air. The predator reintroduction program that he spearheaded at Phinda has positively influenced all major predator reintroductions since 1992 and our pioneering elephant recovery procedures have revolutionised elephant capture methods.
An advanced scuba diver, Les has also sky dived and piloted aircraft. He has basic practical experience in electrics, mechanics, welding, wood working and he loves working with his hands. He is also a keen naturalist and avid birdwatcher, and passionate about sport and flying too. Les flew a micro-light over &Beyond Phinda for four years in the early days of the reserve and these remain some of his most treasured memories.