Meet the Conservationists
&Beyond Group Conservation Manager
With an endless string of accreditations to his name, as well as an impressive list of conservation firsts, many of which have been accomplished during his time at &Beyond, the preservation of wildlife has been a lifelong focus for Les Carlisle. Pioneering the chemical immobilisation of giraffe and the capture of Cape buffalo, he has translocated countless hundreds of heads of game, some from as far apart as Texas, USA, back to South Africa. Les’ history with &Beyond dates back to 1991 and includes everything from the project management of the construction of its first lodges to erecting more than 120 km of fencing and reintroducing more than 1 000 animals at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve alone. His buffalo quarantine programme at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve led to new national protocol for buffalo on private land.
He and &Beyond were the first to use sedation to socialise lions from different prides in acclimatisation pens prior to release, as well as the first to transport immobilised lions by air. The predator reintroduction programme he led at Phinda has been hailed as a shining example for all other efforts and his pioneering elephant reintroductions revolutionised international capture methodologies. Above all this, Les gives off the distinct impression that he has managed to have a thoroughly wonderful time throughout it all. With his endlessly positive attitude and booming laugh, he has become an integral part of the &Beyond story.
&Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve Conservation Manager
For someone who, just two days into &Beyond’s Inkwazi ranger training course, wondered what on earth he had got himself into, Simon has sure stuck around for a long time; playing an integral part of &Beyond’s conservation and guiding teams for the past 18 years. After completing a degree in nature conservation, Simon joined &Beyond in 1995 as a guide at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. When he got his first glimpse of the sand forest and plains of Phinda, as well as the Indian Ocean and Lake St Lucia, from the plane that was bringing him to his new home, an enduring love affair was born.
Five years later, the exciting opportunity arose for Simon to take &Beyond’s ranger training programme to East Africa. The &Beyond Mwewe Ranger Training School was then launched and Simon communicated the &Beyond way throughout Tanzania and Kenya. After nearly four years, he was due for a change of scenery and moved to Kasane to take charge of &Beyond’s Botswana Explorer Expedition’s operations. In 2006, when fate came knocking with an opportunity to return to Phinda, he accepted the position of Conservation Manager without hesitation. For Simon, no two days at work are ever the same and he revels in caring for all aspects of wildlife and habitat management both at Phinda and for the entire Munyawana Conservancy. He has also brought his skills to bear on formulating national conservation strategies for elephant, lion, cheetah and both black and white rhino. Simon considers himself blessed to have worked in some of Africa’s most beautiful and pristine wilderness areas.
Watching wildebeest cross the Mara River, seeing wild dog hunting in the Selous and herds of elephant swimming across the Chobe River, stargazing in the Namib Desert and scuba diving off &Beyond Mnemba Island are all special moments for him. However, for Simon, nothing compares to Zululand and everything pales in comparison to Phinda. The ultimate highlight in his working life has been playing a role in turning Phinda into a world class wildlife reserve, both in terms of tourism and conservation.
Karisoke™ Research Centre
Founded by the legendry Dr Dian Fossey in 1967, the Karisoke Research Centre works in collaboration with Rwandan Park authorities, local communities and other Rwandan conservationists to actively protect and monitor the gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
In addition to its numerous science and research projects, the centre is also involved in various education initiatives and community and health development projects. Today, Karisoke stands as a tribute to the courage and vision of its founder and to all those who have followed her inspiration in the years since she set up two small tents in the Virunga mountains. The centre has been hailed as the world’s best hope for the survival of endangered mountain gorillas and their ecologically critical habitat.