In Phinda: The Return, Dave Varty tells the story of how he first met Les Carlisle during a massive rhino relocation exercise to which Dave had brought some important prospective investors.
“When we arrived, a bearded guy, plastered with mud, came over to us and asked us who the hell we thought we were, ‘driving unauthorised into the reserve and parking our kombi in the damn way.’ And then, without waiting for our answer, he told us in no uncertain terms to get the hell out of the way so that he could manoeuvre the next crated rhino into position for release.
That was our first meeting with Les Carlisle, who has been of immense value to Phinda. We watched as Les directed a really dangerous operation. Even in that hour we could see his talent and dedication. Nothing deterred him and he was afraid of nothing. But he was also thoroughly professional.”
With an endless string of accreditations to his name, as well as an impressive list of conservation firsts, many of which we are proud to say have been accomplished during his time at &Beyond, the preservation of wildlife has been a lifelong focus for Les.
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 our 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 Phinda 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 &Beyond.