Meet the team

Bhekinkosi Sibanda

Age: 28
Country of origin: Zimbabwe
Position: General Assistant

Bhekinkosi Sibanda

I’m Bhekinkosi Sibanda aged 28, born and raised Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. As a young ecologist and research, being part of VulPro is a crucial learning opportunity to my career as it provides both hands-on experience which help in contributing to vulture conservation. I joined VulPro in July 2019 after my year-long internship (Aug 2016 – July 2017) with them for my honour’s degree in Forest Resources and Wildlife management. My main interest is sustainable natural resources use by society, promoting sustainable development where inclusive participation foster admirable results, hence I’m currently pursing an honours degree in Environmental management, hoping to further my interests in Sustainable biodiversity conservation.

Outside from my work and studies, I’m an out-going person who, loves hiking, listening to music and enjoy playing chess occasionally.

Caroline Grace Hannweg

Age: 27
Country of origin: South Africa
Position: General Assistant
MSc Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria

Caroline Grace Hannweg

I joined VulPro in March 2020 as the General Assistant after completing my MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria under Dr Mark Keith. I have always had a keen interest in nature and animals, and this led to me pursuing a career in nature.

My interest in animals began extending to birds when my parents introduced me to birding in 2004. My passion for birds means I am extremely excited to have joined the team at VulPro. My MSc degree gave me experience working with wild populations of animals having studied owls and rodents, and during my undergraduate studies in agriculture I worked widely with livestock and domestic animals. My goal in life is to be able to use my skills as a researcher to contribute to the conservation of the environment. Working at VulPro has expanded my knowledge on vultures immensely and I am extremely grateful for the expertise I have gained during my time at VulPro so far. I look forward to furthering my contribution to the conservation of these important species, directly through VulPro’s work and through the incredibly exciting research we are able to conduct, as there are so many lessons to be learnt at VulPro. My next step in pursuing my goals is through completing my PhD thesis focusing on the movement and breeding behaviour of African White-backed Vultures in southern Africa.

I live in Pretoria with my partner, Jeremy, and our rescue border collie, Sadie. In my spare time I am pursuing a bird ringing license and spend as much time as possible in nature, birding, running, cycling or hiking. When I am not in nature, I spend my time painting, gardening and reading. I also have a passion for music, as an accomplished recorder player, violist and soprano. I would describe myself as passionate about the things and people that I love the most, hardworking, curious, and fun-loving.

Charles Banda

Age: 45
Country of origin: Malawi 
Position: Head of Maintenance and Security

Charles Banda

Charles Banda, our head of maintenance and security, was born in Malawi 45 years ago and moved to South Africa 18 years ago. Charles has been with VulPro for almost 15 years now.

Charles’s job specifications:

  • Day to day maintenance of the entire facility. This means he has the tough task of checking every single enclosure is up to high international standards and to make adjustments, changes etc when necessary.
  • Day to day security of the entire facility. This is a mammoth task in South Africa as it includes making sure the external and integral electric fences are always working optimally and that all birds, staff members, guests, volunteers are housed safely and securely.
  • Our resident tiler, builder and general helper
  • Assists with the daily feeding of the resident and wild birds in the enclosure and at the vulture restaurant
  • Assists with the daily cleaning of the enclosures and the vulture restaurant

Why VulPro:
Charles is passionate about vultures and this is his single biggest reason he joined VulPro.

When Charles is not dedicating himself to his work, he can be found riding his bike which is one of his favourite pastimes.

Dunisani Clarence Mabasa

Age: 28
Country of origin: South Africa

Dunisani Clarence Mabasa

When I joined VulPro: I joined VulPro when I was doing my 1 year practical for National Diploma Nature Conservation.

Interests/hobbies: Reading, writing, birds watching (all types of birds), soccer, interested on wild and domestic animals.

Character traits: short tempered person, hard worker, helper, a good leader, I am a good inspire, an honest person.

Why VulPro: I chose VulPro because I love birds (vultures), as since I was young I used to take care of pigeons. I chose VulPro because is a good environment for me as I am gaining experience and learning new things every day.

How long working for VulPro: 1 year, 7 months.

Esther Mapope

Age: 47
Country of origin: Zimbabwe
Position: Domestic Worker

Esther Mapope

Esther Mapope, our domestic worker, was born in Bindura Zimbabwe 47 years ago and moved to South Africa 14 years ago. Esher is a proud single mother of 3 beautiful teenage daughters who continue to live in Zimbabwe with Esther’s mother. Esther has become an essential part of our team and joined us 6 years ago.

  • Esther’s job specifications:
  • Day to day cleaning of all internal buildings such as housing, volunteers quarters, office, educational centre and the lapa facilities.
  • Assists our CEO with helping to maintain and keep the captive breeding facilities clean
  • Assists our CEO with keeping the onsite hospital clean and presentable to guests, vets and volunteers
  • In charge of making sure all blankets and towels are clean and replaced as often as necessary
  • Assists our CEO with any additional duties which includes helping to take care of our youngest staff member at just 2 years of age.

Why VulPro:
Esther loves her role at VulPro where she enjoys learning as much as she can about them, watching vulture chicks grow from eggs to fledglings and then their release and also, just being an important member of society making a difference.

When Esther is not working, she enjoys listening to music, sewing and watching TV

Kerri Wolter

Age: 45
Country of origin: South Africa
Position: Chief Executive Officer

Kerri Wolter

After working in corporate for a few years, I was desperate to find my soul that had been lost in an air-conditioned office.  My colleagues were too scared to brave the great outdoors or even enjoy the duck pond which our offices with immovable windows, overlooked.   I applied for a position as manager of a vulture conservation group when the opportunity arose, not knowing anything about any bird species, and nothing could be further from my mind than vultures at that time.  I thought this opportunity may just help get my foot into the door of conservation, and from there maneuver my way towards a more ‘desirable species’.  

Vultures are an unlikely species for a young, wannabe conservationist to choose to dedicate their career to. Vultures have always been showcased as ‘evil’ or associated with death, compared to the more glamorized species such as rhinos, elephants and various big cats, through the likes of Disney, animal cinematography and cartoons. As such, dedicating one’s life to a species that is often maligned, I had no inkling of what lay ahead.

To cut a long story short, after just a few short months in my new role, trying to save a species that the general public simply did not care about, I found myself looking down at a bundle of feathers and an ET look-a-like bird that resembled the prehistoric age of dinosaurs. My heart melted. I finally understood the magnificence and fragility of the species.  My task, at that exact moment, was as clear as daylight …. It was my calling. I needed to make people understand their beauty, and their importance in our world of greed and destruction; I was to become what I have now been nicknamed – “The Vulture Whisperer”.

I am 45 years old and been working in vulture conservation now for 20 years. 

Hardwell Davite Nkhoma

Age: 43
Country of origin: Malawi
Position: Head Driver

Hardwell Davite Nkhoma

Hardwell Davite Nkhomo, foundly known as Notice, was born in Lilongwe Malawi in 1979 which makes him 43 years old. Notice has been with VulPro for 14 years now and is an intergral part of the team, taking charge of all 5 of our vehicles as well as being our Head Driver. In addition, he is our assistant maintenance manager. Notice has recently got married to his second wife and has 4 beautiful adult children with his first wife and he has also recently become a proud grandfather.

Notice’s job specifications:

  • Day to day vehicle management, services, tyres etc
  • Day to day driving for vulture collections, vet appointments, purchase of maintenance items and the list goes on
  • Assists Charles with the day to day maintenance
  • *Our resident welder, builder, plumber etc
  • Assists with vulture rehabilitation, care, feeding etc
  • Assists with any additional necessary duties

Why VulPro:
Notice loves working with animals and has a special place in his heart for vultures and horses.

When Notice is not working or visiting his wife, he can be found watching sport, movies and listening to music.

Obert Gayesi Phiri

Age: 39
Country of origin: Zimbabwe
Position: Operations Manager

Obert Gayesi Phiri

Obert Gayesi Phiri, our Operations Manager, born in Bulawayo Zimbabwe, 39 years ago and moved to South Africa 15 years ago where he, shortly after, joined VulPro in its infancy. Obert met his wife Grace in Malawi 12 years ago and they now have 2 precious daughters.

Obert’s job specification:

  • Day to day managing the captive facility of 270 non-releasable vultures of several difference species
  • Assists with vulture rehabilitation, care, feeding etc
  • Educational and awareness tours so this is THE man you will meet should you come on a tour at VulPro
  • Colony monitoring at Manutsa, Soutpansberg and Moletjie

Why VulPro:
Obert believes Vultures need our help and that he has the opportunity to help be their voice and to give them a second chance.

When Obert is not tirelessly working, he can be found reading, exercising or simply enjoying the thrill of watching and experiencing wildlife in their natural environments, where they are meant to be.

Ryno Kemp

Age: 30
Country of origin: South Africa
Position: Research Manager

Ryno Kemp

I was exposed to the outdoor life and nature at a young age by visiting the Kruger National yearly. I knew that I would either play cricket one day or end up in conservation or an environmental-related position as I went to do an undergraduate in Zoology, followed by an Honours in Zoology and currently finishing up my PhD in Zoology, which investigates the impacts of climate change on the threatened arid-zone Red lark (Calendulauda burra) using a mechanistic modelling approach. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for 3 years, and we have a baby girl which is already 7 months old.

Nature has always been how I break away from my day-to-day life, even though my work involves being out in the field. Bird watching and nature photography are probably my best hobbies, but I enjoy watching rugby, cricket and golf. However, more recently, I’m enjoying spending time with my daughter, and hopefully, she will join me soon on my bird-watching adventures.

Caring, gentle, honest, adventurous, driven, respectful, loyal, imaginative, trustworthy, confident, hardworking, responsible

Why Vulpro and for how long working for Vulpro:
Vulpro is an organisation that makes a difference. Therefore, I believe our work can allow vultures to persist into the future for generations to come. I have been part of the Vulpro team since February 2020