About Us

Conservation starts with understanding

Mission

 

RHCRU aims to be the foremost elephant education and research center within South Africa, that promotes the potential benefits of elephants to human society, wildlife, and conservation efforts.

Our goal is to secure a future for wildlife by identifying workable solutions to the issues facing both Wildlife and Conservationists in a modernising and overpopulating Africa.

Vision

 

We want to foster an environment of collaboration among experts, fuelled by the common passion to conserve wildlife. Our vision is to collaborate with individuals & organisations to conduct effective conservation and research projects on the ground, thereby holistically addressing the problems associated with having wildlife.

History

 

Rory Hensman grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, surrounded by both wild and domestic animals. As a father, he wanted his children to experience nature the same way he did, so he converted one of his agricultural farms into a game reserve. During the culling operations in Zimbabwe, he received 2 young elephants which due to their young age they had to be hand-reared. It was during this period that Rory realized how smart and willing to please these animals were. Soon, the Hensman farm became known for its work with elephants, and people began bringing orphaned and problem elephants to Rory.

He soon landed up with a herd of 12 elephants on the farm and began to use them to help with simple farm chores such as herding the cattle, checking fence lines and anti-poaching patrols in his game reserve. Rory even trained elephants to track human scent and intended on using them to conduct anti-poaching patrols in the National Parks in the Zambezi Valley in the late 1990’s to help stop poaching of Rhinos (Zimbabwe lost 33 000 rhino in 18 years). Rory then transferred to tourism, hoping to reach a wide and varied audience and use his elephants as educational ambassadors to teach people about the value of these animals. In 2002, Rory and his family were forced to leave Zimbabwe and they began their elephant operations in South Africa.

 

In 2003, he started Elephants for Africa Forever, an organization that took in problem elephants due to be culled and instead tamed and trained them

to connect humans with and educate and inspire people to think more about elephants and their conservation in a Changing Africa. In 2010, Adventures with Elephants, the home base of RHCRU, was established. Sadly, Rory passed in 2013, but his legacy and passion for elephants live on through the Rory Hensman Conservation and Research Unit.

Founded in 2016, the Rory Hensman Conservation and Research Unit continue Rory’s vision of giving value to elephants through education and research efforts.  RHCRU focuses on all aspects of elephant research and welfare, believing that the best approach to conservation is a holistic perspective. We aim to deliver workable solutions to those on the ground directly involved with wildlife and to engage their help in creating intelligent, effective, and simple solutions.

Directors

Stephanie
Braccini Slade, PhD

 

Stephanie is the Vice President of Living Collections at Birmingham Zoo (Alabama, USA) and faculty at the University of Alabama Department of Biological Sciences. In her professional role, Stephanie strives to empower animals in human care to have more choice and control. Her research interests include adapted feeding strategies in elephants with trunk injuries and behavioral laterality. After three years of working with the RHCRU team her love and respect for elephants have only grown.

Dr. Angela Stoeger

Department of Behavioural & Cognitive Biology University of Vienna

Angela is a zoologist with a focus on vocal communication in elephants. She is working as PI and group leader at the University of Vienna. Together with her team she published in high impact scientific journals (e.g. Nature, Science, Current Biology), received grants and scientific awards. They aim at establishing elephant detection systems to alert humans living close to elephant habitat and explore the use of vocal signals to influence movements and whereabouts of elephants to reduce the elephants’ impact on vegetation and biodiversity by non-invasive
means.

Katharina
von Dürckheim

 

Katharina is currently based out of Stellenbosch University, conducting her PhD on elephant olfaction and kin recognition. She works out of the Department of Animal Science and the Department of Conservation Ecology. Katharina is a strong business development professional with an MBA from the Stellenbosch Business School, and a Master of Science (MSc) focused in Conservation Ecology from Stellenbosch University.

Katharina is an experienced Research Affiliate with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry, and skilled in Academic Research, Conservation Consulting, Natural Resource Management, Environmntal Education, and African Wildlife and Conservation Issues.

Jenny
Griesel

 

Jenny is a marketing and media specialist based in Gauteng, with a passion for conservation. She has lent her marketing flair to various environmental projects, successfully assisting them to reach their goals by combing an understanding of conservation with innovative marketing strategies. Jenny also invests a significant amount of her time in rhino protection, for which she was recently presented with a Rhino Conservation Award by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Game Rangers Association of Africa. She has a BA Honours in Media Management and has studied Environmental Law through UNISA.

Sean
Hensman

 

Sean graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, UK with a BA / BSC in Tourism and Leisure with Business Management. His aim was then, and is now, to develop a tourism product that promotes educational values as well as conservation values in a holistic manner. Sean believes that there are many things to learn from elephants and has actively pursued research in various fields from the uses of elephants as bio-detectors (for tracking criminals to remotely finding landmines and drugs) to communication and Human Elephant Conflict Resolutions. He currently resides at AWE in Bela Bela, South Africa.

Support our projects

 

Your support will go towards programmes that will help us increase awareness of the conservation issues facing wildlife in Africa
and find solutions for both animals and humans to co-exist.