Our Team

Although our team started small with Keith, Colleen, Oscar and Jomba, it now comprises over one hundred Mozambicans. We remain tenacious, hardworking and resourceful. We are still endlessly busy. We still have a great attitude. We all live on site in simple and remote field camps. None of us keep office hours. Frequently the collaring of lions and antipoaching patrols occur throughout the night.

Other than directors and founders, Keith and Colleen Begg, and Ken Harmen, the workshop manager and skills trainer, our team is Mozambican with more than three quarters coming from villages within Niassa. We hire predominantly on personality alone, and for most of our staff this is their first job. Several on the team used to be poachers and have valuable bush skills. We have over fifty anti-poaching scouts and the rest of the team are scattered across monitoring, conservation, community, education, logistics, administration, tourism and camps. All the team receive regular training to enhance their skill-set. It’s wide-ranging and topics include how to systematically collect data, use binoculars, cameras, and GPS’, radio protocol and how to radio-track lions, to how to make a bed, set a table and look after visitors. The team comprises seven levels, and everyone is expected to mentor at least one person under them.

As part of our focus on mentorship, we are constantly looking for opportunities to train our team. Every year we organise trips to other conservation or tourism projects, we bring in people to train on-site, whether it be accounting or art, and team members attend specific training programs such as for drivers’ licenses, conservation peacebuilding, workshops on fundraising, GIS, to name but a few. We believe strongly in developing partners at all levels, local, district, national, and international, creating peer groups and broadening horizons.

We also have almost two hundred local seasonal workers, from June to November, who assist in conservation services and construction.

Senior Managers:

Agostinho Jorge | Conservation Manager

Agostinho joined us in 2008 and became our Conservation Manager in 2012.

After completing an Honours Degree in Forestry at Eduardo Mondlane University he joined SGDRN (the Society for the Management and Development of Niassa Reserve) as their tourism officer in 2006 where he was responsible for the monitoring and administration of sport hunting. We met him in 2008 where he expressed an interest in coming into the field. Agostinho spent three and then nine months working in the field in Niassa Reserve under difficult conditions assisting with call up surveys for lions and hyaenas, camera trapping surveys for leopard and a Reserve wide survey of attacks by carnivores on people and livestock. In 2010, with NCP (Niassa Carnivore Project) and SGDRN support Agostinho registered for his Masters Degree in Zoology from the University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, with field work on the leopards in Niassa Reserve. In 2012 he was awarded his Masters Degree with a thesis entitled ‘The Sustainability of leopard, Panthera pardus, Sport hunting in Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique’. He was awarded a Sydney Byers Scholarship from Wildlife Conservation Network and a Kaplan Award from Panthera to support his Masters research and has published his results in Conservation Biology. He has completed additional courses in conflict resolution and GIS and in 2016, was selected to take part in a two-year program in the United States for Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders. Agostinho is an expert in camera trapping and resolving conflicts. He leads our conservation monitoring programs and efforts to reduce bushmeat snaring. Agostinho’s wife, Elisa, and young daughter, Asante, live in Lichinga. Agostinho cares deeply about people and carnivores and is determined to make a long lasting difference to people’s lives through conservation. Agostinho is currently completing his PhD on bushmeat consumption and trade in Niassa Reserve through the University of KwaZula Natal.

What gives me hope? Conservation gaining more space in national media and more national supporters, more younger people with opportunities to visit and work in conservation related field projects, there are still wild places in my country.

What do I like about my work? I work in a special and beautiful place, I am constantly learning, I have an opportunity to contribute to something beyond me and my generation, I have an opportunity to try new things.

Why does it matter? It is important as a source of subsistence for rural people. Most of my family live in rural areas and depend on natural resources for their subsistence like the majority of Mozambians. Nowdays more people are looking for traditional medicine (based on nature) than to doctors despite a slight increase in health units, Natural resources are also a source of revenue for my country.

Tomas Buruwate | Operations Manager

Tomas is an amazing Operations Manager. With a firm hand and unflappable disposition he keeps everything running calmly and smoothly at Mariri, ensuring all our visitors and staff are well looked after. As an example of the challenges he faces daily – we have twelve old landrovers and two DAF trucks, a dozen conservation and community programs, and are feeding more than 220 people a day not counting the 350 children on our school lunch program and are managing 1500 square kilometres.

Tomas obtained a diploma in Wildlife Management from the College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka, Tanzania, and has additional diplomas in sales management, marketing, accounting and business management, from the Cambridge International College. Over the past fifteen years he has gained extensive management experience in the conservation field including being a Camp Manger for a safari camp, Farm Manager, Wildlife Manager and most recently working for Wildlife Conservation Society as a Logistics Manager inside Niassa Reserve. He is able to speak 6 languages fluently inluding Portuguese, English and Swahili. Tomas has added skills in conservation agriculture, vegetable gardening, natural resource mapping, GIS and research. With his diverse skills he is an asset to Mariri Investimentos and capably leads our large team. In particular he manages all our camps, the logistics of all our conservation programs, the workshop and vehicles and The Mariri Environmental Centre. He also oversees our vegetable garden and conservation agriculture program. We have the best vegetable garden in the district and it is only through Tomas’s efforts that we have any vegetables with meals at all. Tomas has a keen interest in biodiversity and is an expert in orchids, gladioli, plants, reptiles and amphibians and has been collecting biodiversity data for the Mariri Environmental Centre for developing local fieldguides. Tomas has a home in Lichinga, where his wife Betty and children live.

What gives me hope? Because there is still wildlife to protect.

What do I like about my work? I am learning everyday about conservation challenges and opportunities.

Why does it matter? Our lives depend on environmental services.

Andrew Mkanange | Education Manager

Andrew joined the team in 2015 and has done wonders at our Environmental Centre at Mariri where he regularly hosts school groups, adult workshops and wildlife clubs. Andrew obtained a professional certificate in teaching at the Niassa Resource Centre and followed this with four years of practical experience teaching in schools within the Mecula District. He then completed a Licenciatura Degree in English Language teaching at the Pedagogic Univierity of Mozambique in Nampula. Whilst teaching in Mecula he started the first Wildlife Club and was its chairman. It was in this capacity that he met up with the Directors of Niassa Carnivore Project and asked them to be the patrons of the wildlife club. In his capacity as Education Manager, Andrew leads our bush visits, school lunch programs, wildlife clubs, lion scholarships, lion fun day program and the development of educational materials. Wherever Andrew goes he finds children to interact with and inspire. In 2016 he attended the Pathways training in Kenya on human wildlife conflict and the WCN wildlife Expo in the US attending workshops which covered topics such as public speaking, fund raising, environmental education and community proograms. He leads all our education and awareness programs including teaching English to our team and teaching them about conservation. Andrew also mentors our lion scholars – these are children from schools in remote villages in Niassa National Reserve on secondary school scholarships with Niassa Carnivore Project in three boarding schools. His home is in Lichinga, with his wife Eunice and son, Precious.

What gives me hope? Biodiversity, contributions from children and the spirit of teamwork.

What do I like about my work? Moments I spend discussing about conservation in Niassa Reserve.

Why does it matter? People conserve what they understand, so education brings understanding.

Hugo Perreira | Community Manager and Vet

Hugo joined the team in 2016 and leads our community programs. He has a degree in Veterinary Medicine, Eduardo Mondlane University Veterinary Faculty, with management experience in Maputo. He worked as a professional intern at Ponta D’Ouro Partial Marine Reserve and at a veterinarian clinic. Hugo manages both our community conservation partnerships and the beehive fence and small livestock breeding program together with our conservation agriculture and farmer field schools. He assists SDAE with the vaccination of chickens from Newcastle’s Disease. He recently completed the Malilangwe Wildlife Capture Course on Chemical and Physical Restraint and is able to dart and collar lions and has therefore been able to help Keith monitor the lions in our intensive study area and remove snares if necessary. In 2016 Hugo provided vital assistance to Dr Mike Kock for the OneHealth Survey that was conducted across all villages inside Niassa Reserve. He also completed a course in conservation peacebuiliding in Washington DC in September 2017 to complete his community conservation skills. Hugo works closely with our conservation and education teams to integrate our programs and frequently talks to the visitors at the Environmental Centre about health and livestock husbandry as part of our Environmental Programs. Hugo works closely with Benvindo, Bosco and Horacio on all our community programs

What gives me hope? Making a change for the better.

What do I like about my job? The environment of work and the way it drives what I hope for.

Why does it matter? Because I have to take care of my country.

Ken Harmen | Workshop Manager and trainer

Ken has joined the team from South Africa for a couple of years. He is helping us to train our mechanics full time and set up systems in the workshop. Ken with his big white beard can always been found fixing one of our vehicles, and anything else that breaks. We believe he is a magician as so far there is nothing that he has been unable to fix, from local grinding mills to waterpumps, to vehicles, to welding. He is able to find solutions when there are no spares and as a very important part of our workshop team to keep our dozen very old (1997 model) Landrovers on the road.

Co-ordinators

Silto Cristovao
SMART Monitoring Cooordinator

Cristovao as we know him at Mariri, previously worked at a hotel reception in Nampula and expressed an interest in volunteering with us. Cristovao spent an intial six months with us and his interest and passion for conservation was obvious. Under the mentorship of Agostinho, Cristovao has become a vital member of our team – he leads on all the monitoring of our     anti-poaching efforts, SMART, MIKE reports, ensuring our team’s safety by watching movements on Google Earth and learning GIS. He also leads our program to train SMART technicians at reserve headquarters, Chuilexi Conservancy and Luwire to ensure that SMART is intergrated into all law enforcement programs in NNR. In addition, he manages the data for the camera trapping grids which is fed into the Citizen Science platform Snapshot Mariri.

Horacio Murico
MOMS Wildlife Guardian Coordinator

Horacio joined us from Marrupa Ecotourism College in 2013. He leads our Community Wildlife Guardian Program that has been running since 2006. Horacio learnt to drive when he joined the team and got his drivers license. He guides, leads, mentors and trains more than 35 wildlife guardians from all districts across Niassa Reserve and collates the data they collect on mortality, sightings of animals, human wildlife conflict and fishing activities. In 2017 he visited the Ruaha Carnivore project to learn more about their guardian program and reducing human wildlife conflict and in 2017 visited Gorongosa Lion Project and Gorongosa National Park to learn more about strategy and conservation.  

Benvindo Napuanha
Community Program, particularly Conservation Agriculture.

Benvindo came to us from Lurio University, initially as a student. He then worked with Agostinho to collect data and do surveys on the bushmeat trade and consumption before being hired as part of our community team in 2017. He works with Hugo in all our community prgrams but with a particular focus and skills in Conservation Agriculture, AgroForestry and the farmer field school. He is looking at ways to increase productivity in the fields as well as reclaim land that has been abandoned. In 2017, he visited Gorongosa National Park to spend time with the Gorongosa Lion Project and to learn more about strategic thinking through a workshop organized by USAID Mozambique.

Rachide Herculano
Administrative Assistant - Bookeeping & Human Resources

Rachide joined the team after he completed Grade 12 and is from Mbamba Village inside Niassa Reserve. We sent him on a three month course in human resources and then a further three month course in finances at Maputo. Today he keeps all our receipts, letters, contracts and salaries in order under the guidance of Tomas. He receives ongoing mentorship from our Accounting and Human resources team in Lichinga and Lisette Gelber who comes to spend a month with us every year to refine and improve his skills and our accounting system!  Rachide is also a talented actor and plays an important role in our lion fun days and is an excellent communicator of conservation issues and an important part of the Mbamba soccer team.

Fernando Macamero
Antipoaching Coordinator

Fernando is the Head of our antipoaching team. He is our Head Scout and leads the team of anti-poaching rangers on the ground for the Niassa Carnivore Project / Mariri Invetimentos inside Niassa National Reserve. He has been working with us since 2016 and has shown exceptional courage, leadership and commitment under extremely difficult conditions. We first heard about Fernando from a Senior Environmental Crime investigator based in the Kruger National Park. Fernando was considered to be one of their most trusted and best Mozambique rangers working on cross border operations helping to protect Mozambique and Kruger’s rhino population between 2011 and 2016. We asked him to join us in late 2015. Fernando leads a team of 53 scouts and because of their efforts elephant poaching, snaring and illegal mining have all decreased.

Keith and Colleen Begg | Founders

Keith and Colleen have lived in Niassa for nine months a year since 2003 and are raising and homeschooling their two children, Ella and Finn, there. They are members of the African Lion Working group, IUCN Cat Specialist Group, IUCN Canid Specialist group, and founding members of Pride: Lion Conservation Alliance and the Lion Recovery Fund (WCN) and regularly collaborate with other carnivore conservationists. They also consult and co-operate with the Mozambican government to ensure their activities fit into national and regional conservation strategies for large carnivores particularly lion and wild dog. They are deeply committed to Niassa, its communities, and its wildlife and have a long term view. This is where they expect to spend the rest of their lives.

Colleen Begg (PhD) | Managing Director of Mariri and Niassa Carnivore Project, Director of TRT Conservation Foundation

Colleen was raised and schooled in South Africa. She is a well published scientist and is also a professional photographer with articles and images published worldwide in National Geographic and Africa Geographic among others. Between 1996 and 2000, Colleen worked in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa where she obtained her PhD in Zoology on the first in-depth study of the honey badger. This in turn lead to the ‘Honey Badger Friendly Honey Campaign’ which used consumer choice for conservation friendly honey products to encourage beekeepers to protect their hives rather than kill badgers. 

In 2003, Keith and Colleen founded the not for profit Ratel Trust and left South Africa for Mozambique and started the Niassa Carnivore Project (www.niassalion.org) in the little known Niassa Reserve in Northern Mozambique. Colleen is passionate about wilderness, grass roots conservation and finding innovative, locally derived ways to include rural communities in conservation. Today she leads and mentors a diverse team of more than a hundred Mozambicans from a wide variety of social and educational backgrounds. Her work includes monitoring, performance payments, mentorship, microenterprises, antipoaching and education. In 2007 she won the Rufford Innovation Award for work in Niassa Reserve and in 2015, she and five women leading lion conservation projects in four African countries co-founded the Pride Lion Conservation Alliance to reduce competition and improve collaboration in conservation. She is also on the granting team of WCN’s Lion Recovery Fund (www.lionrecoveryfund.org) and in 2017 she was selected to be part of Homeward Bound, an international, groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative set against the backdrop of Antarctica. The initiative aims to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background to influence policy and decision making as it affects our planet. She lives for nine months of the year in the field in a tent in Niassa Reserve with her husband and two young children with the remainder of her time spent in South Africa and fundraising. Her long-term personal objective is to live a life of passion and purpose.

Keith Begg | Operations Director and Pilot for Mariri & Niassa Carnivore Project, Director of TRT Conservation Foundation

Keith has worked in field based conservation for the past 25 years with a solid grounding provided by a diploma in Nature Conservation. He spent three years doing research in South Africa’s Kruger National Park on the ‘Big Six’ birds (Saddlebilled Stork, Pels Fishing Owl, Lappet-faced Vulture, Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill and Martial Eagle) before moving to Mana Pools, Zimbabwe to initiate the first study of honey badgers. In the Kalahari, he and Colleen completed the first in-depth study of the species with the combined outputs of a National Geographic documentary and article. Keith completed a study of the conflict between beekeepers and honey badgers in 2000 which led to the innovative and successful conservation program to reduce the killing of honey badgers by commercial beekeepers through extension work and using economic incentives ‘Honey Badger Friendly Honey Campaign’. A snippet of Keith and Colleen’s film on honey badgers (Snake Killers – Honeybadger of the Kalahari) made during this period was dubbed by Randall Moore and became the ‘The Crazy Nasty Ass Honey Badger’ YouTube viral video and internet meme that has reached 77 million views. Keith has authored many scientific papers and is an award-winning cinematographer who has completed three full length documentaries: Snake, Badger Quest and Spirit Creatures. His film the The Honey Hunters of Niassa (Off The Fence, 2008), won the award for best ‘Animal Behaviour’ (Japan Wildlife Film Festival) and was a finalist for best ‘Human – Wildlife Interaction’ and ‘Independent Film’ at Missoula’s International Wildlife Film Festival. Keith founded the Niassa Carnivore Project in 2003 with Colleen.

Keith has completed the Wildlife Capture Course on Chemical and Physical Restraint of Wild Animals and has recently acquired his pilot’s license. As Operations Director and pilot he is instrumental in maintaining and leading the antipoaching, ecotourism development, collaring and logistics programs as well as providing expert leadership on practical conservation.