Brett Mitchell - Founder and Chairman
Background: Brett managed and operated businesses in the safari industry, specifically elephant back safaris for over 20 years. With this extensive background in handling and training captive elephants, Brett is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to understanding and advising on captive elephant welfare. He has since developed a successful model for reintegrating captive elephants into the wild which has been applied to over 17 captive elephants thus far.
Brett established the Elephant Reintegration Trust in 2016.
Why ERT: “Ever since I started working with captive elephants I believed they belong back in the wild. My dream is to reintegrate as many captive elephants back to the wild and have the privilege of witnessing these amazing animals live free once again. This is why ERT was formed to ultimately achieve this monumental task!
Graydon Carter, "We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”
Dr Marion Garai - Trustee and Researcher
Background: Marion is most interested in the social behaviour of elephants, their psychology and welfare. She is interested in finding ways for humans to coexist with elephants, and to accept that they are feeling, emotional, intelligent, cognitive beings like us. Her deep concern is the welfare of elephants under human care, and her aim is to find solutions to end the exploitation, abuse, and cruelty towards elephants. Marion’s wish and hope is that in the future we may only see happy, free elephants roaming in adequate natural habitat and social environments.
Marion conducted her PhD in Zoology on “The Development of Social and Stress Related Behaviours of Translocated Juvenile Elephants”. She has been a valuable member of and served on multiple boards for almost 20 years. This included serving as chairperson of EMOA (Elephant Management & Owners Association) for 12 years. EMOA was instrumental in drawing up the National Elephant Norms & Standards. Currently she still serves as a member of the IUCN/SCC African Elephant Specialist Group as well as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Elephant Group in Germany and Co-founder and Director of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group NPC, South Africa. She is an integral part of ERT, having been a Trustee since inception in 2016.
Why ERT: “For many years it has been my dream to create a safe haven for ex-captive and abused elephants and to give them the freedom, space and natural habitat where they can roam freely and chose to do what they like and just be elephants. With likeminded fantastic colleagues we are in the process of fulfilling this dream."
"There is nothing that gives me more pleasure and joy, and fills me with calm, than watching a family of happy elephants going about their daily business, seeing their capacity for joy, the serenity of mothers looking after calves, the majesty of bulls walking through the savanna, where they belong. It would be a very poor and sad world without elephants, which I do not wish to see.”
Hanno Kilian - Trustee
Background: As a Conservation Ecologist, directly involved in management across various landscapes for over 20 years, Hanno brings with him a wide range of experience in the conservation and ecology field. His key interests lie in the management and ecology of savanna systems, covering the full spectrum of biotic and abiotic factors that can be, or are, influenced by management actions, especially on systems limited by the presence of fences. Hanno graduated with his MSc in Wildlife Management from the University of Pretoria on the ecology of reintroduced lion. As well as being Chairman of EMOA (Elephant Managers & Owners Association) from 2006 – 2009, Hanno has served on the board of trustees of the Lion Management forum since 2006 and the African Institute for Conservation Ecology & Genetics (AICEG) since 2016. Hanno has been a Trustee of ERT since the beginning in 2016
Why ERT: “Elephants are special animals as anybody that has had close interaction and experience with will attest to. Having been part of a successful elephant reintegration I have realised the potential to assist other elephants that are currently in captivity, to also live out their lives as free elephants. Coupled with that, I value being involved with research and increasing our knowledge of the way management actions and human interference impact elephant populations.”
Dr Yolanda Pretorius - Trustee and Researcher
Background: Yolanda is particularly interested in elephant management and welfare. On a broader scale, wildlife ecology remains of interest and the broader management of savannah systems taking multiple factors into consideration. Thus, her interest in elephants sits with how they fit into larger systems, taking into account the role of people in wildlife conservation and how coexistence, albeit through fences, can occur.
Yolanda holds a PhD in Ecology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands with her thesis conducted on small scale foraging by large African herbivores. Yolanda brings with her great experience in not only the elephant but also ecological field as she has been specifically involved in elephant, rhino, cheetah, buffalo as well as vegetation monitoring projects and management on several different reserve systems. Yolanda has been a lecturer since 2013, lecturing on Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Pretoria and since 2017 she has been the Qualifications Manager of the Higher Education Training Program in Natural Resource Management at the Southern African Wildlife College. Yolanda serves as the vice-chairperson of the Elephant Specialists Advisory Group and has been a trustee of ERT since 2016.
Why ERT: “I am a firm believer in what ERT stands for, with conviction for the process and necessity for reintegrating elephants from captivity into the wild. I believe it is important from an ethical perspective to do right by these individuals who deserve the care and freedom to experience life as wild elephants. For this I think we have an incredible, dedicated, honest, passionate and skilled team.”
“Elephants cry just like humans, it is up to us to make sure that when they do it is for joy and not despair.”
Tammy Eggeling - Researcher and Operations
Background: Before joining ERT, Tammy began the pursuit of her dream of working in wildlife conservation in the Greater Kruger area, first as a conservation officer in Sabi Sands Game Reserve and then as Elephant Researcher and Mortality officer with Elephants Alive in the Associated Private Nature Reserves. Since 2019 Tammy has been with ERT as Elephant Researcher and Operations Assistant. Her experience lies in the behaviour and social dynamics of elephants which feed in as importance aspects when understanding what it takes to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate elephants back into wild, more natural systems. Her passion and key interest lie in elephant welfare improvement and understanding the necessary social and ecological factors required to achieve this on a broader scale.
Tammy has her MSc in Wildlife Management with a thesis focused on the social dynamics of an elephant population 20 years after their introduction to a fenced reserve in South Africa.
Why ERT: "To play even the smallest role in restoring the dignity and the potential for an elephant to experience joy and freedom is the greatest privilege."
Tenisha Roos - Researcher
Background: Tenisha was drawn to becoming a researcher with ERT due to her interest in the elephant welfare focus of the work.
Tenisha has her Masters in animal science with an MSC in “The effects of age and sex on meat quality characteristics of blue wildebeest”. Her analytical mind makes her a valuable asset to our research team and we are happy her passion for wildlife brought her to the conservation field.
Why ERT: “Animal welfare has always been a massive part of my life. I have always paid a lot of attention to animal behaviour and feel that it goes hand in hand with welfare. I am interested in the management of wildlife in combination of good welfare of the animals. Creating awareness of serious wildlife topics and educating the youth are other key interests of mine.”