CJ Havemann and Tarryn Retief, our resident Environment Manager and Conservation Manager, look after our team of environmentalists, landscapers and eco-tourism volunteers on North Island. They’re a dedicated husband-and-wife team with a wealth of knowledge and passion for conservation. Spending time with our environmentalists will allow you to learn fascinating facts about the Island’s fauna, flora and history as well as appreciate the results of the effort that has gone into rehabilitating this natural idyll.
CJ and Tarryn were born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa. CJ’s love for the bush started at a young age, which resulted in him choosing ecology as his career path. Tarryn was exposed at an early age to travelling while living in Malaysia with her family. This exposure to different natural environments was the starting point for her love of nature and all things in it.
Both CJ and Tarryn completed their schooling in Pretoria and went on to obtain their BSc (Hons) and MSc in Zoology at the University of Pretoria. This was not only where they formed the foundation of their careers but also where they met. CJ has worked on many ecological projects, ranging from coastal dune forest restoration to studying the nocturnal habits of aardwolf. CJ and Tarryn also spent two years in the Linyanti Concession, a Wilderness Safaris concession in northern Botswana, based out of Kings Pool Camp as part their MSc degrees. CJ studied the ecology of roan antelope while Tarryn focused on the structuring of ant communities in the vicinity of perennial water sources.
During these two years of field work, they learnt a lot about Wilderness Safaris and their ecological work which illustrated their respect for the environment and commitment to low-impact ecotourism and to conserving and maintaining the natural beauty of the areas it operates in. After spending many years in the African bush, they heard of North Island through Wilderness Safaris; keen to be part of the company and try something new, CJ and Tarryn joined the North Island team in April 2014.
They immediately embraced North Island’s comprehensive rehabilitation and conservation plan dubbed “the Noah’s Ark project”, which aims to turn back the hands of time and restore the Island back to its original habitat. In addition to these ongoing conservation efforts, CJ and Tarryn’s current big project is to oversee and coordinate the Indian Mynah eradication project run by a dedicated team of volunteers. The aim of the removal of this alien species is to make way for more endemic species to be introduced to North Island. Since the project started in May 2016 they have already eradicated half of the population successfully. They are also monitoring the effects of the habitat restoration on invertebrates and plants to evaluate the increase in available food resources for the potential introduction of the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, an endangered species native to the Seychelles.
You can spend time learning about North Island’s conservation stories through CJ and Tarryn while on a guided walk, hike, cycle or island tour. They also hold presentations in the Library every other evening on topics of interest regarding North Island’s natural environment. To read more about our conservation, click here.