Conservation Biology Masters Students (2020/21)

Merlyn Nkomo




Merlyn is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Growing up in a city on the fringes of a high-density suburb, her first experiences with nature were childhood excursions with friends to the nearby dam to fish, catch locusts and set traps for passerines. She also went on numerous childhood adventure club camps in the bush around Zimbabwe, and her father would often drive her family to the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage. On one of her last family trips to Chipangali, she was heartbroken to find that the family’s favourite animal to see, the rhino, had been poached just the previous night. Merlyn decided as a child that she wanted to be a custodian of nature and an environmental conservationist. This led her to do her undergraduate degree in Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, a very packed and wide-reaching program. She has been obsessed with birds ever since she had the opportunity to use a very good pair of binoculars on a class trip to the Hwange National Park in her 2nd year of undergraduate. In her 3rd year, she was sent on an industrial attachment at VulPro in Hartbeespoort in the North West Province, South Africa, where she became a vulture lover, conservationist and raptor biologist. Her final year thesis was entitled “Facial blushing in Cape Griffon vultures”.

In 2017 she was selected to be one of four International Conservation Science Trainees at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the USA. There, she took part in counting the season’s raptor migration, conservation science training, the American Kestrel farmlands nest box project, conservation education and even Black Bear tagging. In Zimbabwe, she volunteers on a White-backed Vulture breeding survey project on a ranch in the Midlands, and was recently awarded a grant by the African Bird Club for a Southern Ground-hornbill project. She is passionate about conservation education and finding solutions to human-wildlife conflicts, and works to create opportunities to educate people in her city and country about vulture conservation. For example, she has given an annual IVAD seminar since 2015, does school visits and seminars for kids on vulture conservation and writes newspaper articles. She also writes a blog to educate people about ornithology and conservation and hopes to one day soon write a book on African tradition and ornithological conservation. Her hobbies are cooking, hiking, mountain climbing, wildlife and portraiture photography, drawing and writing.