The start of Daniël’s love and fascination of nature can directly be linked to his childhood memory of when he witnessed a cheetah hunt and kill in Kruger National Park. Even though he didn’t have much exposure to wildlife, nature and the outdoors whilst growing up, he managed to experience it all vicariously through the viewing of numerous BBC and National Geographic wildlife documentaries and the reading of many book by authors such as Gerald Durrell.
After the completion of his schooling at Outeniqua High school in George, he enrolled for a BSc agriculture degree with Nature Conservation, Zoology and Animal Physiology at the University of Stellenbosch with the dream of working on a game reserve. Once completed, he pursued this dream and worked at Kuzuko Contractual Park to Addo National Park as a Conservation Manager for near on 7 years. During his time there, he came to the realisation that he will not be content to just work in a conservation area whose long-term future is already secured. This led him to grab the opportunity to become the Programme Director of the Nature’s Valley Trust. There he worked in a conservation area where the growing human population, and their future impact, needed to be accounted for and mitigated to ensure the environmental sustainability of the area as well as the wellbeing of the people. After four years he felt that the organisation was well positioned to fulfil this aim. He became acutely aware that even with all the success attained in maintaining the current integrity of the area, a slow erosion of the natural environment in the wider surrounding areas seemed inevitable due to the persistent pressures of development and ever growing alien vegetation infestations. With these, along with the future predicted threats such as climate change, he realised that he wanted to be involved in the securing of regional and national conservation networks and their expansion. With this in mind, he made the decision that he would like to continue his studies so that he can be better equipped and in a better position to pursue this goal.
Daniël was accepted into the 2012 Conservation Biology MSc class at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute. After completion of his mini-thesis in 2013 that looked at the dramatic decline of the Martial Eagle in South Africa over the last 20 years, Daniël and his wife Chrissie pursued one of their dreams to live in the Amazon Forest of Peru where they stayed for six months. Although he initially did not consider the prospect of undertaking a PhD, a serendipitous email to Dr. Mark Brown, his successor at the Nature’s Valley Trust, steadily put him on the path to doing his PhD in a part of the country that is close to his heart. In support towards his PhD, Daniël was awarded with the UCT Harry Crossley / GreenMatter Fellowship.
Investigating ornithophilous systems to determine fragmented Fynbos patch thresholds (size and isolation distance) for ecosystem functioning in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. (Supervisors: Mark Brown, Phoebe Barnard and Peter Ryan