Meet: Meyer de Kock, Station Manager of UP’s Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station

Posted on August 20, 2021

“The diversity of stakeholders and the One Health approach have put the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station at the centre of a variety of multidisciplinary research possibilities,” says Station Manager Meyer de Kock, who elaborates on the role of the centre and why it has such appeal for its many stakeholders.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I began my career as a nature conservationist in the Free State and later worked in the Middle East managing a conservation breeding centre. Having the opportunity to do my PhD, which focused on research in protected areas in the Middle East and North Africa, allowed me to see a range of protected areas. Also, our Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station is located in the Greater Kruger National Park, one of the best conservation areas on Earth. Living and working at the park is a privilege and offers me a great opportunity to experience conservation every day. The rich biodiversity allows for a range of new sightings and surprises on a daily basis.

It is rewarding to work in South Africa’s biggest protected area where stakeholder engagement varies from national and provincial governmental institutions, NGOs and the tourist industry to commercial farming and our rural and urban community. The diversity of stakeholders and the One Health approach have put the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station at the centre of a variety of multidisciplinary research possibilities.  

What does your job entail? 

I have to ensure that the station, which includes the facilities and the terrain, is maintained and complies with the strict environmental guidelines as set in the Environmental Impact Assessment, as well as with national and provincial environmental guidelines. 

With the closest town 70km away, we need to be self-sufficient in most areas and have the ability to problem-solve. The Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station has a great team, who mostly works behind the scenes to ensure that guests have a positive, uninterrupted stay at the station.  

Community engagement is a focus area; the station connects with bordering communities and engages in providing services, support, upliftment and community-based projects. Stakeholder engagement is a priority; this includes a range of regional, provincial, national and international stakeholders that overlap between academic and environmental-based institutions.  

What is unique about the station that appeals to stakeholders?

The station is a multidisciplinary research platform situated in the Greater Kruger National Park next to Orpen gate. The unique location and infrastructure make the station an attractive research platform for both local and international research projects. In addition, students from the faculty's Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital are housed at the station during their rotation at the Hluvukani animal clinic, where they provide veterinary services to the local community.

What are the social responsibilities of the station?  

It plays a vital role in the landscape, and has a range of regional partners that focus on the One Health approach, information sharing and skills development. Furthermore, the station provides excellent amenities and equipment to support wide-ranging research. It caters for the needs of researchers from national and international tertiary educational and research institutions, focusing on the needs of Southern Africa and with a special emphasis on veterinary matters (disease transmission of animal diseases, socio-economics and zoonoses) related to the development of transfrontier conservation areas.

- Author Jimmy Masombuka

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