The Tswalu Foundation has grown into a world leader in the field of environmental research within the southern Kalahari. The Dedeben Research Centre’s committed team provides on the ground support throughout the year to research teams from across the globe.



Dr Duncan MacFadyen

Head of research and conservation, Oppenheimer Generations

In his role as head of research and conservation for Oppenheimer Generations, Duncan manages the support and funding and facilitates national and international researchers to conduct cutting edge research focused on the natural sciences. These are crucial components of the Oppenheimer family’s vision to develop the next generation of researchers. Their vision is to further develop, expand, manage and promote a system of sustainable conservation areas that protect biodiversity and heritage assets, through cutting edge research and best practice to ensure continued species and ecosystem functioning to the benefit of all communities. Duncan has a national diploma, bachelors and master’s degree in nature conservation from Tshwane University of Technology, and a masters and doctorate degree in zoology from the University of Pretoria. He has worked in scientific services in the Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe National Park, Singita Sabi Sand private reserve and was curator of mammalogy at the Ditsong Museum of Natural History, Pretoria. Duncan is a member of the Zoological Society of South Africa, South African Wildlife Management Association, the Lepidopterist Society, Botanical Society of South Africa, Grassland Society of Southern Africa, and Entomological Society of South Africa.

Duncan has authored A Landscape of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Jacana, 2009)and co-authored a book on Norman Lighton’s Insects of Medical Importance (National Health Laboratory Services, 2009) as well co-authored South Africa’s Wild Gems (Oshana Publishing 2013), History of the Oppenheimer Game Counts (2014) and History of Shangani Ranch (2018). Duncan has a number of scientific articles to his credit, is regularly aired on radio and has presented papers nationally and internationally on the ecology of South African wildlife. He is a director of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve Limited, Telperion Pty (Ltd), and Debshan (Pvt) Ltd. Duncan’s interests include conservation, resource ecology, zoology and entomology.

Dylan Smith

Head of Dedeben Research Centre, Tswalu Kalahari

Born and bred in the heart of Johannesburg, where he also completed his schooling, Dylan spent most of his weekends during his formative year in nature reserves in and around the city. He studied conservation through the Nelson Mandela University in the Eastern Cape. During this time, barring short stints to visit family, he spent all of his spare time travelling to as many of South Africa’s wild places as possible.

After studying, he applied for a conservator position at a reserve in the lowveld close to the greater Kruger National Park. Little did he (or the other seven successful applicants) know that the position was actually that of a field guide – at the time, Dylan had no idea this even existed as a career. The conservation graduates were plunged into the high-end safari industry, guiding guests and working as part of a tight-knit team. In hindsight, Dylan says that the experience of working as a team stood him in good stead.

After a sojourn in Madikwe Game Reserve, time with an NGO working in tiger conservation, and a second stint in Madikwe, Dylan was approached for an interview with Tswalu for a guiding position. Over the years, he had followed the development of Tswalu and was only too keen to join such a dynamic team. He says he took to guiding on this magnificent reserve ‘like the proverbial fish to water’.

After two years as a guide, he transferred to the conservation department and loved every second of it. Since 2017, Dylan has been involved with the Tswalu Foundation and heads up the Dedeben Research Centre. In this time, he has seen the research component of the reserve develop into an integral part of what Tswalu is about.In his spare time, Dylan enjoys hiking, taking photos, devouring books on early African travel, conservation and world history, and doing absolutely awful woodwork.

Miekie Morathi

General assistant of Dedeben Research Centre, Tswalu Kalahari

Miekie, affectionately called ‘Mieks’ by those who know her, joined the Tswalu Foundation team full time in 2019 as general assistant at the Dedeben Research Centre. She has fast become a firm favourite amongst all the researchers. With the number of research teams steadily climbing on Tswalu it is imperative that the facilities are maintained in the best possible manner befitting of a world-class facility for environmental research. Miekie plays a key role in achieving this through ensuring that the facilities are always neat and tidy, that guest rooms are prepared and ready for new arrivals, and also assisting with stock control. Aside from her official capacity at the research centre, Miekie loves spending time in the field with the teams, both as an observer and as an assistant. She has a deep commitment to her work and her environmental ethic is exemplary – a wonderful example to others.

In her spare time Miekie can be found playing chess and also loves tracking and learning about indigenous plants and their traditional uses.

To get in touch with the research team, please send an email to [email protected]