Veronique describes herself as a ‘farm girl’ at heart, who spent her childhood rescuing orphaned animals and exploring on her family’s farm in the Northern Cape. ‘This is where, as a young girl, I fell in love with nature and realised that I wanted to be in conservation,’ she explains.
Veronique completed a field guide course in the Kruger National Park and then returned to her roots – her beloved Kalahari – to begin working at Tswalu in 2016. She has devoted most of her time to meerkat habituation, spending hours on end in their presence to build their trust so that our guests can view them in their natural environment.
‘Meerkats have taught me so much about life,’ says Veronique. ‘The way they stand together as one to defend their young against danger, and how they take care of an injured member of their group by sacrificing some of their food to make sure it survives.’
Veronique has also experienced amazing interactions between meerkats defending themselves from predators, such as snakes, Cape fox, African wildcat, and the black-backed jackal.
‘I’ve observed the impact on the different meerkat families of seasonal changes, droughts and floods, and how this influences the availability of food. After a good rainy season, meerkats may produce as many as six litters in one year and be able to raise all of them successfully, thanks to abundant insect life and vegetation growth.’
Spending so many hours tracking and following meerkats has given her the opportunity to learn so much more about the reserve, and track other animals including cheetah, African wild dog and hyena. From this her skill and interest in photography continues to grow.
When she’s not hanging out with the meerkats, Veronique is Tswalu’s guest relations manager who makes sure that important details of your stay have been thoughtfully considered and taken care of behind the scenes.
All images by Veronique Venter