Arafat Mtui – Honorary Chair
Arafat Mtui has 15 years experience of project management and fieldwork in mammal conservation in southern Tanzania. Hailing from Mang’ula in the Udzungwa Mountains, Arafat holds a degree in Wildlife Management and has managed the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre for five years. Arafat is a passionate conservationist and advocate for Tanzanian wildlife, a highly respected leader and master of diplomacy, and has a wide network of contacts in the Tanzanian wildlife sector and Government. Arafat serves as Honorary Chair of the STEP Management Committee.
Dr. Trevor Jones – Director
Trevor has 12 years experience of devising and managing innovative research and conservation projects in East Africa, with an emphasis on threatened mammals. He first studied elephants in Tsavo, Kenya in 2001, before moving to southern Tanzania. In 2004, while studying endangered primates in the Udzungwa Mountains, he chanced upon kipunji, the first new monkey species to be described in Africa for 25 years. After completing a thorough census and conservation assessment of the ‘punky monkey’, he embarked on a PhD study of large mammal ecology in the Udzungwa montane forests. In 2008, having previously documented threatened elephant corridors between Udzungwa and Selous, he led the first national assessment of wildlife corridors across Tanzania. From 2009 to 2010, Trevor also worked with TAWIRI and WCS as senior scientist for the current Tanzanian Elephant Management Plan, a role which included assessing the demography, abundance and conservation status of all Tanzania’s major elephant populations.
Josephine Smit – PhD Researcher and General Manager
Josephine joined STEP in August 2014 after completing her BSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. She has loved elephants since her childhood days of watching elephants in the plains of Mikumi National Park, and it has always been her dream to conduct research and contribute to elephant conservation in Tanzania. Together with STEP’s Field Manager, she oversees our research programs, including our elephant monitoring project in Ruaha, research on human-elephant coexistence, and a citizen science program with tour guides in Ruaha. She recognizes many of Ruaha’s elephants, and is gradually learning the stories of individual elephants and their lives in the incredible ecosystem of Ruaha-Rungwa.
Lameck Mkuburo – Field Manager
Lameck qualified with a BSc in Biology and Chemistry from St John’s University of Tanzania. He gained research experience as a Field Ecologist for the TAWIRI and IGF foundation in Tanzania Large Carnivore Survey, and previously worked as a credit officer at PRIDE Tanzania. He joined STEP as Elephant Researcher in March 2015, and became Field Manager in November 2016. Though traditionally a carnivore guy, Lameck is increasingly fascinated by elephants, and wants to work towards their conservation.
Frank Lihwa – Conservation Technology Manager
Frank holds a MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and a BSc in Environmental Science and Management from University of Aberdeen (Scotland) and Ardhi University (Tanzania) respectively. Frank leads STEP in aspects of the projects that are related to geospatial and conservation technologies, including GIS mapping and analysis and real-time ground surveillance systems.
Athumani Mndeme – Udzungwa Manager
Athumani has 12 years of experience working on field projects in southern Tanzania. He has completed the first ever habituation of a group of Sanje mangabeys in the Udzungwa Mountains; been attacked by an elephant while monitoring kipunji; and is the only person in Tanzania who can attract a Cassin’s hawk-eagle by imitating its call. As well as being a life-long rice farmer, and a respected pillar of the community in Mang’ula, Athumani manages STEP activities in Udzungwa, and also contributes to data collection and camera-trapping in Ruaha NP.
Maria Mbata– Human-Elephant Coexistence Manager
Maria is from Idodi village in Iringa region and holds a Bachelor of Art in Community Development from Tumaini University College in Iringa, Tanzania. She has four years’ experience in project Planning, Development and Management. Before joining STEP she worked with New Forests Company in Iringa as Corporate Social Responsibility Program Officer managing and coordinating CSR projects. At STEP she manages the implementation and coordination of Human-Elephant Coexistence projects with communities living around Udzungwa Mountain National Park and Selous Game Reserve.
Jenipha Mboya – Research and Advocacy Officer
Jeni is a young, enthusiastic conservationist with a BSc in Wildlife Science and Conservation from University of Dar es Salaam. She joined STEP in 2015 as Research and Advocacy officer, and she assists with monitoring and research of elephants in Ruaha and Udzungwa, as well as research on human-elephant interactions in southern Tanzania. She is also an advocate for elephant conservation, and has led conservation education and park visitation programs with Iringa secondary schools.
Paulo Mndeme – Field Assistant
Paulo has worked on the project since its inception in late 2008. Together with Katarzyna Nowak, Paulo surveyed elephants in several remote forests of the Udzungwa from 2008-10, developing a range of fieldwork skills. He is an expert in counting and examining the contents of elephant dung, and camera trapping of crop raiding bulls. Paulo leads STEP’s elephant protection fence project in Mang’ula.
Joseph Kidibule – Field Assistant
Joseph also joined the project in late 2008. A farmer himself who has been personally affected by crop-raiding elephants, Joseph loves wilderness fieldwork, whether in moist forest or dry bush. Together with Paulo, he has also worked tirelessly with other local farmers to monitor and mitigate crop damage, and to reduce conflict with elephants – and has become a beekeeper in the process.
Kephania Mwaviko – Human-elephant Interaction Monitor
Kepha joined us in December to carry out monitoring of human-elephant interactions along the southern boundary of Ruaha National Park. Kepha is from Makifu village near Ruaha, and qualified as a tour guide at Mkuyu Guiding School in Tungamalenga. He is fulfilling his dream of working with communities by visiting over 20 villages every month to learn about the ways in which people and elephant interact, and recording elephant movements and corridors around Ruaha.
Charles Nagy & Anne Yeoman – Pilot Team
Charles and Anne are our wonderfully dedicated and energetic conservation flying team from Wings Over Africa. They joined us in July 2014 and fly every year, carrying out surveillance and monitoring flights to protect elephants in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem. Charles is a vastly experienced pilot of all types of craft including helicopters, and Annie is an expert in aerial photography and flight logistics.
Nanginyi Isack Mollel – Finance and Administration Officer
Nanginyi joined STEP in April 2015. She is an accountant with a BA in Accounting and Finance from Mzumbe University and post graduate in project management from Jomo Kenyatta University. Before joining STEP, she worked with Real People, Arusha as a Finance and Customer Service Officer
BK – Driver & Mechanic
BK is known as Iringa’s most skilled and cheerful landrover mechanic. Fortunately for STEP, he also likes elephants and being in the bush.
Dr. Katarzyna Nowak – Scientific Advisor
Katarzyna is a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Africa Programs), and a research associate in Zoology at the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa (South Africa). In 2008, together with Trevor Jones, she established the Udzungwa Elephant Project (now the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program) and embarked on a major survey of elephants in the montane forests of Udzungwa. Her most recent research has focused on how wild primates deal with anthropogenic risk in a “landscape of fear”. She has mentored a number of student projects in Tanzania and elsewhere, and contributes to the scientific research of STEP. She also writes about the wildlife trade for a variety of outlets including online National Geographic.
Mohamed Ngwira – Office Caretaker
Mohamed is the caretaker and guard of STEP’s main offices in Iringa.
Amina Mndeme – Office Caretaker
Amina takes care of our Mang’ula office in the Udzungwa Mountains.
Mzee Abasi Lipongola and Bakari Issa Libawa – Security (Udzungwa)
Mzee Abasi and Bakari are the guards at our Udzungwa office.