Mxolisi Sibanda

What made you want to join ICCS as a Biodiversity fellow?

ICCS is one of the few groups that produce science that is highly rated among academics yet also possessing huge resonance with practitioners. The opportunity to work with EJ and ICCS while also being exposed to other work in the wider Oxford conservation community is very attractive. I am definite that ICCS’s multi-disciplinary environment will be stimulating and beneficial for my career and enable me to critically examine how we design and implement real-world conservation. I am also keen to bring my experience as a practitioner to the fore and so meaningfully contribute to some of what the group is doing. In addition, I am looking forward to using all the outstanding resources, from libraries to courses and talks, available to support one’s research in a world class university like Oxford.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? Can you tell us a little about it?

In my time during this fellowship I will work on a paper examining the impact of the development and implementation of national species strategies for endangered species using black rhinos as a case study.



I grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. My affinity towards nature was cultivated by my mother, who having grown up in her family’s farm an hour or two from the city, shared with me stories of her happy and idyllic (at least to me) childhood.

My impressionable mind must have made such a strong link between being close to nature and happiness and fulfilment that has remained unbroken over the years. As child, I got involved with environmental clubs culminating with leading the Bulawayo Schools Environment Clubs. Through these activities I was convinced of the importance of nature for people, economies and cultures. At university, I chose to study Biological Sciences and within that thoroughly enjoyed ecology- thanks to inspiring lecturers, field work and interesting applications to natural resource management that I could relate to such as freshwater management in the city of Harare (which was already a major health and ecological problem in the city). As a result, I became fascinated with the applied aspects of ecology that make the every-day challenge of working in conservation.


MxAfter university I started off with field research on the spatial ecology of grey duikers in Matobo National Park in south western Zimbabwe. This was followed by stints in various positions from an intern in WWF’s Miombo ecoregion programme to working as a consultant, design, monitoring & evaluation advisor and lately as a programme manager. As a result, I have been fortunate to work on various issues from endangered species such as black rhinos, elephants, crocodiles to sustainable forest management, community-based natural resources management approaches, policy and climate change mitigation.

As a result, my personal areas of interest span the science-policy interface. I am particularly drawn towards efforts to understand and optimise use of research in conservation practice (and in turn, insights from practitioners to researchers), endangered species conservation particularly related to the eastern black rhino, protected areas management, human-wildlife conflict, climate change, the role of gender in conservation and the management of organisations for more effective delivery of conservation.

Lately I have been interested in how we can use the potential of social data for understanding people’s conceptions of conservation, their preferences of conservation strategies and motivations of support.



Short, R. E., Addison, P., Hill, N., Arlidge, W., Berthe, S., Castello y Tickell, S., … Milner-Gulland, E. (2019). Achieving net benefits: A road map for cross-sectoral policy development in response to the unintended use of mosquito nets as fishing gear.

Sibanda, M. and Mulama, M. (2018) Business contributions to extinction risk mitigation in Laikipia, Kenya. In: Atkins, J. and Atkins, B. (ed.) Around the world in 80 Species: Exploring the business of extinction. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London UK. 

Olendo, M., Okemwa, G., Munga, C., Mulupi, L., Mwasi, L.D., Mohamed, H., Sibanda, M et al. (2017) The value of long-term, community-based monitoring of marine turtle nesting: a study in the Lamu archipelago, Kenya. Oryx 53 1-10.

Sibanda, M (2014) Lessons from conservation sector’s response to a crisis in Zimbabwe. Oryx 48: 488– 495

 Roe, D., Fancourt, M., Sandbrook, C., Sibanda, M., Giulliani, A. and Gordon-Maclean, A. (2014) Which components or attributes of biodiversity affect which dimensions of poverty? A systematic map of the evidence base.  Environmental Evidence 2:8 

Roe, D., Sandbrook, C., Fancourt, M., Schulte-Hebruggen, B., Munroe, R. and Sibanda, M (2013) Which components or attributes of biodiversity affect which dimensions of poverty? A systematic map protocol.  Environmental Evidence


I am particularly keen to investigate the integration of science into conservation practice, particularly in the context of large conservation organisations.