Samara reserve Private Game Reserve appoints SA’s first female tracker

Justa Frans is Samara Private Game Reserve's first accredited female tracker
Justa Frans is Samara Private Game Reserve's first accredited female tracker
Image: Supplied

Samara Private Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet in the Great Karoo is forwarding the advancement of women with the appointment of the first formally accredited female tracker in SA.

Justa Frans’s appointment comes after her graduation from the SA College of Tourism (SACT) Tracker Academy, based at Samara, in 2018.

Her Level 3 tracking qualification – an achievement of more than 90% – has proven to be a useful supplement to the training she completed in nature and culture site guiding after matriculating in 2015.

These skills will serve Frans well as she prepares for her position as a tracker intern at Samara; a post which the Tracker Academy’s Alex van den Heever is hopeful will evolve into permanent employment.

Frans was one of two women who completed the course in 2018.

Her fellow female classmate, Kelathlilwe Malaki, also graduated in November 2018 and, with a Level 2 (above 80%) qualification, is now seeking employment as a tracker in her home country of Botswana.

Frans and Malaki’s successes have also inspired other women to complete the course, with two more women now enrolled at the academy and hoping to graduate in 2019, Van den Heever said.

The Tracker Academy is one example of Samara’s efforts to uplift the local community.

A division of the SACT, the academy was established in 2010 by Gaynor Rupert and aims to provide employment for previously disadvantaged individuals by equipping them with rare tracking skills.

About 94% of the academy’s graduates have found permanent jobs in their field.

“We’re pleased and proud to have Justa joining us at Samara Private Game Reserve,” Samara’s co-founder Sarah Tompkins said.

As a woman in conservation, Tomkins is passionate about empowering other women to play a part in the industry.

Tomkins is not only actively involved in the reserve and its activities, but also through her ongoing initiatives to train and upskill female staff members, who now account for 70% of Samara’s workforce.

Tomkins’s daughter, Isabelle, shares her mother’s enthusiasm for the industry and women empowerment, and works alongside her to protect and nurture Samara’s populations.

“I am very grateful to the Tracker Academy and all its donors for this opportunity,” Frans said.

“I am super excited and looking forward to making Samara and the Tracker Academy proud.”

For more information about the academy, visit