Dave van Beuningen

Dave van Beuningen participated in the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition research cruise as a marine top predator observer, just after completing his Masters degree in conservation biology from the University of Cape Town. Shortly after the research cruise he was hired by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and is now an associate shark and ray conservation biologist for their Western Indian Ocean shark and ray programme. His work primarily focuses on researching the region’s sharks and rays in order to inform their conservation and management. They currently have a specific focus in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, but hope to conduct similar work in other WIO countries in future.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My major accomplishments include conceptualizing and successfully raising funds for the development of an app (called Shark Spotter) which alerts water users, in real time, of shark presence at several popular beaches in Cape Town, thereby reducing the potential for human-shark conflict. Another personal achievement was presenting the Keynote address, together with two of my colleagues, at the 5th Southern African Shark and Ray symposium in Cape Town in October 2019.

Who has inspired you in your career?

Definitely David Attenborough and Sylvia Earle, in terms of showcasing and instilling a sense of passion and wonder for the marine world. In terms of people I have engaged with personally, there are many but certainly working under Dr Alison Kock gave me a lot of insight into the world of shark research and conservation, and she has been a great mentor during my career as a shark researcher and conservation biologist.  

What is your dream research project? Where would you work and with whom?

I would love to do a shark and ray survey of the remote atolls and outer islands within the Western Indian Ocean, such as Bassas da India, Europa, Glorioso and St Brandon, with the WCS shark team.   

Where do you see yourself in 15 years?

In 15 years, I see myself managing a large-scale conservation programme, either for an NGO or an international organization such as the IUCN or FAO.

What secret talent do you have?

I can light a match on a matchbox using only two fingers with the same hand – it’s called the African Zippo!

What do you miss most about the pre-COVID world?

Freedom of movement! I miss being able to hike, surf, scuba dive and do fieldwork. And of course, being able to spend time with friends and family.

What is your quote to live by?

“Be true to who you are and what you believe in”.

I am still discovering these aspects of myself, but I believe that if you are true to yourself then everything else will follow.

Dave’s favourite study species is the Critically Endangered Whitespotted wedgefish Rhynchobatus djiddensis – they are targeted for their valuable fins. Photo credit: WCS and SAIAB
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