Thank You, Susie

As you may already know, IRF’s Executive Director of 13 years, Dr. Susie Ellis, has retired. Dr. Ellis has fiercely advocated for rhinos, has grown this organization, and led it through trying times. She has truly made an immeasurable difference for the world’s rhinos – even in her retirement she’s launched a Facebook fundraiser for them. Luckily for us – and for rhinos – Susie will remain a strategic advisor for the organization. Her retirement letter received an outpouring of responses from around the world, so we wanted to share some of the messages from her colleagues and from the online IRF supporters.


Susie is an incredible leader and role model to so many in conservation throughout her career. Just as importantly, the combination of Susie’s determination and resilience in dealing with the Sumatran Rhino issue is the only reason we still have any left. Her insight, commitment and ability to guide the Indonesian team and stakeholders has been critical to keeping them from drifting off over the past 10 years. That is exactly what has happened everywhere else. This is of course on top of the wonderful leadership Susie has shown for IRF in Africa and India which is a source of pride for the organization.

Cameron Kerr
Director and Chief Executive of Taronga Conservation Society Australia



Over the past 12 years, Susie and I have been through a lot together working on the Sumatran rhino conservation front.  What has always impressed me about Susie is her tenacity in the face of adversity. She navigates challenges guided by her strength, intelligence and diplomacy, all the while exuding an amazing optimism.  In short, Susie is a force that the rhinos are so very fortunate to have in their court.

Dr. Terri Roth
Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife and VP of Conservation and Science



I first met Susie in May 2007, on a trip to Indonesia to visit BBS, Way Kambas and the SRS, and Ujung Kulon. Looking back at my photos from the trip (how incredibly young we all look!) what comes across is Susie’s warmth and humour. I remember howling with laughter together the night we camped on the beach at Kuala Kambas, when we were convinced that the loud snoring we heard outside the cabin was a herd of large and ferocious wild pigs. We eventually summoned the nerve – whisky may have been involved – to peer out of the window, to discover that the source of the racket was Waladi. I also remember how well Susie handled the transition from Tom Foose during that trip. The RPUs were anxious about their jobs: another organisation had withdrawn funding for the TPUs, Nico was ill, and there was a new face at the IRF who might not want to continue with previous strategies. Susie reassured them that the RPU programme was still a vital part of IRF’s strategy in Indonesia and demonstrated her empathy, while also making it clear that she would be keeping a tight rein on budgets and the project as a whole; she combines EQ and IQ brilliantly.

I can’t adequately explain just how much my enjoyment of my job as CEO of Save the Rhino is made better, more rewarding, more fulfilling, by my friendship with Susie.  It’s not just about the work – vital and important as that is. It’s really all about the people, of whom Susie is one of the very dearest. I am so glad she is not retiring completely. ‘@RhinoGoddess’ is the right description.

Cathy Dean
Executive Director
Save The Rhino International

We echo everything here and more, thanks again Susie.

– International Rhino Foundation

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