Get to know some of the researchers at the University of the Free State whose work is inspiring excellence and transforming lives globally.

In addition to the experts listed below, the UFS also boasts a unique research centre: The International Studies Group (ISG), which comprises  a wide network of postgraduate researchers each with their own specialist field.

To arrange an interview with any of our experts, please contact our media office at

Dr Francois Deacon
Area of expertise: Habitat Ecology
Faculty/Department: Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences

Dr Francois Deacon is a wildlife habitat expert, among other things, but his research is focused on giraffe in their natural habitat. The recognition he has earned nationally and internationally is proof of that. He has a saying: “If we can save the habitat wildlife need, then the animals will be just fine”.

He has received a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant and various other funding to support his research on an international level. He was nominated on multiple occasions as the best lecturer at the UFS and the students truly enjoy his teaching philosophy that: “not all classrooms have four walls”.

Dr Deacon is a lecturer at the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Dr Deacon considers himself as a habitat ecologist, focusing on the spatial ecology of wild mammals. He has many projects with collaborations from institutions worldwide, but his primary project is to understand the ecological and biological factors that regulate giraffe in their natural habitat. For this he has built a multispecialist research team of 30 scientists from 10 different countries, helping to address the research questions and objectives.

His long-term research and contribution to save the giraffe from becoming extinct in the wild on the African continent has received extensive coverage in the popular press and has led to three wildlife documentaries made on his research by National Geographic and presentations at international conferences. With his spatial ecology approach, he evaluates the habitat preferences, diet selection and spatial utilisation by giraffe in different reserves across Southern Africa. The successful development of a head harness equipped with a satellite GPS device was an exceptional achievement with more than 50 giraffes contributing to the success. This led to the collection of data and the description of behaviour that has never before been documented. The development of scientific norms and a management manual not only resulted in a unique study of significant academic importance, but will also contribute to the effective management and conservation of the species in Africa.

He has published in a few international journals and aims to continue to publish in high-impact factor journals. His latest expeditions are considered as the key of all keys and could create a turnaround of giraffe numbers plummeting further. An international film crew are busy capturing this process in a film called Catching Giants in which the UFS is the true leader and brainchild of this pioneer study.

Contact Details:
Telephone: +27 51 401 3554


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