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Endangered Species Foundation of New Zealand appoints new Governance and Leadership Team

New Zealand’s Endangered Species Foundation (ESFNZ) has taken a major step forward with the appointment of entrepreneur Cheryl Reynolds as its inaugural Chief Executive, 2019 New Zealander of the Year nominee Stu Muir as Chair of the board, and Fulbright scholar Injy Johnstone as Deputy Chair. 

“The Endangered Species Foundation’s Board is thrilled to have secured such talented leadership at this critical time,” said ESFNZ co-founder Neil Thorsen.  

“We have full confidence in our new leadership team, with charisma, wide networks, and great business acumen, to engage the public across all generations and strongly advocate for New Zealand’s most critically endangered species.”

The outgoing co-chairs made the vital decision of appointing Cheryl Reynolds as CEO. A Fellow in the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, Ms Reynolds was the inaugural Chief Executive at Momentum Waikato, one of New Zealand’s largest community foundations. She was also the Founding Chief Executive at SODA, Waikato’s entrepreneurship hub, and most recently CEO at Raglan’s Xtreme Zero Waste.

On Ms Reynolds’ appointment, Mr Muir said, “Cheryl will bring to our organisation a vast amount of energy, expertise, and a strong track record of combining philanthropy, business and entrepreneurial skill at such a critical time for the endangered species of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

"I am humbled to be chosen to head the Foundation and build on the work of its many great leaders including inaugural Chair, Dame Cheryll Sotheran, who was my inaugural Chair at SODA," said Ms Reynolds.

“I am passionately committed to native species conservation to protect taonga such as the Māui Dolphin. As the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, its status at the top of our critically endangered list is like a frantically waving torchlight, representing the many thousands of native species that need our urgent help.” 

Dame Jane Goodall expressed her support for the ESFNZ during her visit last year. 

“The Endangered Species Foundation is working very hard to prevent any further extinctions in New Zealand, a place where so much has already been lost,” said Ms Goodall. 

Mr Muir and Ms Johnstone have both been on the board of Endangered Species since 2017, and expressed excitement at being selected to lead the board. Mr Muir is an environmentally focused farmer with a well-respected background in riparian and wetland restoration and education. He is fluent in Te Reo Māori, brings a solid matauranga Māori perspective to conservation strategy, and has collaborated closely with key national and regional stakeholders including Iwi, DOC, Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, Dairy NZ, and Predator Free NZ.

“I’m honoured and grateful to be elected as Chair of the Endangered Species Foundation of New Zealand, and would like to acknowledge the great work and vision of the outgoing co-chairs Grant Leach and Rose Hiha-Agnew, and the foundation’s original founders, in particular Neil and Mike Thorsen,” said Mr Muir.  

“Injy Johnstone as deputy chair will add a vibrant millennial perspective, and will be a perfect conduit with our international partners.”

As a Fulbright Scholar, a UN Youth and Sustainable Development Leader, and a former National Administrator for Generation Zero, Ms Johnstone brings youth engagement experience and a solid reputation with millennials, a group that the foundation hopes to further activate in conservation efforts. 

There are believed to be around 4,000 species currently endangered in New Zealand. Currently the Department of Conservation is actively managing around 400 of these species, and of these, only 150 have long-term management plans in place. 

Ms Reynolds said the Foundation’s immediate focus this year was on developing a new high-impact framework using strategic philanthropy, centring around three soon-to-be-announced key project areas. The organisation would also be increasing efforts to engage more with iwi and hapu, youth, and women.

“Joining the Endangered Species Foundation at this critical time is an honour and a great opportunity to play my part,” said Ms Reynolds. “I look forward to supporting the many donors, conservation leaders, and communities who are working hard to protect New Zealand’s vulnerable and most critically endangered native species that are in real danger of extinction.”

Foundation Facts

  • 4,000
    endangered species
  • Just
    63
    of our most critically endangered Māui Dolphins remain
  • As little as
    $500
    can save many of our
    endangered species
  • Only
    250
    species are currently in
    conservation programmes