Safari Planning Team

The convenience of a USA-based planning and operations office.

Our Founder

Bill conducting conditioned taste aversion research on a tranquilized lion in Botswana.

Bill Given

Founder, The Wild Source

Bill has always been passionate about wildlife and wild places. Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area he had to cut his teeth on Wild Kingdom, the Adventures of Jacques Cousteau, and trips to the National Zoo. The result has been a career as a wildlife biologist, followed by the unique advent of wildlife biologist planned safaris.

After landing a bigger than expected endangered species survey contract, Bill had the funds to fulfill his dream of taking his first safari. Usually, when you want something so badly, it cannot live up to the expectation. In this case, Bill was blown away by the experience: the wildlife, the wilderness, and the people! As he discussed animal behavior and his wildlife experiences, a couple of guides and guests told Bill he should be guiding safaris. Bill followed the sage advice and started leading small group trips as a Biologist Guide.

Subsequently, Bill was recruited to conduct research on African lions in Botswana. As word of mouth spread, there were far too many interested clients to fit on the few trips a year that Bill could personally guide. The formation of The Wild Source ensured that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from Bill’s knowledge and passion to plan amazing safari experiences with the Wildlife Biologist approach.

Working for two decades as a Wildlife Biologist, Bill has conducted studies on a diverse array of species ranging from endangered butterflies and jumping mice to owls, Mexican wolves, and African lions. Currently, as a Research Associate of the Denver Zoo and member of the Botswana-based Kalahari Research & Conservation group, his focus is as the Principal Investigator of a lion research project in Botswana. The study is an effort to determine the effectiveness of trans-locating lions from cattle areas back into protected reserves. Bill is also applying a powerful technique, conditioned taste aversion, for the first time on African lions, and if successful, it could be a revolutionary conservation tool for predators around the globe.

Colorado Safari Specialists

Shannon Gore

Operations Manager
Colorado, USA
Shannon is from the wooded hills outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Her immersion into nature at a young age was impactful. Her love of the outdoors and interest in Native American culture led her out west in 1993 after graduation from university with a BA in Sociology.

Along with exploring the many wonderful wilderness areas of Colorado, Shannon incorporates travel within the states and abroad into her way of life. Exposure to other cultures and habitats provides her with an appreciated expansion of self. Shannon has become a frequent traveler to Africa with safaris in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Combining this first-hand knowledge of safari travel with Shannon’s previous experience as a social worker, yoga instructor, and office manager provides her the ability to deliver exceptional client care. She has a remarkable ability to listen to clients’ needs and respond with kindness and efficiency.

In her free time, Shannon enjoys live music and dance as well as yoga, hiking, and time with friends and family.

Darcie Smith

Director of Safari Planning
Colorado, USA
Darcie has served as a naturalist guide and tour leader for over a decade, leading over 50 group tours to destinations across North America, India, and Africa. She has traveled throughout the African continent on personal trips and has guided in major wildlife hotspots including Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, the Okavango Delta, and India’s tiger regions. Her interests in natural science, cultural history, immersion in nature, and an appreciation for exceptional guiding converge in Africa, where she also values contributing to meaningful conservation and community upliftment.

Throughout her travels she remains most captivated by the world’s protected wilderness areas, whether she is on safari in the Serengeti or backpacking in the Tetons. She began transitioning exclusively to wildlife safari travel in 2009 and has been on safari every year since, allowing her to develop extensive first-hand knowledge of southern and eastern Africa. She has also served two terms on the local chapter board for the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA). She is an active traveler who loves walking safaris, scuba diving, and the outlet for inquisitiveness that nature provides.

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Annie Garner

Safari Specialist
Colorado, USA
Annie Garner is a native Coloradoan and has loved to travel and plan trips all of her life. It started at age 7, when Annie to took the lead in planning the family trip to Disneyland – she studied a map and plotted out the best order in which to ride the rides. After graduating from college, she planned a trip to Italy with a travel agent who was impressed with her planning skills and offered her a job upon returning. Following five years of planning trips to destinations worldwide, Annie discovered her top love was Africa.

Since 2010, Annie has been an African safari specialist and joined The Wild Source team in 2015. Annie enjoys getting to know her clients and custom designing the perfect trip for each traveler, with a passion for authentic and sustainable travel. Annie has traveled to East Africa (where she had a Maasai wedding ceremony) and within Southern Africa. Annie was a board member for the Colorado chapter of Young Travel Professionals. Among her peers at The Wild Source, Annie is known as the go-to encyclopedia for ideas on incorporating clever, small touches, finding value with special safari combinations, and planning remarkable honeymoons.

Emily Hancock

Safari Specialist
Colorado, USA
Born and raised in Colorado, Emily is an avid traveler, outdoorswoman, and adventure enthusiast. In addition to going on safari in Tanzania, Kenya, and Botswana, she has road-tripped, camped, and hiked her way through the western and northern U.S. and Canada, and spent three months living as a nomad in the wilderness of Alaska. In college, she studied abroad in London and Paris, and she has traveled around Europe and Mexico. She has always been passionate about exploring local cultures, and her travels have primarily focused on spending time in nature.

Emily became increasingly interested in wildlife and conservation after spending three months camping and traveling around the untamed wilderness of Canada and Alaska, from backpacking among grizzly bears in Banff, to hiking among Dall sheep in Denali National Park, to boating with humpback whales in the Kenai Fjords.

Known among her friends and family as the first to spearhead the planning process for every trip, it was no surprise to anyone when she put her trip planning skills to work and joined The Wild Source as a safari planner and marketing specialist. Emily is passionate about planning the trip of a lifetime for each client, and sharing the incredible joy that is unique to safari travel.

Prior to joining The Wild Source, Emily’s professional background was in marketing, public relations and communications. She has worked at nationally-recognized communications agencies and is a seasoned account manager in media relations, marketing, PR, client services, and digital media. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in Apparel & Merchandising, both from Colorado State University.

In her free time, Emily loves traveling, yoga, reading, and spending time with her dog and husband – mostly camping, hiking, dirt biking, snowboarding, backpacking, and anything else she can do in the great outdoors!

Jordan Lee

Safari Specialist
Colorado, USA
Jordan has fostered a love of learning, adventure, and animals her entire life. Growing up, she researched conservation groups, raised money to sponsor endangered animals, and dreamed of visiting the Masai Mara and beyond.

In college, she began organizing and leading trips through her university’s Outdoor Adventures Center. There, she quickly discovered the joys of facilitating fun and meaningful experiences for others. Many of her trip participants were first-time rock climbers or backpackers who Jordan enjoyed coaxing from their initial hesitance to enthusiastic confidence. After graduating, she began working for Southern Methodist University’s SMU-in-Taos department, where she was quickly promoted to Associate Director. In this role, she planned, promoted, and oversaw academic terms in Taos, New Mexico. This role required frequent travel between Texas and New Mexico, along with coordination of logistics for hundreds of students and faculty. Before leaving higher education, Jordan also had the privilege of helping to lead a small group of dedicated students on an intensive study abroad program in Madrid, Spain. Born and raised in Texas, Jordan left the Lone Star State for Colorful Colorado in 2018.

Jordan joined The Wild Source team in 2019. Her background and interests drew her to The Wild Source, but the people, ethos, and mission made joining the team an absolute must.

Jordan cherishes time spent with her family and friends. She also enjoys reading, exploring the great outdoors, fostering rescue dogs – and, of course, traveling. Some of her favorite travel memories include kayaking with graceful leopard sharks around Catalina Island, exploring the expansive Great Wall of China, soaking up the incredible hospitality and haunting views of the Scottish Highlands, and spotting majestic orcas and humpback whales off the coast of British Columbia.
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Ron Thompson

Planner/Guide
Colorado, USA
Ron is one of North America’s most experienced big cat biologists, conducting extensive research on both jaguars and pumas (mountain lions). Following a career with Arizona Game & Fish, including serving as the Large Carnivore Biologist in charge of mountain lions and bears, Ron founded Primero Conservation. Ron’s research with Primero focuses on jaguar and puma conflict with livestock in Mexico, as well as working to decrease puma predation on desert bighorn sheep because that conflict ends in persecution of pumas.

Ron is internationally recognized for his big cat knowledge. He was the first non-Mexican citizen to be issued a permit to capture and satellite-collar jaguars. Renowned big cat NGO, Panthera, has contracted Ron to train Latin American biologists on capture and handling techniques for jaguar and puma to support studies in Mexico and Belize. He has also been employed by Turner Endangered Species and Borderland Research Institute to research pumas in New Mexico and Texas, respectively.

Ron has worked in concert with Bill Given, founder of The Wild Source, on ground breaking big cat/livestock conflict research. It is an extension of this connection that Ron joined The Wild Source team as a big cat expert advisor for our trip designs, and as a specialty guide for select small group departures to big cat destinations like our jaguar-focused Pantanal safaris.

Africa Ground Operations

Mariam Mrutu

Ground Operations
Arusha, Tanzania
Mariam Mbaraka Mrutu was born in 1976 in Kilimanjaro, Moshi town. She went to Muungano primary school in Moshi. In 1991 she and her family moved to Arusha where she joined Meru primary school and went on to Arusha secondary school. Mariam studied Hospitality and Tourism at Tropical Institute of Hotel and Tourism in Arusha. She worked for New Arusha Hotel, now Four Points by Sheraton Arusha, from 2003 to 2008 as a receptionist and in reservations. From 2008 to 2013 she worked for Kiliwarrior Expedition as Operations Manager. She began working for The Wild Source in 2013 until 2015. She then studied Business Management, Accounting, and Finance at Jomo Kenyatta University from 2015 to 2017, before returning to Tanzania to rejoin The Wild Source team in 2017.

When asked why she chose to work in the tourism industry, Mariam said: “I had to walk almost 2km to school. From my home to school I had to pass by the clock tower every day, and I met lots of tourists on the way to school asking directions and other questions. I would sometimes take them to school and they would ask permission to visit our school and talk to us and give school supplies. This is when I got interested in tourism. I now have 16 years in the tourism industry. I love this job. I love traveling and I have been to all the parks in northern Tanzania, and to the USA and Kenya.”

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