Volunteering with Cheetah Experience Ashia
My sole purpose to visit South Africa to begin with was to volunteer at this beautiful sanctuary! As many of you know, I’m a HUGE animal lover, and even BIGGER cat lover! Crazy cat lady I may be, and I’m completely ok with that! 🙂
I first came upon Cheetah Experience Ashia 2 years ago, when I was doing research online for places around the world where I can get involved in big cat conservation projects. I came across their sister property, Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein, and eventually noticed that they were opening up a new sanctuary in the Cape Town region. It was like it was calling my name, and I knew immediately that I had to be a part of it all! My trip originally was supposed to take place in September 2017, but due to some health issues, I needed to postpone it for a year later. Heartbroken I was at the time, but that quickly rectified itself when I stepped foot on Cheetah Experience Ashia’s property. My heart was home. I know I’ve said that about certain places before – and yes, they all involve animals – and I believe home can be a collection of different places – and find I leave pieces of my heart behind, only to assure myself that I will return again to be reunited.
It’s very difficult to put into words the experience you have when you take part in something bigger than yourself, and it somewhat fulfills a deeper sense of purpose, giving your life a lot more meaning in some way. Cheetah Experience Ashia does just that for me!
Being in the presence of these majestic and stunning animals is – to me – summed up into one powerful word: privilege. It’s not every day that you can take part in the care of these amazing beings, and also contribute to the preservation of their species, so to do so is humbling in every way, and an immense privilege.
“Ashia and Bloemfontein are dedicated to fighting for the future survival of the cheetah by focusing on education and research, which involves linking conservation and human welfare.” – Cheetah Experience Ashia
Cheetahs in the wild face massive obstacles and are on the brink of losing their fight against the many odds – but conservation projects – like this one – hope to turn those odds into triumph by repopulating cheetahs in the wild and diversifying the gene pool. Having such a lack of genetic diversity brings many challenges such as inbreeding, lowered immune function and the list goes on. A massive reduction in cheetah populations has occurred worldwide, mainly due to human-animal conflicts as their habitat is reduced to accommodate humans, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade (I strongly urge you to look it up!). The best estimates to date put world population numbers at under 7,000, down from around 100,000 at the end of 1900. This number if frightening, but with projects like these, there is still hope!
The long term goal of Ashia is their cheetah release program – where the ultimate goal is to release captive-bred cheetahs back into the protected wild around South Africa to repopulate and diversify their existing specie. On that note, in September 2018, Ashia’s first successful cheetah release was started with a female cheetah named Jasmin who was released onto Kuzuko Reserve in South Africa. To read all about her story, the efforts involved, and to keep up to date on the progress of this release, please visit this link! It’s a beautiful and heartwarming story!
Now that you’ve watched the video, you can read below what my personal experience was like, and an amazing collection of my favourite images I captured during my stay! These cats are highly sociable (for the most part!), quirky, funny, and very photogenic! You can also find the links to meet the animals and the beautiful faces behind Cheetah Experience Ashia!
A video of my time with Ashia will soon be put together, so stay tuned for that as well! 🙂
My time with Ashia
Volunteering at Ashia is definitely hard work, with lots of feedings, cleanings and stimulating enrichments such as cheetah runs, etc. – Rinse and repeat, and that’s what a “normal” day looks like. From participating in guided tours, preparing food, cleaning the enclosures/camps, general caring of the animals – the list goes on. It takes a team to get everything done every day, and the days can be long, but – IT IS ALL SO REWARDING!
To hear a cheetah purr is by far the most beautiful sound ever! The ultimate goal, aside from being able to be so close to these incredible cats – servals and leopards included – is to contribute to their well-being and to help fund the cheetah-release program. It really is an experience with purpose: to raise awareness, educate people, and fund conservation.
Here’s a glimpse of what my volunteering experience looked and felt like through my eyes… Enjoy!
Want to know more about the animals?
To get more in-depth knowledge about Ashia’s cheetahs and their unique individual stories and personalities,
Also, Cheetah Experience Ashia has other animals too…
learn more about their 2 leopards and 3 servals here!
Needless to say, this project is one made of love. It is by far the best project I’ve ever taken part in, and one I respect entirely! The owners, staff, volunteers, and animals are all so amazing! All I can hope to do is encourage others to take part by participating in the various ways possible.
For any questions about volunteering or visiting Ashia, you can get in touch with them directly here!
This has been one of the best experiences of my life to date and these memories are forever embedded in my soul, – and I cannot wait to be back in this safe haven to see all the beloved cats once again!! I miss them every single day!
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
Love & Light,
Dedicated In Loving Memory to
The One Who Started It All!
Rest In Peace, Lovely Queen!