Cheetah Experience leaves Bloem

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The Cheetah Experience will be opening in Bela-Bela at the end of the year.

The Cheetah Experience, which has been a part of the City of Roses since 2006, has officially closed its gates in Bloemfontein. This home for endangered and threatened species will however, continue its admirable work after relocating to a new home in Bela- Bela, Limpopo.

“Bloemfontein has been the beginning and the middle of our story. We will always be grateful for the time we could spend here, for the community’s support and the visitors who came back to see us year after year,” said Claire Lamond, co-ordinator at the lions’ side.

Lamond said the farm in Bloemfontein holds many memories for them. “We have witnessed births and felt the loss of deaths.

We have learned so much from the animals and passed on our knowledge to people from all over the world. Friendships have been formed, lives have been changed.”

Late last year the team stumbled upon a property of 272 ha in Bela-Bela while visiting another property close by. During their visit, they immediately knew that this was to be their new home. “Everyone who visits there, falls in love with the property. We cannot wait for the day that all of our animals will be walking around in their new enclosures.”

She told Bloemfontein Courant that, although their gates are now closed in Bloemfontein, they hope their supporters will make the trip up to Bela-Bela to see the new surroundings for themselves. “We plan to be open to visitors before the end of the year and will announce our opening on our website and social media site.”

Lamond explained how Cheetah Experience was founded by Riana van Nieuwenhuizen, who, at the time, started small by opening her doors to visitors to see a handful of animals. As time passed, the animal family grew, as did the ‘human family’ of employees working on the farm.

“In 2010, Riana began an international volunteer project where people from all over the world could come and learn, not only about the different animals, but to also understand how to take care of them.”

Today the project has grown immensely. “For many years Riana dreamt of owning a piece of land where they could build bigger and more natural enclosures for the animals – a place where they could begin to reintroduce wild cheetahs to their natural environment; in general, just a forever home for Cheetah Experience,” Lamond concluded.

Lamond said one of the memories that Bloemfontein will always hold for them, is giving educational guided tours to the public. Witnessing how people learned something new about the vulnerability of South African species and how to contribute towards conservation, will always remain something good to recall.

“Watching people’s reaction when they first see the animals, when they feel the power of a lion’s roar or hear the purr of a cheetah will always be special. We had the birth of our first ever cheetah cubs back in 2012 and now in the last year, cheetahs we have raised have gone on to be released into the protected wild. Please visit www.cheetahexperience.com for more information.

Sazly Hartzenberg

sazly@centralmediagroup.co.za