Immanuel Kant said that “we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”. In this case it is the heart of a woman. Leah Brousse is a French-born, German girl living in South Africa. She has been working at Inverdoorn for just over a month and her passion for what she does is evident in every word and every smile. She is a resident cheetah handler at the game reserve and, without hesitation, will tell you that what she loves most about working with them is “everything”.
Her day involves feeding, cleaning and walking the cheetahs. She works with all the tame cheetahs and is getting involved with the wild ones too, some of which may soon be released into the main part of the reserve. There is no end to the work that she has to do, but she is visibly excited about every aspect of it. “Cheetahs, and animals in general, can’t fake emotions. People pretend, but if a cheetah is angry it will klap you.”
The cheetahs go on daily runs. Leah is often on hand to assist with these too, as well as training to let Iziba off the leash. She has a devout attachment to Inverdoorn’s youngest cheetah and the two are fast friends. Iziba is a mischievous and playful girl. She delights in pouncing on her handlers when their guard is down. Leah has caught onto this trick very quickly, garnering respect from the teenage cheetah. “Iziba has a strong personality; she’s naughty, but smart.”
Velvet, on the other hand, is one of the softest and sweetest girls anyone will meet at Inverdoorn. She is a tame cheetah with a deep affection for her handlers. When she sees Leah in the mornings she will run up to her and into her arms. She loves cuddling and kissing and anyone who has met her will testify to her warm nature and contented purring.
Inverdoorn is renowned for its cheetah rehabilitation centre, with its specialised breeding programmes. Leah is involved here too and is really excited about the idea of cheetah cubs in June. At the moment there is no way of knowing whether or not the female currently paired with the breeding male is pregnant, particularly because the females do not pick up weight if they are, but the hope is evident in Leah’s face.
Female cheetahs can give birth to a litter of anywhere from one to nine cubs. In the event that the female should have only one cheetah, Leah feels it would be best to let the cub stay with its mother. In the happy event of a big litter some of the cubs will stay with the mother, while a few will be tamed – becoming ambassadors for the cheetah centre and helping raise awareness about their plight.
There are now four tame cheetahs at the reserve. Shady and Joti were previously tame, but have been released into the breeding camp. Brother and sister Banzi and Nushka are the other two tame cheetahs. Nushka is a shy girl, while Banzi is quite a temperamental boy and needs time and space to develop trust with his handlers.
The cheetahs, and the other animals too, all have distinct personalities and are special to staff and guests alike. However, it is important to remember that they are still wild animals and this will never change – even dogs will bite and cats will scratch. This is why Inverdoorn wants their animals to roam free. Their primary concern is rescuing animals and protecting them, while giving them the best living experience possible. But the world has changed and the environment degraded to the extent that humanity is forced to control the environment in order to protect and save animals. The human population has done so much to destroy animals and their homes that it is now up to everyone to fix humanity’s mess and those it has hurt in the process.
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