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Cheetah Girl

WRITTEN BY // Claudia Hauter CATEGORIES // Capecheetah-blog | Inverdoorn-blog

Western Cape Cheetah Conservation

Cheetah Girl

Going to Inverdoorn is naturally about the animals and their conservation, but it is equally inspiring to meet the staff and talk to them about what they do. Not only are elephants introduced and baby rhinos rescued, there are often new people as well. Marlene Nieuwoudt is one of the fresh faces at Inverdoorn, joining the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation as a cheetah handler. She has been there for two and a half weeks, but the ease she displays working with the animals and her inherent passion would make anyone think she has been there much longer.

Embracing a love for animals from a young age, and growing up with cats, she decided to pursue a career in conservation and hit the jackpot when she heard that Inverdoorn was looking for extra cheetah handlers. "I've always loved wild animals," she says. Getting to work with cheetahs is thus a perfect culmination of her passion. "I'm very fond of big cats and always wanted to work with them". Her tasks entail cleaning enclosures and feeding the cheetahs. She has taken to the job so well that she has even started doing guest interactions with the cheetahs, predominantly with Velvet. "Velvet I like, because she's quiet and likes to have people around". They make a great pair, because they complement each other so well – Marlene soft-spoken and sincere and Velvet calming everyone with her serene presence and rhythmic purring.

Marlene has started working with Iziba too, which can be an intimidating experience. "Iziba is very playful, so she still scares me," but Marlene's calm nature comforts the cheetahs and she connects wonderfully with them as they warm to her. She has started doing guest interactions with Iziba as well, seeking any opportunity to learn and grow.

Born and raised in South Africa, it is astounding to discover that this is Marlene's first time on a game reserve. She is a natural when it comes to the animals and keen to get involved even further. "I would like to work with the baby rhinos and the elephants. All wildlife, any wildlife, I can work with is really great for me". Her love for conservation stems from her uncle: "He was in conservation and I realised I wanted to be as well".

Having previously worked with birds of prey, handling owls and cleaning out eagle cages, it is not surprising to spot her walking through the lodge with Inverdoorn's macaw perched on her shoulder, looking like an extension of her body as he beadily inspects those around him. Or her. The jury is still out on whether Coco is a he or a she, but whatever Coco may be Marlene says that "I'm the only female she likes".

Inverdoorn allows people to break away from the hassle and hustle of the city where we become exasperated with others in offices, in traffic, in shops and every other place where technology demands speed and immediacy. The Karoo sets a mood both tranquil and relaxed, where the staff are keen to share and enlighten, making guests enjoy human interactions again, as much as the animal ones.

About the author

Claudia Hauter

Claudia Hauter

Taught from a young age to save the planet and driven by a love of the environment, Claudia Hauter now writes and manages social media for Inverdoorn Game Reserve, Western Cape Cheetah Conservation and RhinoProtect – hoping to do her part in saving this little planet we call home.

Reservations & Info

Inverdoorn Game Reserve


112 LOOP STREET 8001

Tel:  +27 (0)214 220 013
Fax: +27 (0)86 719 71 50


Meet The Team

  • Meeting the Volunteers: Cynthia Knuppe

    Meeting the Volunteers: Cynthia Knuppe

    The lodge is abuzz with activity, and not only because it’s summer season. The other reason for all the energy coursing through the reserve is the interns and volunteers. I have never...

  • Meet Chantelle De Bruin

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    Meet Chantelle de Bruin(21), one of Inverdoorn Game Reserves passionate and dedicated volunteer. Chantelle, was born in Bloemfontein, Free State and moved to Cape Town, a few years...

  • Meet the Team: Meshack

    Meet the Team: Meshack

    Let's meet Meshack, the elephant handler, specialist and friend at Inverdoorn. He took some time to answer a few of our questions. Let's see what his job entails and talk about the...

  • An American in South Africa

    An American in South Africa

    My name is John McIlvaine and I am from Seattle, Washington, USA. This is my second trip to South Africa to do volunteer cheetah conservation work, but this is my first time at...

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For all the latest news about your favourite animals at Inverdoorn like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest news and blog posts about the cheetahs, the rhinos, the lions and all the other animals that live on the reserve. Read about the people who look after them and have dedicated their lives to wildlife and its conservation.

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Did you enjoy your trip to Inverdoorn? Submit a review to Trip Advisor or send us a review via our website. We want to hear all about your trip: what you liked, what you saw, the best parts and any suggestions and ideas for how we can improve the experience for YOU are also welcome. You can read what others have said about us by checking out some of the articles and press releases or chat to other guests on Trip Advisor. You can even join our Inverdoorn Community and stay in touch with our rangers, animal handlers and other guests.

Contact Infos

Inverdoorn Game Reserve

112 LOOP STREET 8001

Tel:  +27 (0)214 220 013
Fax: +27 (0)86 719 7150


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