Out of all the large cats, cheetahs are one of the most endangered due to various threats, with only around 6 000 cheetahs left, and at this current rate of decline they could be extinct in the wild by 2030. At Inverdoorn, cheetah rehabilitation plays a large role in trying to reverse this decline in numbers. This is done by pairing cheetahs for mating who are unrelated, or as much as possible. This helps to increase the gene pool and therefore allows for a large variety of genetic characteristics whilst also increasing cheetah numbers. Specialised care programmes, part of the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation, have been running at Inverdoorn since 2001 and are open to visitors allowing amazing opportunities to be up close and meet the cheetahs and speak with the cheetah handlers here at Inverdoorn and find out their story. Visitors also can experience a rare sight as they watch whilst the cheetahs are exercised at incredible speeds. Safaris also take place throughout the reserve, including a wild cheetah experience.
Velvet and Iziba are two of Inverdoorn's tame cheetahs and allow for special one-on-one cheetah interactions. Velvet and her brother Shady, and alongside Joti her so called stepbrother (but who is actually unrelated to them) were rescued by Inverdoorn at a very young age, as they were found in very poor conditions with viral diseases at a breeding facility in the Western Cape. They were found by chance and were destined to stay there for another six months in these conditions before being sold to a Sheik for hunting purposes. Thankfully, the facility agreed to sell them to Inverdoorn and have now been nursed back to health. Shady and Joti are now currently in the breeding programme. Velvet unfortunately arrived here with a broken tail, which means she will never be able to hunt properly. Sadly, this means she cannot be released and instead lives happily at the lodge, where she can be used for interactions with guests and educational purposes.
Life here at Inverdoorn as a volunteer alongside the cheetahs is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never be forgotten. No two days are the same and hopefully will give me valuable experience. Typical activities with the cheetahs consist of cleaning their enclosures and feeding every day (which results in the need of a lot of meat preparation!) A lot of time is spent with the cheetahs through activities such as bringing them out for exercise or just keeping them company as they relax. We bring them to interactions with the guests, which allows them a close encounter and an opportunity to ask questions and hear the story behind them. Most days a cheetah run takes place in which a lure is used to exercise the wild cheetahs before feeding to encourage them and teach them to hunt so later on they can be released. Alongside the cheetahs is a group of staff dedicated to what they do and other willing volunteers who are all friendly and making living here just that much better.