With her boundless energy and a permanent twinkle in her eye, Marion Sabatié reminds me of a mischievous pixie. I was with her when she first arrived at Inverdoorn and her nervous, wide-eyed wonder has been replaced by a relaxed ease in her new surroundings. Hailing from France, this is her first time in South Africa. She is studying biology at the University of Toulouse and wants to be a teacher for middle and high school students. "When I am a teacher, I want to take the kids out of school and show them stuff and awake a passion in them that they need to help wildlife. I want to teach younger people about endangered animals."
Her work at university focuses on marine life and she cites the dolphin as her favourite animal. She chose Inverdoorn "to discover a new world. I know a lot about the marine world, but not the bush world." By exploring a different environment, she developed an unexpected fondness for rhinos. "I really love the rhinos. I didn't expect to love the rhinos so much." Marion's work primarily involves the cheetahs, but she helps out at the rhino orphanage as well. Something which she regards with a lot less fondness is the task of preparing the cheetahs' food, which includes handling raw meat and organs. Her nose wrinkles in disgust as she thinks about it, "The meat work is so difficult for me." Leah Brousse, who looks after the volunteers and assigns their daily duties, recounts Marion's initial hesitation. "She would walk up to the counter, shake her head and walk away. Then she'd go back and shake her head again." As I join Marion in the cheetah kitchen, there is no sign of this hesitation anymore and she tackles the task with ease. Later on she is scurrying about the kitchen, mopping up the floor, and she pops her head into the part of the kitchen where I am sitting, to add to her interview. She is always eager to share and breathless with excitement.
"We really need to take care of the cheetahs, because they are so endangered. I knew they were, but now I know how urgent the situation is." She enjoys walking the cheetahs and cuddling with them. After her kitchen duties are done we take Velvet and Iziba to the "playground" and soon she is darting around after Iziba. Sitting in the playground with the vastness of the Karoo spread around us it is understandable that the scenery was one of the first things to attract her attention. She admits, "the landscape is really beautiful, but the way of life on the farm is not the same. I love the volunteering, but I could not live here. I am a city girl."
Her candour is refreshing and she is wonderfully expressive, her eyes lighting up whenever she talks about anything she is passionate about. She may be a city girl, but she is right at home at Inverdoorn whether she is merrily chatting to her fellow cheetah girls, satisfying a very obvious sweet tooth or forming unforgettable bonds with the big cats she hopes to help save.