The staff at Inverdoorn hail from various parts of South Africa, and even other parts of the world. As a result they all have very different and diverse backgrounds, but are connected by their passion for wildlife and conservation.
Wilna Paxton, the General Manager of Inverdoorn, was born in a small fishing village on the West Coast of South Africa, but grew up on an even smaller one called St. Helena Bay. She speaks English and Afrikaans. Her favourite thing about South Africa, besides the wildlife of course, is the wide open spaces, as well as "all the photo possibilities".
Q. How long have you been working for Inverdoorn?
A. I started working at Inverdoorn Game Reserve in 2005. I was 22 years old and came here as a Junior Ranger. Shortly thereafter I was promoted to Senior Ranger and then to Head Ranger. In 2008, after two cheetah cubs were born at the reserve, Damien and I hand-raised them and I became the WCCC Supervisor. Today I am the General Manager of Inverdoorn. For me, the beauty of Inverdoorn is that it gives you the opportunity to grow; and it is wonderful working for owners that share the same passion as me for nature – we feel like we work for a cause and not just for money.
Q. What does your average day entail, when working at Inverdoorn?
A. My job entails several different fields and different hours. I can do anything: feeding, walking and taking care of the cheetahs; releasing a rhino early in the morning and even doing safaris or having to "make" food for all the big cats. Then, of course, there is the not-so-glamorous side of things that have to be done such as office work – which is not my favourite thing in the world.
Q. What is your favourite animal?
A. The most obvious answer is definitely the cheetahs. Before Banzi came into my life, a cheetah was just a regular animal to me. But I promise you when you look into those big, beautiful eyes for the first time you cannot help but fall in love. They crawl into your heart and that is where they will stay for the rest of my existence on this planet. I love that big boy. He is like a child to me.
Q. Any advice for people applying to be a volunteer at Inverdoorn?
A. The most important thing about being a volunteer at Inverdoorn, is that you have to have passion. All the other things we can teach, but if you do not have passion for these animals and wildlife, you have nothing. Then afterwards, is patience and dedication. There is a lot of glamour to being a volunteer, like walking, brushing and just spending time with the cheetahs; but, unfortunately, there are also things which aren't as nice. For example, cheetahs are predators, meaning that they eat meat and unfortunately we have to make it. And of course, what goes in, must come out, so the cleaning of the camps is also required, but it is all part of the job.