Help Riana with Cheetahs

Written by on June 20, 2013 in Charity

50k. 50 Big Ones. 50 000 Bucks. It’s a lot of money for most people, no matter which way you look at it. It was a particularly large amount of money for the single, unemployed Riana van Niewenhuizen back in 2006. It was however a small price to pay for the realisation of a childhood dream and above that, the love and affection of one of creation’s most majestic animals – the cheetah.

“I never thought I’d quit my job and follow my childhood dream – that which I was created to do. But one day I just took the first step.” Riana got a temporary permit, a loan from the bank and bought a frail, eight week old cheetah.

“Fiela. Because she was abandoned in her mom’s enclosure.”

Riana cheetah experience

With only her instincts and love for animals to work with, she took a job at a lodge to gain experience. But she also had to do late night game drives and tend the bar. “When I got home at night the cat was sitting behind the gate waiting for me.”

So she rented 10 hectares just outside of Bloemfontein and started Cheetah Experience. Here she could live with Fiela, and not the other way around. Fiela could still sleep in her bed, but could also go between the house and her 1ha yard as she pleased.

Now Riana had the opportunity to take in other rejected and injured leopards,  black leopards, cheetahs, lions, white lions, wolves, servals, caracals (rooikatte) and meerkats. Each group lives in a large and comfortable encampment where breeding is encouraged for the endangered animals. Each visitor, in return, gets to experience these majestic beasts (or tiny, almost pet-like creatures) in a natural environment from a distance that would otherwise be fatal.

Apart from the 2 permanent staff, volunteers come from all over the world to experience and care for the animals. They need to receive training and write a test before they can guide tours. But the most important thing Riana wants both volunteers and visitors to take away from the experience is a deep love for creation and its perfect creatures.

“People think that these animals will be here forever. But they won’t. We need to take care of and not destroy every aspect of nature in order to maintain a healthy eco system.”

Riana would love to one day own her own piece of larger land in order to become a haven for more injured animals.  “My whole life revolves around these animals – their welfare and comfort.”

In the mean time however, food and veterinary bills for large pets are hefty. Areas of help include large poles and wire for camps, a large freezer for the food, food, adoption and volunteers.

This is Riana’s story of help. more info ,  youcanhelp



Riana van Nieuwenhuizen
(c) +27 (0) 72 905 3457
email: web:






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