The Eye of the Be­holder

Tourism Tattler - - Contents -

Beauty is in the eye of the be­holder, and there is no bet­ter place for tourists to see the beauty of Africa’s most en­dan­gered big cat, the grace­ful chee­tah, than at Ashia, a re­cently es­tab­lished wildlife sanc­tu­ary and ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre lo­cated in Paarl, a 45-minute drive from Cape Town.

Chee­tah Ex­pe­ri­ence Ashia is 35-hectare work­ing agri­cul­tural farm where en­vi­ron­men­tal val­ues are ap­plied with an em­pha­sis on sup­port­ing the con­ser­va­tion of en­dan­gered big and small cats, par­tic­u­larly chee­tahs. Founded in 2016 by hus­band and wife team Chan­tal Ris­chard and Stephan Il­len­berger, in part­ner­ship with Riana van Nieuwen­huizen, the founder of Chee­tah Ex­pe­ri­ence Bloem­fontein, the aim of their sanc­tu­ary is to help pre­vent the de­cline of chee­tah pop­u­la­tions and in­crease the ge­netic gene pool through cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes. These chee­tahs will then be re-in­tro­duced into the wild through pro­tected wildlife re­serves by of­fer­ing sup­port to other eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives. They fur­ther aim to ed­u­cate the pub­lic, es­pe­cially the youth, about the plight of chee­tahs.

Ashia is an African name, mean­ing “life and hope”. Through ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences vis­i­tors get to un­der­stand the ur­gent need for ac­tion and the crit­i­cal need to pro­tect these ma­jes­tic preda­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Wildlife Fund, chee­tah num­bers have dropped from about 100,000 in 1900 to prob­a­bly 6,800 to­day and now only cover about 23% of their his­toric range in Africa. Of these, only about 2,000 live in pro­tected ar­eas. The species loss to­day is about 10,000 times higher than their nat­u­ral death rate. This is mostly due to hu­man/an­i­mal con­flict in ru­ral set­tle­ments and on com­mer­cial farms where chee­tahs are seen as a live­stock threat.

Ashia of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to aid in chee­tah con­ser­va­tion through vol­un­teer pro­grammes, work­ing hol­i­days and re­search/in­tern­ship pro­grammes. Lux­u­ri­ous guest ac­com­mo­da­tion opened in Jan­uary 2018, where vis­i­tors can ex­pe­ri­ence farm life and chee­tah con­ser­va­tion. Four spa­cious suites (3 x one-bed­room and 1 x two-bed­room) of­fer sump­tu­ous com­fort in re­laxed sur­round­ings, each en-suite with a fully equipped kitch­enette. Guests can re­fresh and eat at the Café with its sweep­ing views over the Drak­en­stein moun­tains, browse through the ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of high-end gifts and mem­o­ra­bilia in the Bou­tique Shop, or ex­plore the beauty and di­ver­sity of the farm on foot.

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