The Faces of Ashia 2018-02-08T06:59:12+00:00

The Faces of Ashia


Chantal Rischard & Stephan Illenberger

Co-founders & Directors Cheetah Experience Ashia

Chantal and Stephan are co-founders of Cheetah Experience Ashia and members of the Board of Directors.  Chantal was born in Luxemburg and with her German husband, Stephan, they spent most of their business life based in Europe.  Both always dreamed of living in South Africa, getting involved in conservation of endangered species and to follow their passion for wildlife photography…

Since they shared an equal enthusiasm for big cats, especially the cheetah, their travels brought them with increasing frequency to Southern Africa and in 2015 they made Cape Town a home as a base for further exploration.  At the same time, their dream of personally becoming involved in animal conservation was revived.  

When meeting with Riana it became obvious that the same passion and love for animals was shared.  Soon afterwards Chantal & Stephan decided to combine their dream with “The Cheetah Lady”, and to fully finance the purchase of the farm and the establishment of Cheetah Experience Ashia.


Riana van Nieuwenhuizen

Riana van Nieuwenhuizen Cheetah Experience Ashia

Riana is the founder of Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein and; co-founder of Cheetah Experience Ashia and member of the board of directors.  She is one of the leading “Cheetah Ladies” in South Africa and her passion is to educate people about these endangered animals.  Riana is committed to ensure that the South African cheetah populations chances of survival are strongly improved through strengthening blood lines and is pushing for DNA testing and the establishment of a stud book in the country to make breeding ethical.

Encouraged by the success and public response towards her project in Bloemfontein Riana realised her dream of procuring a safe haven near Cape Town for her hand raised ambassador cheetahs and animals in need alike.

Her motto is “HEAL“ (Help Endangered Animals Live). Read her story on

Cheetah Experience is a big cat centre based in Bloemfontein (Free State, South Africa) that was founded with the intention of assisting in the prevention of the further decline of cheetah populations. For this reason it’s long-term goal is to ethically breed cheetahs, in unison with other cheetah conservation projects, in an attempt to ensure viable genetic diversity. 

The future aspiration is to purchase an area of land in order to release cheetahs back into a ‘protected wild’, where they will be interfered with as little as possible by humans, yet will still be monitored closely by vets and researchers. This will allow to gain a better insight into the lives of these magnificent creatures.


Elmarie Verwey

Elmarie Verwey Farm Manager Cheetah Experience Ashia

Her dream is CARE – creating a farm where the focus is on Conservation, Agriculture, Rehabilitation and Education.

Elmarie first got in contact with Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein in 2010 through a friend who completed a documentary on Riana’s life with cheetahs. Working in the UK at the time as a Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Practitioner, she always had a passion for animals and these cats taking every opportunity to volunteer at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein when visiting family in South Africa. Ellie moved home to South Africa in 2013 after 13 years in the UK.  Cheetah Experience became her family and her home where she continued to work remotely as Occupational Health Advisor until the end of 2016.

Ellie comes from a family with an agricultural background, her parents and siblings all are involved in different fields of biology, agriculture, landscaping and all with a deep love for animals.

Ellie is now the full-time Farm Manager at Cheetah Experience Ashia, managing and overseeing daily farm operations and tending of the gardens.  She loves the outdoors, the animals and the opportunity to still be in contact with people on a daily basis.  She is enjoying being involved in a self-sustainable project with an eco-friendly approach, working in and with the community to raise awareness of the importance of a balanced eco system.  She believes it is our vital role and responsibility in conservation to protect nature and wildlife, especially for endangered species such as the cheetah.  Being able to combine all of these passions in one project is realizing her dream.


Kerry Boughton

Kerry Boughton Animal Welfare & Volunteer Programme Manager at Cheetah Experience Ashia

Having the opportunity to experience the majesty of these amazing animals, and to be allowed the privilege of working so closely with them, made me realise the passion inside of me to live and work with these fragile animals and assist in trying to save the species.

Kerry first travelled from her home in Australia to South Africa in 2011 where she volunteered at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein.  She fell in love with all the animals, but most markedly with the cheetahs. Kerry started making preparations at home to follow this dream. In 2014, after 20 years in the nursing profession, she left this world behind, and moved her 2 dogs to South Africa to take care of the animals and volunteers at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein.

Kerry is responsible for managing the overall well-being of the cheetahs and will also be running the volunteer booking program. She jumped at the opportunity to be able to work at the new project to ensure a smooth transition of the cheetahs to Cheetah Experience Ashia and to focus on providing an amazing opportunity for the volunteers to enjoy the wonders of the Cape Town project.


Lize-Mari Prinsloo

Lize-Mari Prinsloo Animal Care Coordinator At Cheetah Experience Ashia

I am very excited to be able to work so closely with the cheetahs and focus my attention on providing a high standard of care and an enriching environment for the cheetahs at Cheetah Experience Ashia.

Lize-Mari first volunteered at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein in 2013 whilst studying for her Bachelor of Science Degree (with a major in Tourism, Biology and Botany).

During her last year of study, she continued to volunteer in her free time until her graduation in 2014.  With her knowledge and experience to offer, Lize-Mari became a full-time staff member at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein upon graduation from University.  She has always had a passion for big cats and in particular for cheetahs.

Lize-Mari coordinates the staff and volunteers to provide the daily care and enrichment for our cheetahs.


Chanel Coetzee

Leopard and Animal Carer At Cheetah Experience Ashia

Chanel always knew from an early age that she wanted to work with big cats.  This led her to go and study Nature Conservation after school.  While there, she discovered Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein by reading an article in the YOU magazine.  She immediately contacted the owner Riana van Nieuwenhuizen and asked if she could volunteer in her holidays.

Volunteering really sparked her passion and eventually she landed a full-time position. Through the years she worked with many big cat species, but one in particular stole her heart, the leopards.

Chanel is responsible for the wellbeing and overseeing of the volunteers on the project. She coordinates and assists with individual as well as group activities, both on- and off-site. Being also responsible for the smooth running of our volunteer house she lives right next door and thus is always close by to lend an open ear to all kind of needs or the “big little worries”. She is very excited about being a part “of this gorgeous project” and cannot wait to show the volunteers not just the animals but the beautiful surroundings of the Western Cape as well. And once our leopards – which she loves to bits and knows so well and from working at Bloemfontein – have arived Chanel will be truly happy as she will be their animal carer.


Kate Lindop

Kate first volunteered at Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein in April 2017, and completely fell in love with the project and the animals. She was taking a sabbatical from her career in the UK, but after arriving back in England she permanently left her position to pursue a career working with animals; her biggest dream and passion. She had been asked to help with the set up Cheetah Experience Ashia and so returned back to South Africa in July.

Ashia instantly felt like home and Kate moved here in January to begin a new job and life on the farm.

Kate is the Guest Manager at Ashia, which involves managing the boutique shop, visitor activities and guest accommodation. She is also one of the animal carers; helping with all related duties and looking after the animals.

Kate has a background in art and design and so does some of the photography for social media and marketing, and produces artwork for the shop.


“Cheetah Experience Ashia providing hope for retired cheetahs.”