FOUNDERS & DIRECTORS

Chantal Rischard & Stephan Illenberger

Chantal and Stephan

Chantal and Stephan are founders and directors of Ashia.

Chantal was born in Luxemburg and with her German husband, Stephan, they spent most of their business life-based in Europe. Both have always dreamed of living in South Africa, getting involved in the conservation of endangered species and following their passion for wildlife photography.

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

In 2016 Chantal and Stephan seized the opportunity to purchase a farm in Paarl, to fully finance the establishment of Ashia and to tackle the challenge to be actively involved in cheetah conservation. 

SENIOR SANCTUARY & GUEST MANAGER

Marna Smit

Marna Smit

Having spent the majority of her working life in wildlife conservation, protection and rehabilitation, Marna has found a new passion at Ashia and its cheetah population. Growing up between the Eastern Cape and the Western…

Cape, Paarl has always been a familiar place that she could easily call home once again.  After working with the endangered African Penguin for 6 years at a Cape Town institutional organization, she jumped at the opportunity to help a new project grow and develop. Working so closely with cheetahs has shown Marna the natural grace and calmness they exhibit, making her feel extremely privileged to be allowed to tackle this responsibility.

Starting in February 2019, Marna is now responsible for the day to day Management of all operational needs of the establishment in conjunction with the respective heads of Ashia’s key areas. This includes the overall well-being of all animals as well as humans – staff, visitors and overnight guests alike – on the farm. Marna runs the Volunteer Program, not only for Ashia but as well as assisting with the volunteer bookings for our Cheetah Wilding & Release Program.

SENIOR OPERATIONS & MAINTENANCE MANAGER

Leon Grove

Leon Grove

Leon’s journey with the cheetah sanctuary started already with the construction phase of Ashia in 2017 as site manager for our Builder. For the past 12 years he was working as construction and steel erection foreman honing…

his technical skills which he hopes to utilise now to keep up the high standard of the farm infrastructure.

Leon was responsible for building our roads and enclosures as well as general oversight of construction on the farm. Although these busy months afforded him little time to get closer to the cheetahs, he was able to get better acquainted with most of them thanks to the help of the staff. He got to understand why people became so passionate about the preservation of these amazing animals, as they all have their own personality traits making them unique. The dedication and passion of the staff at Ashia earned his respect and he also became good friends with all of them.  At the end of the construction period, he started to dread the day that he will have to leave Ashia to continue his career on the next site as a site manager.
It was therefore not a difficult decision when Chantal and Stephan offered him employment at Ashia in the capacity of operations and maintenance manager. Knowing almost every corner of the project Leon was able to practically start as a full-fledged member of Ashia staff, and contributes just as much to the project as to the people. 

ANIMAL CURATOR

Lize-Mari Prinsloo

Lize-Mari Prinsloo

Lize-Mari loves to be able to work so closely with the cheetahs and focus her attention on providing a high standard of care and an enriching environment for the cheetahs at Ashia. Lize-Mari first volunteered at Cheetah Experience…

Bloemfontein in 2013, whilst studying for her Bachelor of Science Degree (majoring in tourism, biology, and botany).

During her final year of studying, she continued to volunteer in her free time. Upon graduating in 2014, Lize-Mari became a full-time staff member at Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein. Aside from the knowledge and experience, she has to offer, she is incredibly passionate about cheetahs and other big cats.
Lize-Mari coordinates the staff and volunteers in order to provide daily care and enrichment for our cheetahs.

ANIMAL CARER

Dane Lotter

Dane Lotter

Dane has always had a passion for wildlife, and after finishing school, he went on to study Nature Conservation. After graduating with his National Diploma, he worked as a nature field guide at various game reserves. While working…

at Kuzuko Lodge he also developed a love for wildlife photography, and it was there where he met Stephan, Chantal, and Riana. After hearing about Ashia and their conservation efforts he knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to apply all his conservation and guiding knowledge and gladly moved to Paarl. Dane was interested in a more hands-on role with the animals and started working at Ashia in October 2018. He is one of our animal carers, and takes charge of the camp maintenance, irrigation and helps with all the food preparation for our cats. All the cats at Ashia have now crawled into his heart and he enjoys every moment working with them.

GUEST MANAGER

Kate Lindop

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 setup Ashia and so returned back to South Africa in July. Ashia instantly felt like home and Kate moved here in January 2018 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.

VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR & ANIMAL CARER

Christi-Mri Griessel

Christi-Mri Griessel

Christi realized her passion for wild animals when she started volunteering at Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein in November 2015. The day she started working with the animals, she knew that this was what she wanted to do with…

her life. Christi was a committed and hard-working local volunteer for 18 months, which earned her the opportunity to join the team as a permanent staff member in 2017. Christi undertook different roles, including the volunteer coordinator position, meat room coordinator as well as main animal carer.
As a child, Christi lived in Cape Town and always loved the city, so was keen to move to Ashia in November 2018 when a position became available. Christi is now a permanent Animal Carer and as well as a Volunteer Coordinator. Her experience, knowledge and the fact that she is familiar with most of the animals, has made her a valuable addition to the team.

OUR CAFÉ & CATERING LADY

Chanda Brozio

Chanda Brozio

Chanda, a world citizen, came to South Africa in the year 2000 to manage a guest farm and restaurant. But first she stepped into her Land Rover to meet the animals of this ancient land. The first herd of elephants she ever saw…

passing by touched her deep in her heart, and her soul was lost to Africa. To her they represented pure gracefulness and silence. She first came into contact with Ashia in early 2018. Since she lives close to the sanctuary in Paarl, she decided to pay a visit to participating in a daily tour … and the Cheetahs hijacked her heart. Retired and a bit bored, she hears Chantal asking after the tour, if anyone knows a person who wants to run the Café. Her hand went up instantly, and here she is, enjoying her work, being surrounded by the dedicated team, vibrant volunteers and lovely incoming guests.

Chanda is our Café Manager, looking forward to serving you a coffee, a cake, breakfast, a cheese platter with wine or some delicious smoothies… Welcome, just pop in and enjoy some of her delicacies.

LANDSCAPING

Jay Friedemann

Jay Friedemann

Originally from Durban, KwaZulu Natal, Jay has been involved with wildlife and conservation all of her adult life. After leaving High School she joined the Natal Parks Board (now called Ezimvelo) as an Honorary Officer and later joined…

C.R.O.W. (Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife). During the week she volunteered at C.R.O.W. and on weekends she was with the Natal Parks Board. During this time, she completed a course in Urban Field guiding and her first year of Nature Conservation. Jay moved to Mpumalanga in 2008 and in 2014 to Western Cape. When she heard of a vacancy at Ashia and knew in her heart that this is where she belonged. Although it is not hands on with animals, it is just as important to the welfare of the animals as working with the animals directly. There are many cogs in the machine that keeps Ashia running on a daily basis and each one is necessary to make it function smoothly.

Jay joined the Ashia team in May 2018 and coordinates all the landscaping and gardening needs of the Sanctuary.

INTRODUCING

Our Housekeeping Team

Our Housekeeping Team

We are blessed with our housekeeping team as the ladies not only keep everything spotless but also love cooking and enjoy taking take…

care of the staff, guests and volunteers.

From Left to Right

MICHELLE WILLIAMS

Michelle is originally from Wellington Western Cape. She joined team Ashia in October 2018 to reinforce our housekeeping team. Michelle also enjoys cooking for the staff and volunteers as well as talking to our international volunteers and learning from them about their country and culture. She also loves to chat to the staff about the animals and our project here at Ashia. Since she has started working at Ashia she has grown to love big cats.

LUCILLE KOCK

Lucille is originally from Worcester Western Cape. She joined team Ashia in May 2017 and is our Senior Housekeeper. She is the daughter of Johny van der Bank, our Farm Foreman. Lucille met and married Kenneth Kock, one of our farm workers, here at Eben farm a year before the farm was turned into the present sanctuary. Lucille always keeps a cool head event when things get hot in the kitchen.

CHERYLDENE VAN WYK

Cheryldene is also from Wellington Western Cape. She also joined team Ashia in October 2018 to reinforce the housekeeping team. Cheryldene enjoys cooking for the staff and volunteers and always has a smile and a friendly greeting for everyone. She is interested in the international guests and loves talking to them. She is also fascinated by the cheetahs and worried about their race for survival.

LIZELLE TIMONITA MBANGO (AKA NITA)

Nita is originally from Murraysburg, a small town in the heart of the Klein Karoo. Nita joined team Ashia in January 2018 as a housekeeper. Before she started working at Ashia she stayed on Eben Farm, where she met and married Willem, who lived and worked on the farm next door. Nita admits that sometimes there are challenges when working with people from different countries and cultures. Nita saw already some of our cubs grow into beautiful adult cheetahs. In her own words “it’s fascinating just to look at the animals. Amazing … God’s creatures”.

INTRODUCING

Our Farm Team

Our Farm Team

Some of our workers know the farm and its infrastructure much longer than we do and are a valuable addition to the whole Ashia team.

From Left to Right (starting at the back row)

VALESIO “WILLEM” MBANGO

Willem grew up in Paarl and joined the Ashia team from the start in October 2016 as a farmhand. He met and married Nita, one of our housekeeping ladies, when he lived and worked on the next-door farm. Willem is quite the handyman and is happiest when he is driving a tractor but helps around the farm and/or sanctuary where ever he is needed. Willem is a man of few words and loves playing practical jokes on his fellow workers at lunch time or after work.

JOHNY VAN DER BANK

Johny is originally from Ocean View Western Cape and the father of Lucille. He started working on Eben farm 26 years ago at the age of 22. After Ashia took over the farm and started with the cheetah sanctuary, Johny stayed loyal to the farm and from the beginning in October 2016 he is Ashia’s Farm Foreman. He once was the pastor at the farm’s little church which, after renovation and extension, is now known as the “Fiela Cottage” and hosts some of our staff. His colleagues affectionately call Johny “Oupa” (meaning Grandfather) not because of age but because of his knowledge and out of respect for him. Johny has an extensive hands-on-experience when it comes to the harvest of our grapes, olives and guavas or the irrigation and various pipe systems. He knows almost everything about the farm and its workings and is teaching Kenneth as his second in command.

KENNETH KOCK

Kenneth grew up in Paarl. He has worked on the farm for 10 years. With the establishment of Ashia in October 2016 he stayed on the farm to join team Ashia. Starting as a farmhand he quickly evolved into the role of the Assistant Farm Foreman. Kenneth met and married Lucille, Johny’s daughter, on the farm. He is interested in every aspect of the farm and knows a lot about both the farming & harvesting and the technical aspects like irrigation or pump systems on the farm. He helps Johny oversee the farmhands and casuals.

RANDALL KOCK

Randall also grew up in Paarl and is Kenneth’s nephew. In January 2018 he joined team Ashia as a farmhand. He loves his job on the farm, enjoys working amongst the cats, learning about them, and is never afraid to enter the enclosures for some small and quick maintenance works. Randall helps around the farm and/or sanctuary where ever he is needed.

WAYNE PIETERSEN

Wayne has been in Paarl all his life. He also joined team Ashia in January 2018 as a farmhand. Wayne loves seeing the animals every day. He knows them all by sight and name and enjoys having a little chat with them through the fence. Wayne is mainly responsible for maintaining the animal enclosures and keeping them neat and tidy.

 

“Ashia providing hope for retired cheetahs.”