meet the team
Owner and Founder
Lizette van Schalkwyk started Zanchieta Lodge and Wild Cat Farm in November 2008 when she took in two orphaned caracal babies, Zani and Ghieta. From there her love, passion, and determination to help animals has grown tremendously. Zanchieta now has over 70 wild animals of many different species to feed and care for daily, whom she loves unconditionally. She grew up on a farm, and later focused her life on the fulfilling task of helping animals. Lizette has over 30 years of relevant life experience with wild animals, a pleasure and commitment which taught her many lessons which cannot be captured in books. Beginning in her childhood she has always made an effort to help animals – one time as a child she found baby hedgehogs after their mother had an accident and she introduced them to a young cat who had just given birth to a litter of kittens. The cat raised the baby hedgehogs as well, who otherwise would not have made it on their own. Mother of many, Lizette finds her daily life immeasurably rewarding. She is a protector of innocent lives, and has proudly dedicated her life to this cause. The teamwork between humans and animals alike at Zanchieta is truly something to be witnessed.
Team Leader and Animal Caretaker
Miekie is intensely passionate about wild animals and has dedicated her life to being an animal caretaker. She has over well over 14 years of experience with wild animals, including both volunteer and professional work. She is a qualified rehabilitator, certified in first aid, as well as FGASA training – she has completed level 2 with the Field Guide Association of South Africa, among her many other rehabilitation and wildlife qualifications. Even on her days off Miekie makes herself available in case she may be needed on site. She is amazing at giving guided tours, as she has mastered the art of humorous and passionate storytelling. While she can seem fearless with the animals, she truly respects their abilities and the wildness in their nature. It may be said that she prefers working with animals more than people. Miekie is both a character and irreplaceable member of our team, and it is difficult to capture her nature in writing.
Hansie and his wife Mykie have been employed at the farm since 1998, before it became Zanchieta! He is a good farm worker, focused on tending to the sheep and cattle as well as maintaining the lands and fences. He is very handy and enjoys work projects involving our tractors as well.
Animal Food Preparation
Mykie joined our farm family here in 1998 with her husband Hansie. At the time she was pregnant with Hennie, their first of three children. Mykie is very helpful both indoors and outside on the farm. She is a hard worker and very good with animals. Her jobs include preparing food, feeding animals, and cleaning.
Groundkeeper / Maintenance
Son of Hansie and Mykie, Hennie grew up here on the farm with a passion for animals. The animals are drawn to him, especially the monkeys, which is rare to find. He is an excellent caretaker with great instincts for his job. Hennie has a constant awareness of how, when, and where he is needed whether it be by the animals or his coworkers. He has officially been a member of our staff since he was 18 years old and he is always looking for new ways to learn and be helpful.
Maria works in the Lodge here at Zanchieta and she has been an integral part of our team since 2011. She manages the lodge rooms, the washing room, and linens throughout the property. She has been responsible for training all new staff members and knows her work well.
Since 2012, Patrick has spent a majority of his work days in our workshop. He is a very good welder and steelworker and is responsible for building our enclosures. In addition to his passions for design and building with steel, he is also a well-rounded “fix it” man, and can offer a helping hand in many areas around the farm.
Sarah first visited Zanchieta during 2015 as a volunteer. She returned in 2020, again as a volunteer, but this time working in the office doing marketing. She spent the year living at Zanchieta, and has since continued as our Head of Marketing though she is no longer physically on the farm. Sarah is in consistent contact with the rest of the team. Her responsibilities include managing Zanchieta’s social media accounts, writing emails and other documents, finding advertisement opportunities, and acting as a marketing consultant. Sarah has a great love for both the animals and people at the sanctuary.
Ané has been involved at Zanchieta for a couple years as a volunteer and an intern. On the farm she takes on many roles, including volunteer leader, giving tours, and training under our primary animal caretaker. Ané is studying for her FGASA to become a tour guide. Her passion for animals is exemplary – she always goes the extra mile and puts in more of her time and energy than is expected. She gets along with all of the workers on the farm, makes herself available outside of normal hours, she is outgoing, and consistently eager to learn. At home Ané also has fur-babies she cares for.
Rolien is a 19-year old who is passionate about animals. She would like to become a wild animal care giver and is currently studying while doing practical work at Zanchieta. She believes every animal is unique and worthy of undivided attention. She also believes that every wild animal has the right to a quality life and to be free in its natural habitat.
Volunteer / employee of the month
Zanchieta is fortunate to have a passionate team of employees and volunteers, and we like to give special acknowledgement to the team members who go above and beyond. Our employee of the month will be someone who always shows up to work, ready to do their job the best they can! We want to recognize the people who make a difference and put in extra effort, by celebrating their contributions. Each month we will choose an employee to thank by offering them a day off work and dinner of their choice!
This month’s employee of the month is Hennie!
Hennie consistently uses his own initiative to outdo our expectations. If he is asked to do something, he does it immediately and without questioning or complaints. When he is doing a job, he does it the proper way, even if it takes him longer to do a quality job, because he cares about the work he is doing. Even during his off-hours Hennie makes himself available to help out if the need arises. His contributions to our farm deserve recognition and we are excited to celebrate his efforts this month.
Active Projects and goals
-Lions lookout (observation platform for people by the fence between the white and brown lions)
-Outdoor health clinic enclosures (5 separate enclosures to keep animals under strict observation and ease the course of treatment)
-New bird enclosures
-4 new large enclosures for smaller animals, connected by an enclosed hallway
-Big monkey enclosure (on the lawn in front of Z’s bar, tall with trees and many options for enrichment)
-2 Kids’ corners (playgrounds by the lodge and by the campsite)
-Enrichment activities (toys, puzzles, new scents, and creative projects that will keep the animals entertained)
-More platforms for the animals (an option for both lookout and shade/cover for the animal)