CEO, Shannon Hoffman began working full time with birds of prey in the year 2000. Trained in horse breeding and after also working in PR and environmental journalism, she began her ‘hands on’ raptor work in Dubai where she lived and worked in the Arabian desert with falcons, horses and camels. On returning home Shannon wished to use these raptor handling skills to translate the many threats that face our indigenous raptors into concepts that South Africans could see and understand. So, to increase public awareness of our amazing African raptor diversity, she initiated an educational facility in Botha’s Hill, called ‘On Air Raptor Displays’. Here she let the birds be the teachers by conducting free-flying displays for the next three years. In 2006 this public awareness facility was combined with the operations of the rehabilitation centre, Raptor Rescue, on the current property and the “African Bird of Prey Sanctuary” was born. Shannon now oversees the flying displays and public side of operations while concentrating on a new challenge to which her unique skill set is suited; that of managing the harvest and propagation of the critically endangered Bearded Vulture in the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Programme.
Candice joined the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in July of 2015 as the front of house manager. She is a local lady whose time is currently a balancing act of keeping up with her her gorgeous 2-year-old daughter, Lea and keeping us all at the Sanctuary in line. Her current position now combines her employment history of both administration and retail. She manages the shop and cafe and is the voice on the phone and the shy smile at the door on your arrival. Bookings and functions are also organized through Candice. Candice, honestly didn’t stand a chance and has even on occasion been roped into flying a bird or two and we have a sneaky suspicion that our ‘feathered friends’ have now crawled into her heart; even if her eyes were closed at the time! So, if you need to know something – ask Candice and if she doesn’t know – she will find out!
Sindy is also local lady and mother of one; although she commutes daily from the opposite direction in the valley to work. She is the front of house and café assistant and will happily provide you with a bite to eat should you feel a snack attack coming on. Sindy’s toasted sandwich or tea and cream scone will ensure that your all-round visit to the Sanctuary is complete. Sindy has worked in restuarants before and her steady smile should make you feel right at home.
Lu Mlambo is a groundsman at the Sanctuary and joined the team in March 2012. Lu cares for the big raptors at the Sanctuary, so the eagles in Eagle Alley and the Vultures are his charges. Lu is also involved with the construction of new enclosures and enjoys tinkering on the maintenance jobs. The upkeep of the grounds is of course part of the day’s work and in summer time the grass grows as fast as Lu can cut it. We all rely on Lu to be our ‘power house’in any operation. Our gentle strongman indeed!
Hla is the newest member of our team, having started as a grounds-lady in January 2016. She maintains the owls enclosures in ‘Hoot Hollow’, is an avid gardener and helps out with relief work in the cafe. Hla says that she has learnt so many things already during her time at the Sanctuary. She says that she didn’t realize that creatures were just as important as people and that there was actually such a diversity within the raptor bird group. “An owl was just an owl and and eagle just an Eagle when I started,” says Hla with a laugh….but not anymore! Hla enjoys and communicates well with customers and she truly puts into practice the adage that a smile doesn’t cost you anything!
Jan De Waal
Jan first arrived at the Sanctuary as a volunteer and then left the corporate world of purchasing, procurement and labour relations in 2015 to persue a life that he longed for. His passion for wild things makes Jan an ideal manager for the Sanctuary as nothing is to big or too small for his energetic attention. Jan’s various skills encompass the workings of the whole facility and you can just as easily find him presenting a show as you can see him driving the old tractor, fixing a pipe, working the till or even leaping over the electric fence to catch a run away secretary bird! Jan’s enthusiasm is truly infectious and you cannot help but try harder, hope for more and want to ‘join the crazy’ once you have met with him. He also brings the tri-factor into the flying shows, making our presentations a eclectic ‘drie-taalig’ mix.
When joining the team in March 2009 Belinda Phetha began her work experience in “Hoot Hollow”, where she cared for the owls and maintained their enclosures daily. Rapidly proving to be a “Jill of all trades”, Belinda then became a wiz in Kestrel Cafe when it got busy and also prepared the daily rations for the birds behind the scenes too. Be has worked her way up to the position of raptor-handler, flies the birds in show and prepares the meaty food rations for the 100-odd predatory birds that call the Sanctuary home. Her friendly disposition and openess is invaluable to our outreach work as she honestly wishes to educate the young people who vist the Sanctuary and dispel the fear that many folk have for owls in particular. Her love for people, the birds she cares for and God shines through in her infectious smile and does even more to translate her conservation message than even her command of both the Zulu and English language.
Wiseman Gcabashe is the second Sanctuary groundsman and animal husbandry assistant and joined the team in 2012. Wiseman also looks after the small livestock (rabbits and guinea pigs) and is meticulous in cleaning his Honeycomb Habitat enclosures. His favorite raptor is Neptune the Fish Eagle . Wiseman also assists with new enclosure construction and maintenance of the bird-park grounds. He is quiet, but always present and accounted for!
Biologist Ben Hoffman manages the specialist rehabilitation unit called RAPTOR RESCUE, handling over 100 rehabilitation cases annually. He has been actively working with birds of prey both in South Africa and Zimbabwe for over 30 years. Ben was with the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management before doing his dangerous drugs license and moving into specialized wildlife capture and international translocations. As an active falconer he has watched and hunted a wide variety of raptors. Understanding how a raptor operates in the wild makes Ben very successful in their rehabilitation and release. He also is the liaison for any research and tracking project requirements, now manufacturing many of dedicated tracking units himself.