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 Program.
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.
Tavish joined us in January 2018 as a volunteer and became a full time staff member a month later. Tavish has been a keen birder from a young age and has become an essential part of our team. You can find him anywhere from the front desk (where he is often the first to greet and welcome you into the sanctuary), to presenting in the flying demonstrations or on fence-line patrol . He loves being outside and relishes opportunities to be in the bush, whether it be to look for snakes, birds, or other local wildlife. Tavish is now integral in our daily bird shows and is seen here with his favorite bird to fly, Roxy, our beautiful African Goshawk. He is devote Camo and Landrover fan and would not be caught dead without at least one of the two in his possession!
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 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!
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!