And it would be one particular species that would come to occupy Volker’s heart and mind first and foremost: the Acinonyx jubatus, or cheetah. Consequently, in 2011 Volker traveled from his home in the U.S. to volunteer at a South African sanctuary near Bloemfontein run by a charity called the Cheetah Experience. The non-profit organization’s goal is to educate people to the plight of the endangered species and save selected big cats from harm. It also operates a breeding program to bolster cheetah numbers.
Contrary to what its name would seem to indicate, though, the Cheetah Experience is not just a home for that species. In fact, its rescue center provides a haven for all kinds of vulnerable cats, including leopards, lions, caracals, servals and African wildcats. Volker, then, became an on-off intern at the Bloemfontein facility, traveling back and forth from the States to indulge his passion and vocation.
And it was during one of his extended missions to the Cheetah Experience center in 2014 that Volker first met a resident called Eden. That first year, the pair did not get the chance to know each other too well. But Volker really bonded with the female cheetah when he returned the following summer.