Why do you want to talk to me? People think I’m just a crazy old witch,’ says Marieta van der Merwe, who has raised hundreds of big cats, baboons and other exotic creatures. A striking blonde in her late 50s, she ushers me into her kitchen, where she’s warming milk for Grace, a premature three-week old baboon. An owl that lives above the kitchen table is flying around. Lala, a fat blonde Labrador and surrogate mom to many lions and leopards, is snoring on a sofa, while a palm-sized piglet is stirring up the dirt in a litter box. Cats and dogs stream in and out, folding themselves into cushions.