By Jane Dinkelman
Devastated but Regrouping After Wildlife Conservation Research and Education Facility Burns.
Jane tells us the sad, yet encouraging story:
"As I sit here typing, tears fill my eyes.
"In the middle of the busy city of Durban a little gem exists called the Beachwood Mangroves Reserve. This small nature reserve was the first stop of the Nikela 2014 tour, and Margrit met a group of extremely hard working and enthusiastically dedicated volunteers on her visit there. The Reserve is a mangrove swamp at the juncture of the Indian Ocean and the Umgeni River. None of the big 5 can be found there, but all the little critters that play their important parts in that very special eco system are avidly protected and studied by the volunteers who look after that environment with every spare moment outside of their normal working hours. Some have been doing it for over 40 years! I myself – only 6.
"During the years, our Ezemvelo Wildlife volunteers – or Honorary Officers, built up a wonderful stock of laminated photo’s, posters, banners, educational pamphlets, brochures and display items – all at their own private cost and time. From donated shark jaws to snares we found, from dung beetle balls to a variety of shells, of small skeletons found over the years, shark skin to touch, and so very very much more, it was all used to educate the public, sometimes at the reserve, or at school and varsity displays, or even at public events where we set up a stall… and for all of this we never charged a single cent.
"Now we can kiss that all goodbye, due to arson! Our beautiful Education Centre at the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve was torched in the middle of the night. The chairs, tables, posters, animal displays, every brochure or pamphlet we ever printed – every single thing that was in there is now ash. All our audio visual equipment…the lot. All gone.
"Yes it was definitely arson, as all the toilet windows were also smashed. Who did it? We will probably never know. A disgruntled fisherman who was perhaps fined for no license or catching undersized fish, a homeless vagrant chased out of the bush on the reserve… or perhaps a poacher whose snares we removed, or a fisherman whose illegal nets were confiscated. We are certainly not popular with the baddies out there.
"Yet hope still lives. The EKZN Wildlife Honorary Officers of North Durban will not give up. Already we are rallying our resources to provide a display for Varsity College this week, and Open Morning in March. We may not even have a chair to sit on, or a table to display on, but we are ready to continue to educate the public with just a handful of pamphlets and our own smiles. I know we will succeed too.
You see fellow wildlife warriors; there is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer. Remember that always.
By Jane Dinkelman, EKZN Wildlife Honorary Officer, North Durban Unit, Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve