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An impossibility is an opportunity


SAEON’S Advenviro Kids who attended the Ndlovu Node’s 2008 Winter School. Standing, from left: Cynthia Mohale, Mahlatse Letsoalo, Hunadi Makua, Eugene Maleyana, Noel Rissenga, Clement Hlungwana. Seated, from left: Nkhensani Mametwa, Morning-Prayer Maluleke, Philani Mdhluli, Gaynelle Makhubele, Mavis Malatji, Mokgadi Seale (Picture © Joe Sibiya)

Wow look at me now! The Advenviro Kids pose with a python at Kamai Reptile Park near Hoedspruit. The lesson they took home that day is that “snakes don’t attack people out of the blue and warn you when you’re too close or if they are about to strike”. (Picture © Joe Sibiya)

Members of the team mark and measure trees for the SAEON tree monitoring project at Blyde River (trackers) (Picture © Joe Sibiya)

Hunadi Makua of Matome Malatji High School sets up a plot for the SAEON tree monitoring project at Blyde River (Picture © Joe Sibiya)


Following the success of ADVENVIRO 2008 - the SAEON Ndlovu Node’s Winter Adventure School for learners in the Ba-Phalaborwa region - Education Outreach Officer Joe Sibiya received the following report from the learners who attended the event. The report is published in its original format and has not been edited.

The 7th of July was the day which the 12 learners (one from each local school) stepped into an unknown, lonely world where they only knew themselves and had the choice to either befriend with someone or walk the 5-day journey alone.

We made no bones about being friends, in fact, it took us no less than an hour to know each other and discover that Noel Rissenga was a comedian and an advisor because he always made sure that no one left with question marks concerning daily life problems. This very day was the day in which we met a very intelligent man called Dave Rushworth, who was going to be our nature lecturer during our visit in Trackers.

Our journey started with the study of the topographical map and the orthophoto map. We realised that maps aren’t just for directions but are the two scale diagrammatic representation in natural and manmade features.

We also noticed that we were situated near a river called the Blyde River and that’s where our group’s name originated from. We visited the river and learnt about different trees like the Matumi tree which grows on rocks in the river, not in soil, and gets its nutrients from the water. It’s also known as the mixing tree because of its branches (it’s used by the African people to mix porridge). There was also a magnificent tree, which doesn’t burn from fire, called the Rauvolfia Caffra tree.

When the sun went down, the bigger stars appeared and we were taught how to determine south by using the Southern Cross and the two stars close to it on its right, when you’re disorientated or lost in the bush at night.

On the 8th, early in the morning with the cold breeze blowing through our ears and cheeks trying to paralyse them with cold, we sat outside watching the sun rising to the sky and learnt that the sun is a wake up call to birds and diurnal animals; it determines their feeding and sleeping time. We also learnt how to interpret sounds and identify the object without seeing it. Hunadi and Mokgadi learnt that every object makes sounds, e.g. concrete, stove, and we hear some objects’ sounds but we don’t realise that we are hearing them because they aren’t loud.

Later on we learnt about how organisms interact with each other and deducted that the different types of rocks on earth determine the different types of soil which determine the different types of plants which form a habitat and food source, which then determine the different types of animals situated in different habitats which satisfy their needs, for instance, when you hear an insect eating bird you’d instantly determine the ecosystem and organisms found in the place where the bird may be before you see it.

In the afternoon we went on a boat trip in the Blyderivierpoort Dam (52m deep) where we saw the Highveld cabbage tree which is foreign to the place since it’s a lowveld region and its seed got there by means of bird droppings. We also saw different living organisms such as crocodiles, hippos, the Egyptian geese and kudus. We saw the waterfall which consists of spring water with high calcium, this waterfall is known as the ‘crying face’.

Due to our exposure to animals, we had to learn about animal behaviour to prevent people from running away from harmless animals or approaching harmful animals in a total wrong manner. We learnt about the warning and attacking zones of animals which are also present in ourselves. This lecture made us to ease our fear in snakes.

On the 9th, we had to put our animal behaviour lecture into practice in the Khamai reptile park by having to take a photo with a python around our necks. Mavis and Mahlatse failed this because snakes were their biggest fear, so tears of fear rolled down their cheeks making them prettier and the python adored them. On the other side we had people like Philani who can consider having a job which involves snakes because he was so calm and even kissed the snake, from far you’d swear that they were married. On that day we learnt that snakes don’t attack people out of the blue and they warn you continuously when you’re too close or if they are about to attack. Some venomous snakes bite without injecting any venom which is a clear sign that snakes aren’t here to harm us thus let’s also not harm them.

We are fortunate and honoured to say that we were the first ADVENVIRO Kids to mark trees with the SAEON staff. We set up a 20m by 20m plot where we marked trees in it, measuring their diameter, circumference, canopy, etc. Khensani, Gaynelle, Clement and their leader Nikki took the marking into their stride and they marked as many guava trees as they could (since food is their middle name). On this day we also learnt that trees provide us with food, water (is the result of leaves transpiring), oxygen and are a habitat for most animals.

On the 10th, we visited an animal rehabilitation centre called Moholoholo which takes hand raised or injured animals and birds into their custody to mend the animals’ broken parts and take it back to the wild, but they’ve failed to return most of the animals due to damages they couldn’t fix. We saw different animals there together with the environmental cleaners known as vultures. We also had the opportunity to touch a cheetah (yes it was alive but tamed), and saw the leopard (it’s the animal which is impossible to tame), hyenas and the smartest animal called the Honey Badger, which we associated with Eugene.

On this day we learnt that the community is not well informed about nature and we carry on disturbing or rather ruining their habitats or taking them into our homes. Animals are meant to be in the wild so that they can do their duty in nature. In nature there are ecosystems and if a factor is destroyed then the whole ecosystem will be destroyed.

The 11th was the day which our hearts bled whenever the thought that we had to leave crossed our minds. Although Cynthia and Morning-Prayer weren’t as loud as we were, they’ll always stay in our hearts. In our journey we learnt to love each other and deal with animals. We learnt how the things around us together with the trees and animals interact with each other. Surely nature is a very interesting subject.

Unto Mr Joe Sibiya, Mrs Sibiya and Pulane thank you for your patience and your encouragement you gave us especially when things got tough. Thank you for making us realise how much of a difference young individuals like us can make in the environment and in our community. Thank you SAEON for making us the first kids to help you mark and monitor trees. Let this project grow and may you accomplish your mission of exposing teenagers to nature and opening their eyes to see the career opportunities which lie in nature.

Surely you had our minds twisted and most of us are now interested in a career which involves nature. We as the 2008 ADVENVIRO kids will carry on making a difference out there with the skills and knowledge we obtained.


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