On the 1st May 2012, the WIldREACH team and 30 high school students from around Grahamstown had the privilege of escaping off to Port Elizabeth for another unforgettable journey. Our goal for this trip was to educate the students on the importance of marine conservation. In the end we found they had learnt a lot more than just facts, they had found a greater appreciation for our ocean and the majestic creatures that call our sea their home.
We arrived at SAMREC, an incredible marine rehabilitation and education centre, ready to explore and learn. We started off with a few games to get to know each other better. After five minutes a group of boisterous girls took the stage and started singing and dancing, bringing smiles to everyone’s faces.
We received a warm welcome and were brought inside to the presentation room. We began our journey with the students by teaching them what it means to reach out and start appreciating our wildlife and environment. After the WildREACH team had given their presentations, the students had filled their notepads up with new ways to recycle, reduce and reuse to help change their habits at home. They also received an informative presentation on job opportunities and potential tertiary education paths within the animal conservation and environmental spectrum.
Next up was a speech delivered by Eddie, a passionate employee at SAMREC. After being informed that the rehabilitation centre is not for penguins with alcoholic tendencies, he continued by explaining SAMREC’s mission – rescue, research, and release. We were told that their aim is not to teach us, rather to share information with one another. Eddie’s speech was powerful, reminding the students that we can either do good or destroy, and that it takes one person to make a difference and to go the right way. After being inspired, the students were taken to the beach to experience the beauty of the ocean first hand..
Splashing around in the breaks of the gentle waves, the students lit up. For some it was their first time experiencing the sea, and for others it was an opportunity to see the ocean in a different light – a natural beauty that needs to be conserved and protected. With full tummys and happy hearts, we left the beach and returned to the rehabilitation centre. Eddie taught us all about penguins, from their habits to their different coats and markings. He told us why the penguins need to be rescued and rehabilitated: oil spills, natural disasters or incidences that harmed a few penguins. SAMREC takes the penguins in and makes sure they do their best to help with the penguin’s recovery.
We then watched the recovering penguins being fed and enjoyed the playful nature of the animals. After getting to know the penguins, we were given a tour of the penguin ICU and learnt the ins and outs of how SAMREC manages to save so many penguins’ lives.
We ended the wonderful trip off with a huge thank you to Eddie and SAMREC for their hospitality. Hopping back in the busses, the quizzing games began. Testing the students on what they had learnt, the top two students in each bus received delicious prizes.
Overall, our day at SAMREC was a memorable adventure that left the high school students with smiles and a greater respect for our ocean and the beautiful creatures that live beneath the surface.
Author: Sarah Taylor (WildREACH media representative)