Hey, Rob here!
Today started off with us going to the uShaka marine world. We were given a behind the scenes guided tour of the facilities starting with the penguin enclosure and the turtle rehabilitation enclosure. Our guide told us how some turtles can get disorientated and end up with them to later be released into the wild. Last year, 12 turtles were successfully released and so far this year 9 have been released. Impressive!
The tour took us around the rest of the enclosures of the aquarium where we were told a little about the animals they had inside. Some of these animals included the stonefish, brindle bass and sharks. After seeing all of the animals in the aquarium, we went behind the scenes to see the quarantine and rehabilitation centers. In the rehab center, we saw how staff were rehabilitating their first ever elephant seal (they have huge eyes!) which they wish to release soon. They also had a southern cape fur seal which had been doing very well since they took it in.
We were then taken down to see a dolphin show where members of the audience were able to go down and pet the dolphins. You could tell that one of the dolphins was quite old as it couldn’t perform as well as the other younger dolphins.
The guide then took us to see the vets, where we were told how they train the dolphins to flip over to have blood taken or have an ultrasound etc. I had never thought about the difficulties of treating marine animals so it was really great to talk to them and ask questions.
The tour then took us into the Dangerous Creatures section. Here, we had the privilege to handle the green iguana they have there (friendly Fred – who was taken away from his owners after they chopped his tail off to make him fit in the cage!!) We also saw frogs, lizards, spiders and many venomous snakes including cobras and mambas.
The afternoon saw us going to Victoria Meat Market where we saw how the local people use everything in the animals they slaughter including heads, tendons and stomachs.
It was pretty gross, but at the same time good that they use everything they possibly can and nothing is wasted.
We then walked through the rest of Victoria Market, where we came across a shop selling curry spices with funny names like ‘Hell Fire’ and ‘Mother in Law Exterminator’.
A tour guide also took us to the Muthi Market, where local people sell various things to use in traditional Zulu medicine. Many of these things were roots and bark but other things that were beings sold were animal parts like skins, feet and skeletons. It is great to see how some traditions have survived up to this point, but seeing how they hung the animals up was quite unsettling. We were taken here to show us the difficulties that there are to be faced when working in conservation. Many of the animal parts on sale are from endangered and protected species which would normally result in somebody being prosecuted for possession – but as it is part of a cultural and traditional medicine there are certain exceptions that have been made. But this must make conserving and protecting those animals much more difficult and frustrating.
The day ended with us going to Victor’s house (Ishonalanga Wildlife Sanctuary and the only registered Primate Reserve in the area) and going on our first game drive, where we saw our first giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and impala in their natural habitats. It’s one thing seeing these animals in zoos, but it is totally different seeing them in their natural habitat especially when you get as close to the Giraffe as we did!
We had a speaker in the evening called Ramesh. He is a tiger expert with a doctorate from India but he has decided to do some groundbreaking studies here in South Africa. He is putting tracking collars on the little studied Serval and Jackal. His data already has brought to light the high rate at which they are being caught in snares or poisoned which was something that no one was aware of. We learnt that individuals can make a difference as a lot of the important groundwork that leads to an animal being protected is due to people like Ramesh who spend vast amounts of their time and money doing the fieldwork that people don’t tend to see when it comes to conservation.