Kids swop the mall for crabs and mud
FOR the average youngster a world without electricity, running water, cellphones or iPods is unimaginable.
However, for a group of more than 30 youngsters, leaving such comforts behind to get back to nature was something they were willing to do.
The youngsters, aged from nine to 18, participated in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s “survival weekend” at the Beachwood Mangrove Nature Reserve last week.
They were taught the basics such as how to make a fire, find fresh water and get a sense of direction if lost.
Though some were sceptical about living “in the wild”, most were excited at the prospect of not having to bath twice a day or being scolded for exploring nature and getting dirty in the process.
Eleven-year-old J D le Roux from New Germany was excited about spending time outdoors as he is a nature lover.
“I am having a great time looking for crabs and learning things about nature. I think it is important for all young people to know about dangerous insects and plants so they can avoid them.”
Le Roux said that when he grows up, he wants to be a vet and a nature conservationist in his spare time.
Rori Maine, 9, from Glen Anil, said she was having a great time and was learning a lot at the survival camp.
“I attended an open day at the reserve on a Saturday with my mother and sister and heard about this weekend. I knew I had to attend because it sounded like so much fun.”
She said it was important for the youth to learn survival tricks, such as lighting a fire and finding water, so they could avert a crisis.
Brandon O’Neil, 16, from New Germany was nominated as one of the team leaders over the weekend.
Though he admitted it was a big responsibility looking after the younger children, he said teaching them about nature conservation was important.
“Young people can be ignorant about wildlife. This weekend has been about teaching them how to preserve our planet’s resources.
“If we don’t change our living habits soon, there will be nothing left of our natural resources for the future generation, and kids need to know this.”
O’Neil said he was fortunate to grow up with a love for the outdoors because his family often went camping.
“I hope to encourage people to take an interest in the outdoors. It is exciting visiting new places and learning about all nature has to offer,” he said.
Pam van Biljon, a North Durban honorary officer at Ezemvelo, organised the survival weekend to encourage teenagers to learn more about nature conservation.
“This weekend is about training kids to conserve what little we have left of our natural resources.
“I hoped to raise the importance of recycling and encourage the kids not to litter.
“It is important to impart this information to children when they are young so that they can grow up with these values,” she said.
Van Biljon said the youngsters were divided into three teams, each with a designated team leader.
They were assigned various tasks such as building a waterproof shelters with whatever materials they could find as well as pitching tents, as they would be sleeping outdoors.
“Our main aim is to create a general awareness of nature. It is important to get kids outdoors. Too often they are bogged down indoors watching television or playing on a computer.
“When they are outdoors, they are active and learning about nature, which is all around them,” said Van Biljon.
The children were also taught about research being conducted at the reserve on the rare black-headed dwarf chameleon and the tangoman crab.
“On Saturday night, we took the teams out to search for the black-headed dwarf chameleon and the tangoman crab as they are nocturnal creatures.
“The children had great fun searching for them by torchlight. Though it was fun, they learnt a lot at the same time.”
Van Biljon holds an open morning session every third Saturday where children are welcome to learn about nature conservation.
Linda Swemmer, an honorary member at Ezemvelo, who co-organised theweekend, said they were hoping to hold the events quarterly.
“Judging by the enthusiasm shown by the children, incorporating fun activities while teaching them about nature is a winning combination,” she said.
“They are so eager to learn, which is wonderful, so we hope to do this on a regular basis.”
The children slept outdoors in tents which they erected, and cooked food over a fire they had built themselves.
“There are no electricity or bathing facilities. They are being taught to really rough it.
“We taught the kids how to build traps to catch food such as swimming crabs and cane rats, which they were not too keen to eat,” Swemmer added.
There was no charge to attend the survival weekend.