KZN twitcher makes a global call

The Independent on Saturday - - METRO - ARTHI GOPI [email protected]

HE’S into the sort of tweets not found in the vir­tual world, but his love for feath­ered crea­tures is now cer­tainly known around the world.

KZN bird­ing guide Junior Ga­bela fea­tured last night on CNN’s African

Voices show, speak­ing about his love for bird­watch­ing, and his jour­ney in mak­ing it his ca­reer path.

While very ex­cited about show­cas­ing his work on the in­ter­na­tional plat­form, Ga­bela, 35, who lives with his fam­ily in KwaDukuza, north of Dur­ban, said it was all about the birds.

“To me, birds are ev­ery­thing. They are very spe­cial crea­tures and I love learn­ing about them and shar­ing knowl­edge about them,” said Ga­bela.

His love for bird­ing be­gan when he used to go fish­ing with his fa­ther as a teenager, in the Zu­l­u­land area.

“I started to lis­ten to the birds, and then I would learn all the gar­den birds, then I’d learn the for­est birds. I loved watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to them.

“A while later, I went on a course with Birdlife SA and trained to be­come a guide. This is what I do now, do­ing what I love best. I can say that I don’t have a prob­lem dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween the bird calls, I know them that well,” he laughed.

He con­ducts tours in the Amatikulu Na­ture Re­serve, the Ngoye For­est Re­serve, Nkandla For­est, Dlinza For­est, Eshowe, Mtun­zini, Richards Bay, and Um­lalazi Na­ture Re­serves.

“I also do some sites around Dur­ban such as Pi­geon Val­ley Na­ture Re­serve, but I fo­cus on the Zu­l­u­land area. They have good bird­ing sites,” he added.

With a client base made up of a good mix of for­eign­ers and lo­cals, Ga­bela said avi­tourism was a grow­ing sec­tor.

“The bird­ing so­ci­ety around the world is very pop­u­lar. Many of these twitch­ers, as they are called, want to come to south­ern Africa to spot birds, as our area has a rich bio­di­ver­sity. South­ern Africa has 960 dif­fer­ent species of birds,” he said.

Apart from tours, Ga­bela also spends his time con­duct­ing re­search in the field on birds, as well as host­ing ed­u­ca­tional talks at schools.

With more than 700 birds crossed off his twitch­ing list, Ga­bela hopes to see the rest of the birds soon.

“I’m a real twitcher. I need to see the rest of the birds on my list, but I’d need to travel to Mozam­bique to see them. For now, though, I want to show the beau­ti­ful birds we have right here in KZN,” he said.

African Voices fea­tur­ing Ga­bela will re­peat on CNN to­day at 8am and 5.30pm; to­mor­row at 1.30am, 5.30am and 9pm; on Mon­day at 6am; and on Tues­day at 11.30am.

KZN bird­ing guide Junior Ga­bela’s love for tweets has been show­cased around the world in a CNN ‘African Voices’ re­port. See CNN.com

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