"A birthday party with 20 kids! Are you mad?" Just one of the comments I got when I told people that Chaos Boy has invited 20 kids to his birthday party this past weekend. "What are you going to do with them? They'll wreck your house!" Another couple of comments. Well, I asked Chaos Boy what he wanted to do for his birthday party and he decided that he wanted to take his friends to go and see the penguins at the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SAMREC) in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve here in Port Elizabeth. SAMREC primarily (but not exclusively) concentrates on the conservation of the African Penguin and has a very strong educational aspect to it.
The tour was conducted by SAMREC's environmental education manager, Eddie Molekoa, who expertly showed them around and kept very tight control of the group. Before the tour I did give them a stern talk about behaving but I was still a bit worried. Those worries went out the door when I saw the interest they all showed when Eddie started talking. After an introduction to penguins in the foyer they all had a look into the mouse hole to see the centre's mouse house. The next stop on the tour, the Interaction Room.
The Interactive Room is also referred to as the "Must Touch Room" and this is where this bunch was in their element. The room contains everything from a stuffed penguin, baby seal and otter to sharks teeth, whale baleen, shells, fish and, and, and... Way too much to sit and list over here. Lets just say that in this room kids are encouraged to touch and feel, allowing them the opportunity to experience and get in touch with things they would probably never have the opportunity to out in nature. The problem with this room is the fact that the kids just don't want to leave.
In the animal hospital Eddie demonstrated to the kids how the penguins get washed and fed when they come to the centre. Some of the patients would have oil on them when they arrive and the whole process gets explained. They also got to see the amongst others the ICU area.
The last part of the tour is another highlight. The penguin pool is where these endangered birds spend their days. Eddie told the kids about the birds that is there at the moment and which ones would be returning to Algoa Bay soon. Some of the kids (Drama Princess in particular) really enjoyed the windows from which you can watch the birds swim underwater while the others just couldn't stop asking question.
I've taken many people and members of the media to SAMREC before, but this was my first party. I really hope more and more people get to know of this very special centre as they get no government funding and has to work with what they make through entrance fees, penguin adoptions and donations from members of the public and the private sector.