Education centre lost

2014-02-25 00:00

IT will take a lot of work and time to rebuild and replace material and information at the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve’s educational centre, KZN Ezemvelo CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said yesterday.

The centre was burnt down between Thursday evening and Friday morning, and documents dating back to the 1950s, including learning material on marine and terrestrial biodiversity, went up in flames.

An official who is not allowed to speak to the media said they had received a call from a security guard about an alarm that was triggered at the reserve in the early hours of Friday morning. The centre serves both school children and adults.

“When we got here one of the buildings was engulfed in flames. These are wooden structures housing educational material for both the elderly and school children. This place is frequented by groups of learners from as far as England. Oprah’s pupils also visited this place. The destroyed documents, including newspaper clippings dated back to the 1950s,” said the official.

He said apart from the documents, shells, and a variety of other historical and environmental material were destroyed in the fire. “Years of handwork collection is gone. The material had great value because some of the shells, for example, are no longer available. On average we get about 200 to 300 learners per week coming to learn more about marine life and terrestrial biodiversity,” said the official.

Vagrants who hang out in the nearby bushes are suspected to have set the centre on fire. When it is raining they try to climb over the gate to hide under the bridge that runs over the reserve, and they are chased away by security.

The reserve is managed by KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife. Mkhize said while some of the destroyed material can be replicated, not all can be.

“Some information dates back many years ago. Some of the material held sentimental value. It’s going to be a lot of work to re-build the destroyed centre. The reserve is recognised worldwide,” said Mkhize.

He said rare species of crab that cannot be found anywhere else in the world are found at the reserve. “Ironically my daughter and her school were supposed to have visited the educational centre on Friday. So obviously the place was burnt down either in the evening or early Friday morning,” he said.

He said at this stage they didn’t know how the place could have caught fire, but vagrants in close vicinity were not ruled out. He estimated the cost in damages to around R300 000.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the incident had been reported to the police.

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