- A Durban boy surpassed his goal of raising R15 000 for the Umgeni River Bird Park, reaching more than R20 000 by the weekend.
- Romario Valentine received a certificate of excellence and spent some time with his beloved birds for his birthday celebration.
- Praise was internationally sung for the youngster who is passionate about nature conservation.
Nine-year-old Romario Valentine from Durban exceeded his own R15 000 goal of helping to fund the Umgeni River Bird Park after raising more than R20 000.
The youngster was invited to the popular bird park over the weekend after he raised awareness for the financially strained sanctuary which has been hard hit since the Covid-19 lockdown began in late March.
He enjoyed his ninth birthday celebrations at the park after he was invited by curator Tarryn Bristow on Saturday and was presented with a certificate of excellence by the Education and Awareness Programme co-ordinator, Grant Aggett-Cox.
"He was overwhelmed," Romario's mother, Delsha Moodley, told News24 on Monday.
She said her son was taken on a short-guided tour, making his birthday wish come true. He had a chance to see a galah cockatoo, called George, up close.
Romario was also showed a hamerkop's nest close to the park's waterfall. These birds have returned to the park during the lockdown after more than 20 years.
When he left, he received a fluttering ovation from the resident macaws and white cockatoos, including a "hello" and bobble head dance from one of them.
Moodley said even she was overwhelmed by the birds' reaction.
"I was overwhelmed by that. We just want people to try to support the bird park."
By Sunday, Romario, ably assisted by his mother, raised R20 698.62. The campaign will remain open until the end of the week should last minute well-wishers want to contribute to the campaign.
"Thank you to my parents and everyone who shared and supported my bird conservation campaign and Umgeni River Bird Park who gave me the opportunity to assist. Together, we have helped the birds," the elated boy said.
Moodley added she was proud of her son.
"I have been in contact with Tarryn and she said they have received a lot of calls from overseas people. The campaign spread internationally. The bird park houses many birds from all over the globe."
He thought it was a joke
She said Romario first thought she was joking when she told him they would spend time at the park, which has been closed since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
"He first thought I was joking, it became a reality when we went to the actual bird park. He is quite a joker and he thought I was pulling his leg. When we were at the bird park he was anxious, but he was so overwhelmed when he saw the birds."
Moodley added her family had been supporting charitable organisations and wildlife for many years.
"I started when I was 14 doing things like that. It is something we do naturally. We cannot go to people for money, but through the crowdfunding, we found a way to reach out to family and friends to contribute and market the bird park."
She added: "They do such an amazing job. You can never see all the countries in the world, but at the bird park, you can get a taste of it."
If you want to donate money to the bird park, visit here.