FEEL GOOD | Young Durban environmental activist pledges R12 000 to support bird sanctuary

From left, Delsha Moodley, Clive Valentine and Romario Valentine.
From left, Delsha Moodley, Clive Valentine and Romario Valentine.
Zane Groenewald
  • Durban youngster Romario Valentine has so far raised R12 000 for the Umgeni River Bird Park.
  • The eight-year-old resolved to help his favourite nature site in the city after Covid-19 halted business at the park.
  • His drive for nature is so strong that the youngster makes his parents take him to the beach on Friday's to pick up litter. 

A Durban boy has raised over R12 000 in a bid to help boost funds for his favourite nature site in the city, the Umgeni River Bird Park.

At just eight-years-old, Romario Valentine from Umhlanga, Durban, says he has dreams of one day becoming a scientist to better understand, protect and conserve the environment.

Proving that you're never too young to stand up for what you believe in, Romario has been an active ocean warrior for the past two years, cleaning up his local beach once a week and raising awareness around the dangers of pollution.

Through his frequent visits to the Umgeni River Bird Park, in Durban North, a 3.5-hectare reserve which is home to over 800 birds from 200 species, Romario developed a passion for birds and protecting endangered species.

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As a keen artist, Romario is often seen conceptualising mathematical art drawings of his favourite feathered friends such as the Hoopoe, Golden Pheasant, Reeves Pheasant, Bee Eater and African Grey Hornbill.

Romario Valentine at one of his visits to the Umge
Romario Valentine at one of his visits to the Umgeni Bird Park Sanctuary before Covid-19

"I enjoy going to Umgeni River Bird Park because I love to see the amazing birds, the bird show and feeding them. There is also a beautiful waterfall."

Upon learning that the Umgeni River Bird Park, was under strain due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Romario asked his mum, Delsha Moodley for help.

In lieu of gifts for his ninth birthday on 26 July, Romario, set up a campaign on donations-based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy to raise R15 000 to support the Umgeni River Bird Park's "Inspire to Conserve" programme to protect endangered birds.

"I couldn't go to the bird park for my birthday this year because of the lockdown. I asked my mother to help me raise money for the conservation programme instead of getting birthday presents. I do not want them to become extinct."

His campaign went live on 6 July and has so far raised R12 213.76 with contributions from 50 donors.

How did his campaign come about?

She said he wanted a party, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, this could not happen.

Romario Valentine loves to paint birds that he lov
Romario Valentine with a painting of a bird he loves

"He thought there was going to be a party. I explained he cannot go to the bird park. He asked me how they are getting money for the birds and who is looking after them. I told him the people are not visiting, and he asked if he could donate that to the bird park."

She added: "I explained it costs a lot of money. He asked how can he raise awareness, I figured that crowd funding would be the easiest way."

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Moodley said they had always taught their son about raising awareness.

"I think from the time he was very young, we have always spoken about awareness and looking after Mother Nature."

She said he became more hands-on with his approach to conservation after a school play.

"When he was six, he was in a school play and he played the part of an Orca (whale). He researched the whale extensively and discovered issues surrounding the ocean and pollution. That's when he decided he wants to clean the beach. We go every Friday after school."

Moodley said that while the beaches were generally clean, after 16:00, there would be a lot of litter.

Romario Valentine doing his bit for nature getting
Romario Valentine on one of his beach clean ups.

"When we go later at 16:00 there is so much litter. The last time he had a two-year-old join him. That was a beautiful thing - the child saw someone like him, and started picking up litter along with his mother."

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She said he also speaks to people about conservation.

"He chats to people and explains to them why they have to do this. I'm very proud of him, I try to support him the best way I can to help him."

Moodley said he has also influenced his friends.

"Two of his friends have come to clean with him with their mothers a few times and they were inspired."

If you would like to contribute to the campaign, visit https://www.backabuddy.co.za/romario-valentine

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