On the 5th December we hosted a The Matshwane BushDAY. It was a full day program offered to standard 5 students, at Royal Tree Lodge. It included the RAP (Rapid Awareness Program) – which is a Coaching Conservation Learning from Wildlife lesson focusing on one animal mentor combined with a unique wildlife viewing experience on horseback as well as a horse grooming session.

Nothing can replace a direct and personal experience. It responds to our findings that the personal wildlife experience is often the most impactful activity of a CC program, solidifying a connection with wildlife and empowering children to build their own relationship of caring and empathy with wildlife. It emphasizes our commitment to enable children to experience wildlife for themselves while also learning about them through action and participation.

The day started with the arrival of 19 std 5 pupils. The first half of the group went on a scenic horse back safari around Royal Tree Lodge, where they saw ostriches, different types of buck and giraffes while the other half stayed at the stables learning how to groom and care for the horses as well as the importance of caring for domestic animals and their importance to our ecosystem. Then the two groups alternated.

After a balanced healthy lunch, we started on the Vulture RAP. Using football as a tool, we first MEET the vulture, BE the vulture then HELP the vulture.

The aim being to inspire kids who care: A combination of different skills (adaptations) makes a team (ecosystem) successful; vultures collaborate to clean-up dead animals; with fewer vultures there will be more disease; vultures are threatened by poaching and poisoning.

MEET the vulture – we introduce the animal to the kids and what sort of dangers they face. All vulture species are in decline in Africa. Several species are now critically endangered, one step away from being extinct in the wild.

BE the vulture – using a soccer drill we try to develop a growth mindset: believe in yourself (show strength like a lappet-faced vulture), be prepared to change your mind (change direction in your thinking like a white-backed vulture) and look out for opportunities to help (be observant like a hooded vulture).

HELP the vulture – for this activity we used a conservation game (Dangerous Lives) – Vultures are a vital part of a healthy environment. Poaching threatens vultures and in turn threatens the health of the wider environment including human health. Spread the word about vultures and reject bushmeat or traditional medicine that uses endangered species.

The games were informative and interactive and judging from the time flying and the excitement amongst the students, it was a successful day, they wanted to stay.

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