13 February 2013

Lessons learnt at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Renee Leeuwner – Assistant Communications and Sustainability Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium

In all my years at the Aquarium, I’ve learned so much. Much more than what can be recounted in one simple blog. A lot of the things, facts, lessons – call them what you will – relate to marine animals and the marine environment.

Like, did you know clownfish all start off as males? If something happens to the dominant female, the dominant male changes into a female.

penguins two oceans aquarium
All photos by Two Oceans Aquarium
Or that each African penguin has a unique set of spots used to identify individuals? I’ve also learned that many of our fish species are facing harsh threats from over-fishing and human exploitation. Fish that were once staples in our diet are now highly endangered and might soon face extinction.

However, a lot of the things I have learned are not related to fish or marine life. They are directly related to people. I have learned that teamwork is vital. This is something that is not always easy to grasp, especially if you are used to doing things your own way. But play with the team and more often than not, the results will be amazing.

shark release two oceans aquarium
Working together to get one of the Aquarium sharks ready for release

Passion comes in all shapes and sizes. At the Aquarium there are people who are passionate about the smallest of the small through to the biggest of the big; educating our country’s future generations, and working for the survival of our marine heritage. Then there are those who are dedicated to opening up an underwater world to a whole new audience.

Khonzani Lembeni Two Oceans Aquarium teacher
Khonzani Lembeni, a Two Oceans Aquarium teacher, takes some learners to a wetland in their community and teaches them about the importance of these water bodies

Another lesson that I’ve learned is that we fear the unknown and the only way we can still that fear is to learn as much as we can about the things we fear. I’m sure that if all we ever heard about hippos was that they kill almost 3 000 people a year, we’d look at them quite differently.

So how can we have a balanced and informed view of sharks or snakes if all we ever hear is that they bite or “attack”?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that sometimes, even when you aren’t deliberately doing something awesome, you might just be influencing someone’s way of thinking, their actions and their future. Setting a good example can sometimes be your greatest gift to the world.

I was here when the Aquarium was being built. I saw exhibits, empty and bare, come to life with rockwork, animals, lights and millions of litres of seawater. I’ve seen wondrous animals and have met countless people from all walks of life. I love working at the Aquarium, because as Isak Dinesen said: “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”. How true!

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