What do we mean when we call ourselves a "teaching aquarium"? Those of you watching M-Net's The Wild Ones may hear this term being used fairly often, but how does the Two Oceans Aquarium actually live up to this concept, what do we do to ensure that every visitor or every race, creed, culture and age can learn a valuable ocean conservation lesson?
Let's take a look at what the Aquarium does to achieve this goal.
The Aquarium is home to over 8 000 animals. Fish, corals, amphibians, crustaceans, birds, reptiles and jellies - these diverse and marvellous animals are not here merely to entertain, they are here to inspire wonder. Like true ambassadors, they carry a message - their home, the ocean, is under threat and they want you to act. The Aquarium is giving this message a voice so that it is heard as widely as possible.
The Aquarium also offers an opportunity to meet these ocean ambassadors up close and personal - a lasting memory of a beautiful animal is also a lasting message of the need to protect them:
- Interactions with tidal pool life at the Skretting Touch Pool.
- Meet a rockhopper penguin in person with a Penguin Experience.
- Have an Ocean Experience: Learn about sea turtles and the conservation work we do with them.
- Learn to scuba dive - a great way to connect with the underwater world.
Internships and volunteer programmes:
The chance to work hands-on with animals, especially in a marine environment, is one that is not easily achievable - especially with no job experience. The Aquarium supports a large number of interns and volunteers, starting their careers in scuba diving, marine biology or animal husbandry. Here's what intern Razaan Keur had to say about her experience:
"I started volunteering at the Aquarium after doing the volunteer course in 2012. After doing that there was a 'front of house' section where I had to volunteer for 45 hours, but the moment I hit that mark I came behind-the-scenes to help Mmameli Mpukumpa with the food preparation and wherever else I could.
With behind-the-scenes volunteering you have to start off with food preparation, but I hit the 80-hour mark and I approached Penguin Keeper Shanet Rutgers and asked if I could be a penguin volunteer. She said 'yes', and since then I've been penguining.
Then last year, while I was studying my Honours, I became an intern, and I would come in every second week to do two shifts, one with the penguins and one with food preparation. The cool thing about starting an internship at the Aquarium was that they were very flexible to my time and availability."
"This year I got a direct internship at the Aquarium and have started working with the sea turtles. It's nice that I'm done with my studies, because it gives me a chance to work more behind the scenes - in quarantine, with turtles. I like to come in as often as possible!
For me this has all been an amazing experience. When you start as a volunteer you don't need any experience with penguins or any other animal. The aquarists are really helpful and they teach you as much as they can about their exhibits when you work with them. It's a really cool way to learn!"
We'll be sharing more information about the next free volunteers' course and upcoming internship opportunities soon. Keep an eye on our Facebook page to be the first to get these details.
Beyond the Aquarium
The need to conserve our ocean does not vanish simply because it is not realised - we feel it is our duty as a Capetonian institution to do everything in our power to educate and empower the people of Cape Town and South Africa at large to make informed life choices that are in the best interest of our ocean.
- Organising and supporting a national campaign to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in South Africa, called Rethink the Bag.
- Our Oceans in Motion mobile aquarium takes live animal ambassadors and their ocean conservation lessons to disadvantaged communities - reaching up to 52 000 children a year.
- Regularly organising and supporting local coastal cleanups. Our Trash Bash events help to clean up beaches and collect scientific data.
- Taking Smart Living Outreach lessons to school children throughout the Western Cape, teaching kids about how their lifestyles affect the environment.
Children of all ages
There is no better time to start teaching a person how to be a responsible, ocean-loving citizen of our planet. The Aquarium has a wide variety of educational, ocean-inspired activities for children of all ages and class groups of all sizes.
Here are just a few of the offerings of the Aquarium's Environmental Education Centre:
- Free Marine Science Adacemy courses and workshops for school children of all ages.
- Suitable for kids aged three to nine - interactive puppet shows inside the Aquarium and at your school carry a memorable environmental message.
- An interactive Smart Living Challenge Zone inside the Aquarium, gamifying lessons about sustainable living.
- Classroom lessons for school and youth groups with amazing topics to fit the school syllabus.
We'll be taking a look at the Two Oceans Aquarium's classrooms, teachers and Environmental Education Centre in greater detail soon. Keep an eye on our blog to be be first to know.
The Aquarium offers ongoing support to a variety of research projects - carried out by both our own staff and academics of leading South African universities. We are in the unique position to support these projects materially (eg. holding animals temporarily for observation), monetarily and by providing the time and expertise of our staff.
These projects carry a diversity of topics, notably marine biodiversity conservation, parasitology, improved veterinary techniques and the biology of penguins, sea turtles, sharks, rays and jellyfish. One common thread links all this work - it is increasing the global understanding of the ocean, the ecosystems that depend on it and the effects humans are having on it.
Everything we do is about building a bond between you and the ocean. Tune into the M-Net 101 for the next episode of The Wild Ones: Aquarium: An Aquatic Life and discover reasons to fall in love with the ocean all over again.
Want to know more? #AskAnAquarist!