Friday, 26 December 2014

2014 - A year in review

Wow! It is hard to believe we have almost come to the end of 2014 and what a year it has been. After what was supposed to be an 8-week project, our storm-water drainage system was finally completed in February...8 months after it started. The advantage to all the chaos that was caused is that we now have a brand new brick pathway running down the Birds of the World section and a new pathway leading to the Show auditorium. We have also been able to rebuild 9 enclosures which were damaged by the construction. These enclosures are 2m higher that the old ones and the birds are loving the extra height and space. Planned for 2015 is the rebuilding of the enclosures on the other side of the brick pathway and also the redevelopment of the Marsh walk-through aviary.
The new larger enclosures
We also celebrated our 30th Anniversary at the end of March this year. When the park closed and changed ownership in 2009/2010 many people did not think we would re-open and make it this far...well we have proved them wrong! Not only are we open, but the park has also not looked this good in many years. This is thanks to the tireless efforts of our staff and management and also support from the eThekwini Municipality. A display was erected in our Educational Rondavel highlighting the journey of the last 30 years and we will be leaving this up on display for the next 2 months. Part of this display are photos of the park dating back to the early part of the 1900's when it was still a quarry. We have been in touch with the relatives of the original quarry owner and will be adding more pictures from them to our archives soon.

The Show auditorium has also undergone a partial make-over this year with the large pond on stage being filled in and grassed over. Whilst we used the pond in the past for some of our larger aquatic birds, it takes up valuable stage space and we felt we could better utilize this area if it were grass. The stands were also given a fresh coat of paint and the merchandise booth was moved from the show auditorium to alongside the new pathway next to the show. This gives more room for visitors to be able to browse and purchase merchandise and the new booth is twice the size of the old one. With paintings of 47 South African bird species on the doors and side wall, the new booth is hard to miss. The show auditorium will also be having some more changes taking place in 2015 so watch this space.

In May we started a project to begin removing some of the alien invasive plants from the park. The pilot for this project involved a team of specialists coming in to remove the Umbrella Tree (Schleffera sp.) from the park and cliffs. They destroyed more than 100 of these trees which although pretty, are classified as invasive and spread quicker than you can imagine. They are indigenous to Australia and our climate suits them perfectly. Unfortunately most were growing on the cliffs around the park which is why specialists were needed as the had to abseil the cliffs to get to some of the trees. Over the next 3 years we will be removing more invasive trees and replacing them with indigenous ones.

If you look towards the top of the picture you can see one of the abseilers busy at work by our main waterfall
We have also been busy with a new Map of the park being painted and installed at the main entrance and other hand-painted artwork being installed around the park. Whilst this is labour and time intensive, we believe it shows our desire for high quality and attention to detail and we hope you agree with us. The signage around the park is also due for a face-lift in 2015 and this will include the information panels on the enclosures. Our education manager is a member of the International Zoo Educators Association and is always keeping an eye on the international trends and standards of education and is bringing those changes into the park as time and budget allows.

The new Map at the entrance to the park
Front panel of the show merchandise booth with hand-painted South African birds.
September saw our Education Manager Grant Aggett-Cox being selected as a sponsored delegate to attend the 22nd International Zoo Educators (IZE) Association Conference in Hong Kong. This prestigious event saw more than 150 zoo educators from around the world gather for this 4 day conference. Grant was one of 10 sponsored delegates selected from almost 40 entries of very high standard. As part of the sponsorship, Grant received the following: flights, accommodation, meals, conference fee and pre-conference workshop fully paid, membership to the IZE for two and a half years and the opportunity to present at the conference. It was an incredible experience and much of what was learnt at the conference will be implemented in the park over the next year. Grant is also putting together a presentation to be held at the park in February about the trip to Hong Kong and also his trip after the conference to Singapore. Dates will be advertised on our social media sites in January. More pictures are available on our Facebook page.

Grant in action presenting his paper at the conference.
September also saw the start of our breeding season and this year has been a bumper one for the park. We have had many birds breeding for the first time and some starting to look like they want to breed also for the first time. Our curators have been kept busy since the season started and although we try to let the parents raise the chicks as much as possible, we have had to rear some ourselves for various reasons. We have also had members of the public bringing lots of babies in for us to look after and rear. Many of these are sent to CROW (The Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife), but some are kept to add to our collection. Most of the chicks we keep are birds that are already in our collection to add new blood-lines and other are not common in captivity and therefore special and worthy of displaying. There is still much that is unknown about the habits of some of our indigenous species and by keeping them in captivity, we can learn much and broaden the knowledge base of them.

Scratch - a Barn Owl being raised for the Show
So that brings us to the end of a very busy and interesting year. Much more has happened than we have put here and we hope you will come down to the park and see for yourself how things have improved. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in 2014 and hope to see more of you in 2015. As always we appreciate comments on our blog and other social media sites and we love interacting with you. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Conference Day 3

Well I did my presentation this morning and it went really well! It is also comforting to know that I am not alone in the challenges I face when it comes to education in our park. There are very similar situations at many other facilities around the world and it is through conferences like this that we can all grow and help each other. There have been friendships and relationships formed over the last 3 days that will last a lifetime and there are still 3 days to go! Tomorrow we are going on an excursion for the day to the Hong Kong Wetland Park and also the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens. Friday we have more presentations and workshops and then Saturday the last of the presentations and a visit to Ocean Park which promises to be a lot of fun. Sunday I leave early in the morning to continue my journey to Singapore where I will be visiting the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and Gardens by the Bay. I will be putting together a full display of pictures and presenting a talk at the Umgeni River Bird Park about my trip soon after I return. Included in this will be the presentation I gave at the conference. The date of this talk will be announced as soon as we have finalized it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Conference Update

Well it is Day 2 of the pre-conference workshop on Community Based Social Marketing which has been very interesting and lots of information to take in. There is much which will be brought back and implemented in the park upon my return and our education programs will undergo a complete overhaul. The conference itself will start tomorrow with our registration and ice-breakers tonight. I am blown away by Hong Kong, the people and the country as a whole. I will be posting more as the days go by and also posting more pictures. One of the highlights of my trip so far was seeing Giant Panda at the Ocean Park theme park yesterday.

Friday, 29 August 2014

International Zoo Educators Association Conference

On Saturday 30 August 2014, our education manager Grant Aggett-Cox will be flying to Hong Kong to present a paper at the 22 Biennial Conference of the International Zoo Educators Association. After an initial submission of a paper earlier this year, he was chosen as a sponsored delegate to attend this prestigious conference. Following the conference, Grant will be going to Singapore to visit the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and Gardens by the Bay. He will be posting pictures during his trip on Facebook and also blogging about the trip so keep up with our social media sites for updates. Remember you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, YouTube and our website. Go to for all the links.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

New additions to the park

Come and join us these July holidays and see our newest additions. We have recently acquired a pair of Marabou Storks, Blue-grey Tanagers, Luzon Bleeding-heart Doves, Vinaceous Amazon Parrots and Grey Peacock-pheasants as well as a Green Aracari, Red-faced Mousebird, Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Plum-coloured Starling, Green-winged Dove and Violet Turaco. This is in addition to a Narina Trogon, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Crake and Red-chested Cuckoo which also went on display at the end of June.

We are in the process of constructing 9 new enclosures which were damaged during the installation of our storm-water drainage system last year and these will be open within the next 2 months. These enclosures will house a collection of “softbills” which are birds with a predominantly fruit, insect and grain diet. Some of the birds planned for these new enclosures are Toco Toucans, Nicobar Pigeons, Pied Imperial Pigeons, Guira Cuckoos, Scheepmaker’s Crowned Pigeon, Violet Turacos, Lady Amherst’s Pheasants, Ring-neck Pheasants, Silver Pheasants, Crested Wood Partridges, Malay Crestless Fireback Pheasants, Siamese Crested Fireback Pheasants, Reeve’s Pheasants, Swinhoe Pheasants, Palawan Peacock-pheasants, Kalij Pheasants, Golden Pheasants and Grey-peacock Pheasants among others.

The opposite side of the pathway will be home to some of our larger meat-eating birds like the Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Trumpeter Hornbills, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbills, Pied Crows, Laughing Kookaburras, Blue-winged Kookaburras, Crested Guineafowl, Helmeted Guineafowl and Common Barn Owls.

We are constantly changing and improving the park and encourage you to keep coming back to see the changes. With more than 700 birds from 180 species on display, there is something for everyone at the Umgeni River Bird Park.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Price Increase

Please note that our entry fees increase with effect from 1 July 2014 as instructed by eThekwini Municipality. The new entry fees are R50 for Adults and R30 for Children (4-12 years) and Pensioners. This is still excellent value for money so come and see us these holidays. We have 5 new species of birds on display along with more than 700 other birds from 180 species. The free-flight shows are at 11am and 2pm every day during the holidays (weather permitting). The park is open from 9am to 5pm every day.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

30th Anniversary Celebrations

There is just one week to go till we celebrate our official 30th anniversary. We have been busy for the past couple months getting plans together and sorting out details for this major milestone and over the  course of the next week will be making those plans public on our social media sites and also on our website. Whilst much has changed over the last 30 years, we are still committed to Inspire to Conserve. Judging by the support we have had over the ups and downs of the last 30 years, we know we have inspired our visitors to make a difference for conservation and give a voice to those who can't speak for themselves.

We are planning an exhibit for the anniversary with memories from our visitors of the park and want to know what your favourite memory of the park is? You can post your comments on this blog or email them to A selection of these will be added to this permanent exhibit so feel free to add a pic of the memory or yourself too :)