Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mthobisi Gumede: Internship with the Durban Branch

Interview with Mthobisi Gumede, intern
19th April 2012

Mthobisi Gumede is studying Ecotourism at DUT.  He served an internship with the Durban Branch and with the regional office, from late November 2011 to mid April 2012.  These are extracts from his exit interview.
What did you know or realise that you did not know before?
Before I knew what alien clearing was, but now I have become able to identify specific plants that were alien plants.  At home I have a fence that I now know is Lantana; I want to remove it and plant indigenous trees there.
At Treasure Beach, in my first level in Biology, I knew the animals only in theory, and I had never had the opportunity to see and touch them.
I have decided to change my career [from Ecotourism]… it is tourism based on the environmental side.  What I have seen and experienced, it changed my focus and my direction.  I want to be involved more in the environment than in tourism…Ecotourism is customer service based.  It becomes a burden; customers have to be treated like kings or queens.  I have become convinced that I do a BTech in Environmental Management.
Has it changed your understanding of what is meant by the environment?
Absolutely.  Some things we take for granted.  We were studying Leatherback Turtles; the wind transports plastic into the ocean, and the population declines because the turtles eat the plastic and die.  I was at Folweni when people were slaughtering a cow, in the township area.   That particular cow was sick, and so the owner said that they must slaughter.  In the stomach of the cow they found a great deal of plastic, because these cows are eating on the dumping sites…  If this were to happen to every cow, we would soon have no source of meat.  It was impossible for me to tell them not to eat that particular meat.  I told them that I was a vegetarian for these few days....
I have learnt about a Leatherback Turtle, but never seen it.  A cow though is owned by a person in the community; this brings it to a local level, it generates that knowledge that we should do something about it...  Then I ask myself, what if all these people get a sudden sickness, maybe 50 people in a community die because they ate this cow.  Maybe they are not aware of this. 
What about being an educator?
At Treasure beach we were nature guides, taking school kids down to the beach.  On the way we would see an alien plant, maybe Chromolaena, and explain it, also the formation of the coastal dune, and how it was formed...  We tell them that if these things, the fish and other animals that we have come to learn about here, for future generations we should be thinking about them, so we must reduce litter as much as we can. If there is a bin we must use it and it can be taken to a landfill site or be recycled.  There is a walking board making out of recycled plastic, and it is good compared to a wooden one.  Teaching recycling, pollution a€nd how to try to tie it up together, through education.
What WESSA offers:  I did put the theory into practice.

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