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Durban: Romario Valentine, an uMhlanga conservationist, intends to spend his 10th birthday next month assisting in completing an aviary and planting 250 trees.
The grade 4 pupil is on a mission to protect the planet. He is passionate about bird and marine conservation, climate change, and deforestation.
To date, Romario said he completed 162 beach clean-ups and planted more than 26 trees across four continents.
Last year, he raised more than R31 000 on BackaBuddy to support the Umgeni River Bird Park in lieu of birthday gifts. BackaBuddy is a South African crowdfunding platform – where individuals can raise funds for causes they feel passionate about.
Romario recently became the youngest ambassador for Ocean Sole, a Kenyan company that recycles flip flops that wash ashore. These are then transformed into marine and wildlife sculptures with the help of local artists.
He said he would celebrate his birthday on July 26 by staying true to his selfless nature.
“I have decided to once again, forgo birthday gifts to instead raise R30 000 on BackaBuddy to support two charities close to my heart, Birds of Eden and the Zeitz Foundation,” said Romario.
Birds of Eden in Plettenberg Bay is home to about 3 500 birds and it is Africa’s largest free-flight bird sanctuary. The Zeitz Foundation in Kenya is a non-profit tree conservation organisation. Their reforestation programme aims to plant one million Acacia trees over the next 10 years. Trees like Acacia Karroo provide food for monkeys, giraffes, black rhinos, impalas, nyalas and kudus.
“My bird habitat restoration and deforestation crowdfunding campaign for my birthday aims to save the endangered birds. The African Grey parrots’ numbers are declining due to deforestation and poaching. The African Grey parrot is my favourite bird. With the support of the community, we can save endangered birds. My only wish is to restore habitats for biodiversity and to leave a legacy for other children and generations to come.”
Since the launch of Romario’s recent crowdfunding campaign, he has raised about R12 500 towards his fundraising target. He had contributions from 45 donors both locally and abroad. The funds will allow him to help with the completion of a 30x30m aviary at Birds of Eden, which will house African Grey parrots.
“I also hope to plant 250 trees in line with the Zeitz Foundation’s goal to plant one million Acacia trees over the next 10 years. My dream is to one day see an international children's tree planting day. On this day, world leaders and tree organisations must team up with schools and communities to plant trees together. By children being involved in reforestation programmes from a young age, it will help them become better citizens for the environment and slow down global warming.”
Delsha Moodley, Romario’s mom, said she created the fundraising campaign on his behalf.
“Last year, he raised funds for 900 endangered birds at the Umgeni River Bird Park with the assistance of donations from friends, family and fellow eco-warriors. The ’Inspire to Conserve’ campaign helped his feathered friends during the challenging lockdown. Romario has been an active environmentalist for the past four years.
“He is currently working with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. They help combat land degradation in the Sahel and Sahara region in Africa, ’The Great Green Wall’ for Desertification and Drought Day.“
She said Romario would feature in Leisa Stewart-Sharpe and Lydia Hall’s book What a Wonderful World as a young environmentalist. It is scheduled for release in August.