Mitchell Park Learning Centre now a reality

Joanne Marais, Ishwar Ramlutchman, Dhaniram Moolchun, Dr Sanil Singh and Garth Kloppenborg at the sod turning ceremony of the Mitchell Park Zoo Environmental Education Centre.

A DREAM of being an inspiration to children and teaching young and old about conservation and the importance of biodiversity took a step closer to reality this week at a sod turning ceremony for the long-awaited Environmental Education Centre at Mitchell Park Zoo took place.

At the ceremony, members of the Mitchell Park Trust, Parks Department and donors discussed their hopes and plans for the new centre which will support the vital role Mitchell Park Zoos plays in engaging and educating both learners and the public.

The primary focus of the education centre will be to accommodate the 70 000 school children who visit the zoo annually with the aim of inspiring and creating passion among these future decision makers. Understanding the importance of balanced, healthy ecosystems and sustainable use of natural resources will be lessons well learned visiting the centre. Learners, their teachers and guests will now not only enjoy the opportunity of visiting the animals in the zoo, but will benefit from the educational interpretation and greater understanding of the importance of each species within the ecosystem.

The centre will house displays, models and educational material relating to the environment and conservation, highlighting local species found within the city. Once established, the centre will be used for presentations and exhibits showcasing conservation work being done both locally and internationally. The public will also have a chance to visit the centre and view displays and benefit from education material.

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The centre, which is planned for completion in September, will be equipped with tables, chairs, audio visual equipment as well as displays and models.

Future plans include expanding the centre to incorporate an open seated area where school children can sit and eat their lunch after an exciting morning in the zoo.

Councillor Martin Meyer with Garth Kloppenborg from the Parks Department, at the Mitchell Park Zoo. They encourage people to get involved as volunteers at the zoo.


The endeavor to build an education centre has come to fruition via the efforts of founding trustee and educator, Dhaniram Moolchun who was able to raise R100 000 from an anonymous donor. Further donations were previously received from Syfrets and the Round Table. A further drive by the Trustees resulted in the engagement with Ishwar Ramlutchman and The Sivananda Peace Foundation, who happily made up the shortfall of R125 000 for the project.

The request to name the centre Swami Sivananda – King Goodwill Zwelitini Education Centre, was accepted by the eThekwini Municipality.

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Speaking at the ceremony, Ishwar Ramlutchman said there were future plans to erect fibreglass rhino statues at the park and a proposal will be put forward for the erection of heritage monuments to those who struggled for and preserved nature conservation in Durban and KZN, such as Dr Ian Player.

“Collectively, we as citizens of Durban can make a difference. I am honoured to have been able to make this dream a reality. We need more people to come on board as Trustees who have an interest in the park and who are conservationists at heart,” he said.

Joanne Marais from Mitchell Park said: “This has been a dream of the Trust for so long. We thank the Parks manager, Garth Kloppenborg for his part in getting this passed in Council. It is exciting that it is finally happening. We thank our donors on behalf of the municipality, the Trust and the children who will benefit from this centre,” she said.

Lauren Walford

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