Delegates to be challenged on innovative aquarium education solutions

30 August 2012 | Christine Marot

CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Judy Mann CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Judy Mann

Newly appointed CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Judy Mann is hard at work ahead of the 8th International Aquarium Congress (IAC) – the first to be hosted on African soil.

We caught up with Judy and posed a few pertinent questions about the upcoming congress.

Without detracting from your keynote address, can you give us a taste of what delegates can expect in your Education keynote presentation, “Aquarium education – quo vadis?” What are some of the issues you will be exploring?

“I will be looking at the education situation in aquariums around the world and posing challenges and action points to delegates that require innovative solutions to improving aquarium education.

“We need to examine the justification for our reason for existence. One of the main concerns I have is the issue of commercialisation and commodification of animals. We need to ensure that animal collections are used for a ‘greater good’, that being conservation and education. What we do has to be about more than just making money.”

Education is a focus for Judy Mann and her team at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research Education is a focus for Judy Mann and her team at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research

Sustainability is a major focus for the IAC. Is South Africa seen as proactive in terms of sustainability in comparison to the international community?

“In Africa in general we are far more aware of sustainability issues because these are more real and relevant to us. In the environmental sphere we are dealing on a daily basis with rhino poaching and habitat destruction, while the sustainability of energy resources is constantly on the agenda due to load shedding.

“Africa’s scorecard in terms of sustainability is not particularly good, yet we have a pretty good appreciation of social sustainability issues and how to address these, but there is always room for growth.”

What do you see as the spinoffs for Cape Town and for South Africa as a whole thanks to the IAC being hosted in Africa for the first time?

uShaka Sea World's Gambit is 41 years old. Gambit has been instrumental in educating people about the dangers of ocean pollution since 1976.  <a href='http://www.seaworld.org.za/news/entry/gambit-the-dolphin-a-living-legend-at-41'>Read more about Gambit here.</a> uShaka Sea World's Gambit is 41 years old. Gambit has been instrumental in educating people about the dangers of ocean pollution since 1976. Read more about Gambit here.

“We have been given an amazing opportunity to showcase what we have in South Africa to the international aquarium community and to show them what we are doing. We are immensely proud of aquariums such as uShaka Sea World and Two Oceans Aquarium.

“We are as proud of the innovations that we have introduced to these facilities with far less of a resource base than our international compatriots. It’s incredible to have achieved what we have, doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less than most.”

From a more local perspective, is there anything special delegates could look forward to from uShaka Sea World while they are visiting South Africa?

“Yes, definitely. We have planned a series of tour packages with our international colleagues in mind. These include behind-the-scenes aquarium tours, harbour cruises, uShaka Sea World tours and Tala Game Reserve tours.

“We are hoping that as many delegates as possible will take advantage of a short two-hour flight to Durban to enjoy the best of what we have to offer, either before or after the IAC.”

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  • Author: Christine Marot
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