Paarl Bird Sanctuary – Environmental Education.

A working partnership with the Drakenstein Municipality , local school groups,
the Cape Bird Club and the Tygerberg Bird Club.

Anyone interested in helping can contact John Fincham and Jo Hobbs.

November 2017.

The Schools Environmental Education
Evaluation Report

By John Fincham, assisted by Jo Hobbs and Skhumbuzo Mbewu.

12 September 2017.

Dalweide Primary School visit.

Report and photos by John Fincham.


On 12 September 2017, sixty (60) more scholars in Grades 6 and 7 at Dalweide Primary School visited PBS and the Drakenstein Waste Water Treatment Works (DWWTW).

The objective of this project is to work through the schools to make the local communities aware about the educational, health, recreational and tourism potentials of PBS and the Berg River wetlands. We hope this will motivate them to help stop the vandalism and robberies which occur in the area.

To date we have spoken to meetings at 7 schools attended by 205 teachers. 428 children have made educational visits to PBS and the DWWTW. The responses of teachers and children have been enthusiastic and positive.

The children using telescopes to get up close to birds were assisted by experienced birders. The binoculars are on loan from the Cape Bird Club.

John, Jo and Skhumbuzo.

04 and 06 September 2017.

Dalweide Primary School visit.

Report and photos by John Fincham.


On 04 and 06 September 2017, 120 scholars and teachers from Dalweide Primary School undertook an educational tour of Paarl Bird Sanctuary (PBS) and the Drakenstein Waste Water Treatment Works (DWWTW).

The children are all Grade 6 scholars. Dalweide Primary School is situated in the Groenheuwel suburb of Paarl, which is adjacent to Mbekweni township.

The funding was provided mainly through Dale Wright, Western Cape Manager of Birdlife SA.

The next Dalmeide tour is scheduled for Tuesday 1​2 September 2017.


Captions for the photos from the top left to right are;

Key players from left: Skhumbuzo Mbewu, Antoinette Le Roux (TBC) Tygerberg Bird Club, Adam Small (WWTW) and Teacher.

A happy group of children on the PBS viewing platform, and their teacher.

Another happy group on the PBS viewing platform with Skhumbuzo Mbewu & Adam Small.

Adam Small (DWWTW) explains how the water is purified before it is returned to the Berg River.

Adam Small (DWWTW) explaining the water purification process. The binoculars and scope are on loan from the Cape Bird Club.

A bored pair of White-faced Whistling Ducks watched proceedings.

May 2017.

Langabuya scouts and cubs visit Paarl Bird Sanctuary.  

Report by Jo Hobbs.

On 15 May 2017 a group of 64 scouts and cubs were bussed from Langabuya Primary School in Mbekweni to visit Paarl Bird Sanctuary, accompanied by a teacher and a scout mistress, Mrs. Cordelia Njomane. The children, both boys and girls, were from Grades 4, 5 and 6. This event was arranged at fairly short notice to fit in with Skhumbuzo Mbewu’s travel plans so there was no time to ask for volunteers to assist us on this occasion. However, we are hoping to organise another visit in the near future.

As the outing was rescheduled to take place later in the afternoon than originally planned, we were asked to provide refreshments for the children who apparently have their “school feeding” break at school about 11.30.  We hastily purchased some provisions and spent a couple of hours in the morning making 70+ sandwiches, which were distributed at the end of the visit.  As before, the bus transport was sponsored by the Drakenstein Municipality, who also made special security arrangements for the visit. A donation from Tygerberg Bird Club covered a substantial part of the direct expenses involved, and we thank them for their financial support.

At the start of the outing each child was issued with a laminated bird ID chart illustrating 20 of the most usual birds in PBS in colour, as well as a “score card” with the bird names in four languages.
Two groups were formed and Skhumbuzo Mbewu guided a walk down a path between Pans A, B and C, known as Norman’s Walk, while John Fincham helped the children in the other group to identify birds through a telescope set up on the base of an old hide. They had great fun ticking off the birds seen and were allowed to keep the score card to take home afterwards.

This scout troop is based at Langabuya Primary School, but includes members from other Mbekweni Primary Schools. It has been inactive for about a year, so most of these youngsters are new recruits. Mrs. Njomane and the other teachers at the school are very enthusiastic and would like the scouts to “adopt” the sanctuary and make regular visits.

Captions for the photographs by John Fincham.

  1. Skhumbuzo organising the children into two groups on arrival at the sanctuary.
  2. Scout Mistress Mrs. Cordelia Njomane with one group with their bird ID sheets at the start of the visit.
  3. Jo adjusting the spotting scope for one group, with Scout Mistress in attendance.
  4. Jo and Skhumbuzo distributing sandwiches and tomatoes at the end of the visit.


February 2017.

Environmental and Health Education at Paarl Bird Sanctuary and Drakenstein Waste Water Treatment Works:

Background rationale and results of the first two school visits in 2017. 

 By John Fincham and Jo Hobbs.

Human population pressure is encroaching on Paarl Bird Sanctuary (PBS), as it is on many wildlife refuges, including designated Important Bird Areas and Ramsar Sites.

The influx of people has overwhelmed the provision of housing in Mbekweni township next to PBS. So thousands of people live in shacks as informal settlements, alongside PBS. Many shack dwellers are unemployed, especially youths. Vandalism and crime has escalated because of poverty. Visitors to PBS have been robbed and assaulted.

This project has been started to inform communities that PBS and the adjacent Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW), are unique assets for education about the environment and health, and also for tourism, recreation and research. This asset belongs to the people. The main objective is to persuade communities to use the asset wisely, and help to protect it in perpetuity. Initially the project is targeting schools so that teachers and children can feed back to the communities they serve.

Five modern, well-equiped and fully staffed schools serve the Mbekweni community. The Desmond Tutu High School (DTHS) is particularly impressive. Langabuya Primary School seems to have dynamic teachers and there is a Scout Group too.

Teachers at the Mbekweni Schools, as well as two in an adjacent community, have been addressed, using a slide show presentation.

  • Ninety pupils from DTHS toured the WWTW and PBS in September 2016. A number of children commented favourably on the visit: two examples are:

“I learnt many different things about birds, their behaviour, and how they raise their children. It was the most awesome lesson I ever had.”

“I enjoyed each and every moment I spent. I learnt so many new things about birds and nature and it made me more curious to study about nature.”

An evaluation form completed by a DTHS teacher is shown here.


Groenheuwel Primary School.

  • One hundred and fifty scholars from this school toured PBS over two days in February 2017.
  • The focus for these younger children was on birds.

There was great excitement from close up views of the Greater Flamingos from the bird viewing platform (a concrete structure with toilets installed by Drakenstein Municipality). Telescopes were manned by volunteers. Fifty pairs of binoculars were on loan from the Cape Bird Club.

  • Laminated bird ID charts in colour were distributed to the children with a score card (in 3 languages). A task was to identify as many of the birds shown on the ID chart as possible. A tour around the pans by bus was included, with stops to see and identify birds. A great time was had by all, as the photos confirm. In the group photographed in front of the Yvonne Weiss viewing platform, the children are holding up the laminated ID charts.

It is essential for children to get the environmental education that can only be provided by this type of outdoor excursion. In this way, and by creating neighbourly good will and support, we are hoping to put Paarl Bird Sanctuary back on the birding map.

Photos from both school excursions are shown.

The laminated BIRD ID chart illustrate 18 of the more common birds occurring at PBS in three languages. Each child generated a score by ticking off the birds they were able to identify.
This project is supported by the Drakenstein Municipality, the Cape and Tygerberg Bird Clubs, the Western Cape Birding Forum, and Bird Life South Africa. The Municipality has sponsored the buses for the school visits, and has built the concrete viewing platform with toilets, and repaired it after it was vandalised. They maintain the roads and clear alien vegetation. They also installed bird hides but these have been destroyed by vandals. They have installed security fencing and more is planned. They provide security cover for visitors over weekends and for special occasions. They may also support the installation of floating islands on some pans.