By Lynn Britz
SAAMBR celebrates 71 years today (31st January 2022) as one of the oldest NGOs in the country and one of the oldest marine science institutions in the country, if not the African continent.
As we look back over the past year, during which we celebrated our 70th anniversary, several things come to mind. The excitement and hype of planning a huge celebration with over 500 guests. We planned to invite many past SAAMBR staff members, from every corner of the globe, as well as our current staff, their families, and the many friends of SAAMBR. But – all our planning came to naught as the country battled the third wave of the COVID pandemic.
We all know how that feels, many important family milestones and celebrations were put on hold while social distancing, masks and sanitizing became the order of the day. The corridors of SAAMBR became quiet and working from home, ZOOM, masks, and social distancing became the new normal.
It was a very productive year, despite all the restrictions. The scientists produced a high number of papers and the aquarists continued to maintain the aquarium at a world-class standard, while several turtles were successfully rehabilitated and released. All the other departments held the SAAMBR flag high while they carried on with their duties, very often short staffed.
We missed our visitors. Sometimes we had none when the park was closed and on other days, very limited numbers. Joy returned over the Festive Season when the park buzzed with visitors and happy laughter was heard in the park when families had fun together again.
It was a good year in many ways and although we didn’t have the planned celebrations – we celebrated the small things that we often take for granted. Staff returning to work and laughter in the corridors of SAAMBR. The health of our team and our animals. Our functioning Life Support Systems. Visitors in the park and the chance to connect people to our amazing animals. The joy on a child’s face in the dolphin stadium and the curiosity of a family at the microscope bench. All these things, which we took for granted, we now see with new eyes.
As SAAMBR enters its 71st year, we do so with a new appreciation of our organisation, which for 71 years has stood the test of time. We have survived so much, including the COVID pandemic. We look forward to the next 71 years with excitement and the confidence that we will continue to remain true to our mission of ‘Helping people to care for the ocean.’