from FUTHI MBHELE in Durban
DURBAN – DURING its almost four decades in existence, the Umgeni River Bird Park has endured ups and downs but remains resolute.
It has encountered two closures.
The park was opened in April 1984. It was designed and built by Dr Alan Abrey in an old quarry site.
It was owned privately by a group of bird lovers, who wanted to educate others about birds from around the world.
Abrey ran it until his retirement in 1997.
In those years, the artwork for the park was done by his daughter, Robyn.
In 1987, floods washed away the road in front of the park.
This resulted in temporary evacuation of the birds to Abrey’s home on higher ground.
By 1989, the park was home to over 4 500 birds of 400 different species, and was given the “Premier Durban Attraction” award by the Durban Tourism Board.
Tsogo Sun purchased the park in 1997, with the new owners agreeing to uphold the park’s “Inspire to Conserve” philosophy.
Tsogo Sun closed the park at the end of August 2009 because it was not financially viable.
The Regency Foundation Network agreed to raise the R4,5 million necessary for the purchase, and the City took over the R3 million per year operating expenses.
The park was re-opened in June 2010.
It has since been used to educate people on birds from around the world, from flamingos to toucans and other rare birds.
Durban Today, www.durbantoday.co.za, visited the area this week.
A father from Durban, accompanied by his two children, said it was their first visit.
“My kids were staying in Midrand, Johannesburg with their mother,” he disclosed.
“This year they came to stay with me. They were always looking forward to come to the zoo. Since I am doing night shift today, I decided to come and show them the place.”
Her daughter (9) was initially scared of the birds.
The older daughter (16) was calm and enjoyed taking pictures.
– CAJ News