Annual exhibit a delight for kids

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IOL dinosaur witsexhib401.JPG INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS FACE TO FACE: Sarah Jansen van Vuuren and Caroline Hlatswayo take a closer look at an Australian stick insect, part of the Yebo Gogga Yebo amaBlomo Exhibition. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Johannesburg - By the time she reached the 3D-cell exhibition, Grade 7 pupil Constancia Nkadimeng had passed jars of cockroaches, vats of rhino dung and a woman gripping a live chinchilla.

But her favourite was when she touched a snake. “It felt awesome – like, it’s skin was so rough,” said Constancia, her hands still wet from the orange liquid and jelly balls she had dunked her hands in minutes before.

Constancia was one of about 700 pupils who visited the 11th annual Yebo Gogga Yebo amaBlomo Exhibition.

Crammed into two floors of the Oppenheimer Life Sciences building at Wits University, the exhibition is aimed at educating children on topics ranging from butterflies and South African dinosaurs, to the rhino horn poaching crisis.

Donald McCallum, exhibition director and a botanist, said he wanted to instil a love of nature in modern city children, many of whom had no idea of the wildlife teeming all over Joburg. “They’re amazed by some things they shouldn’t be amazed by.”

As he spoke, a crowd of children ran down the hall towards a vat of rhino dung.

McCallum brimmed with enthusiasm as he served slices of prickly pear and tiny cups of traditional herbal tea to schoolchildren.

Above McCallum’s exhibition, Paulina Kaufman pointed to a severed elephant foot wrapped in a thin metal band. “He died from something as simple as a wire snare.”

Kaufman, who ran a poaching awareness booth for the National Association of Conservancies and Stewardship South Africa, indicated photos of wounded animals along the walls.

“These pictures are very graphic,” she said apologetically. “But it gets the children to engage.”

Outside on the concrete steps, three life-sized, anatomically correct dinosaurs balanced on their tails. Local sculptor David Huni worked these statues from sheet metal in collaboration with the Evolutionary Institute.

As many pupils milled around them, six-year-old Ashley Hegland pounded her fist along the rusty length of the diplodocus, making a tinny echo.

“They’re just so big,” she said, laughing as she came to a stop.

“It is actually quite fascinating how these were around, how they have these odd bits and pieces added onto them. Like, why is that point on the head?” she asked, pointing at the horn. “What’s it for?

The exhibition, which can be viewed from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and between 10am and 5pm on weekends, continues till Sunday. - The Star

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