Brandon Booysen holding the African hominines at Africa South Museum in University of the Witwatersrand. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Brandon Booysen wants to be an archaeologist or maybe he will become a palaeontologist. He is just not sure, but then, he is only 13-years-old. 

“I will choose the one with the adventure,” he said.  Brandon wants to head out in the field and discover fossils, just like some of the scientists he met and heard about at Wits University on Wednesday. 

Brandon was at Wits as part of a Reach for a Dream Foundation initiative, which helps children fighting life-threatening illnesses realise an ambition. Brandon suffers from renal failure, which requires nights spent undergoing kidney dialysis. He was diagnosed with the illness when he was 4.

Brandon has been interested in dinosaurs from the age of 10. “I find them fascinating, but the closest I ever got to dinosaurs was in the movies,” he said.
Brandon’s dream was to get closer to dinosaurs and Dr Edward Odes knew how he could do that. 

Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

Odes, who did his doctorate at Wits University’s anatomical sciences department, organised for Brandon to see where the dinosaurs and hominid fossils are kept.

His first stop was the dinosaur collection in the Evolutionary Studies Institute. Here fossils tell the story of millions of years of earth’s evolution. 

“The fossils are rushed in,” said curator, Dr Bernhard Zipfel. “Then they are either sent to be prepped or they are sent to storage.”

Some of these fossils were collected by South Africa’s real-life Indiana Jones, Brandon was told. This was Professor James Kitching, who was so good at finding fossils he once spotted one from the air while sitting in a helicopter.

Zipfel then showed Brendan what many believe is Kitching’s star discovery. In a box, kept out of sight, are a clutch of six fossilised eggs. Among the eggs are the tiny bones of a dinosaur.

It was then off to the hominin collection. Here he was introduced to the Taung skull and saw the Sediba skeleton lying under a glass case. It was a long day for Brandon and a lot to take in. He recalls his favourite moment. “I just can’t believe that I got to hold a real dinosaur skull,” he said. 

The Saturday Star