Eco-champ goes the extra mile

ROMARIO Valentine with artwork depicting birds.

ROMARIO Valentine with artwork depicting birds.

Published Dec 4, 2023


Durban’s eco-champion is inviting the world to join his nature conservation efforts as he launches his festive season fund-raiser to save Marion Island’s seabirds.

Romario Valentine, 12, a Grade 6 pupil at Reddam House, is a 2022 BirdLife SA Owlet laureate, the youngest ambassador for Ocean Sole – a Kenyan company specialising in recycling flip-flops that wash ashore.

The tween from Umhlanga, who was also a former representative of South Africa at a UN Convention to Combat Desertification, has relaunched his campaign in aid of BirdLife South Africa’s Mouse-free Marion Project.

The initiative is dedicated to safeguarding seabirds, including albatrosses and petrels on Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic location south-east of Cape Town in the Southern Indian Ocean.

BirdLife South Africa is on a mission to eliminate rodents that pose a great threat to the bird species on Marion Island – an essential part of the marine ecosystem.

The populations of wandering, sooty, and grey-headed albatross and petrel are rapidly declining due to invasive mice introduced by 19th-century sailors and whalers.

These rodents are now preying on seabird chicks, while the adult birds face additional challenges from the mice, coupled with the impact of climate change and human activities. The severity of the infestation has left the adult birds defenceless against these predators.

In 2022, Valentine’s Christmas campaign successfully sponsored 20 hectares on Marion Island and this year, he is determined to raise R20 000 to sponsor an additional 20ha.

Each R1 000 raised through his BackaBuddy campaign will contribute to sponsoring a hectare, ultimately contributing to the preservation of the 30 000ha Marion Island.

Valentine has encouraged everyone to be a part of this environmental legacy, saying:

“When we take care of nature, we take care of ourselves.”

With an ornithophilous journey that started when he was just 6-years old, Valentine has participated in various conservation projects, beach clean-ups, and tree-planting initiatives.

He has also appeared on platforms such as 50/50, National Geographic Kids, and Global Citizen and has raised over R76 000 for environmental causes on the crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, since the age of 8.

Valentine’s diversified initiatives include over 250 beach clean-ups and the planting or sponsorship of over 455 trees in 31 countries worldwide.

In September last year, the environmental enthusiast released a book, Protect our Planet – Take Action with Romario, which covers important environmental topics, including recycling, reforestation, pollution solutions and climate change, and is aimed at inspiring the future generation of nature lovers.

Monique Weich, donor co-ordinator at BackaBuddy, said they were inspired by Valentine's steadfast commitment to environmental conservation.

“His passion, coupled with the unwavering support from his generous donors, has created a powerful force for positive change. Together, they’ve not only raised funds but have become integral contributors to the broader preservation of our planet. Romario proves that you are never too young to make a difference,” she said.

The campaign page will remain open until the end of January 2024.

Sunday Tribune