Visually Impaired Youngsters Delighted to Meet South African Animals

The children are delighted and although many of them can only envision in their minds the picture we all see before us, for them the excitement is too much and they extend their hands in anticipation as well and call out, “me too teacher, me too”.

Young visually impaired South African pupils lean in close to learn about their wildlife.

Esmeralda leans in closer towards Werner, a wildlife educator, as he reassures her that she doesn’t have to be scared.  He gently takes her hand and runs it over the large green bullfrog in his hands.  To any other child visiting a wildlife center this may be nothing out of the ordinary, maybe a nice holiday story to tell teacher when you get back to school, but for Esmeralda and her classmates, it is far more than that because all the children visiting The Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Center today are visually impaired, some completely blind.  For these children this is the first opportunity they have been given, to not only learn about the animals which share South Africa with us, but experience them hands-on through interaction with experienced wildlife educators.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare in Southern Africa made it possible for Esmeralda and one hundred and twenty other learners from the Athlone School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to visit the Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Center in South Africa.  Athlone School for the Blind is one of ten schools for the blind throughout South Africa who receives IFAW’s educational materials in Braille as part of our The International Fund for Animal Welfare Animal Action Education Programme in South Africa.

It cannot be argued that the attention span of a seven or eight year old child is very short but there is one way of holding their attention, to the extent that not once was there a shuffling in the chair or yawn from the audience of youngsters.

Litha, a young presenter from a local television company steps forward blindfolded as the wildlife educator proceeds to introduce some of South Africa’s more extraordinary residents, an endemic tortoise almost the size of a fifty cents coin, a rather large bullfrog and the ever popular tarantula.

A youngster get's a tactile look at a South African frog.

Litha’s hesitation on being blindfolded and cupping her hands open whilst waiting for the educator to place an unknown, perhaps slimy, wet, or slithery creature into them is short lived as she tries to keep herself composed.  She cannot help but dance a little jig, to the delight of the children, as the hairy legs of the tarantula explore her hands.

The children are delighted and although many of them can only envision in their minds the picture we all see before us, for them the excitement is too much and they extend their hands in anticipation as well and call out, “me too teacher, me too”.

As the day draws to a close, Esmeralda is holding a large bull frog with confidence.  Her classmates move closer and shouts of excitement fill the air as little hands reach up also asking if they can touch to “see” what a bullfrog looks like.

-- LCH

More information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare Animal Action Week programme can be found at http://www.ifaw.org/education

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