Crocworld Conservation Centre announces big changes as it bids farewell to the team leader

Nine years, 50 mambas, more than 2 000 callouts, and thousands of visitors taught about the importance of nature conservation…Crocworld Conservation Centre’s outgoing Centre Manager, Martin Rodrigues, has certainly left his mark.

“My mandate was to leave Crocworld Conservation Centre a better place, whatever myself and the team set out to do,” recalled Rodrigues. “This job was always about planting the seeds, knowing that I wouldn’t necessarily get to enjoy the shade, but that’s how it is in life. Every decision made was about developing my team, providing them with exposure in all aspects of the business, and encouraging the centre to grow.”

It was back on 1 April, 2011, that a spritely 26-year-old Rodrigues was given the role of his dreams… alongside huge responsibilities. But he was undaunted, and the nine-year journey has seen him enjoying some truly unique experiences, among them National Geographic filming his work with bull sharks and crocodiles on-site, as well as thousands of encounters with the KZN South Coast’s exciting local wildlife.

His work has seen him partner with other conservation-focused organisations, including KZN Wildlife. This partnership has included capturing a crocodile from the South Coast River and relocating it to St Lucia, as well as releasing a green turtle to uShaka Marine World. With CROW (Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) and FreeMe Wildllife, Rodrigues and his team have assisted in the rehabilitation and relocation of several birds of prey.

The Crocworld team has also collaborated on the Vulture Project and Breeding Programme with Raptor Rescue Centre and KZN Wildlife, during which time they’ve built enclosures and homed endangered Cape Vultures and the critically endangered African White Backed Vulture. As part of the on-site breeding programme, the birding team has raised Marabou Storks and Grey Crowned Cranes.

Some other innovative programme additions that have taken place, under the guidance of Rodrigues and his team, include (among many others):

· The monthly conservation talk series, which has run for five years, and continued online throughout the Covid-19 pandemic;

· Assistance with the DNA sampling project on black and green mambas, collecting useful scientific data on these unique species;

· Annual Arbor Day projects which include planting trees and educational programmes at schools in rural areas;

· More than 2 000 call outs for black and green mambas, vine snakes, boom slang, puff adders, and night adders together with countless harmless species, and assistance with thousands of identifications;

· Ongoing demonstrations and talks including the ATKV holiday demonstrations, Probus talks, Rotary talks, Mardi Gras demonstrations and numerous university lectures on various topics;

·  Monthly frogging evenings, hosted in local wetlands, as well as having assisted Johannesburg Zoo on a collection trip for a conservation project on the Pickersgill’s Reed Frog; and

· The annual Halloween Festival which has attracted thousands of people through the doors of Crocworld.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” continued Rodrigues. “Crocworld is a part of who I am and always will be. It’s really never been a job for me, rather it has been a part of me. I have given it my all, and was always passionate in the belief that we were doing meaningful work. To have been a custodian of the animals in our care, and to educate people about wildlife has been fantastic. We have an amazing team – hard-working, versatile and dedicated – who will continue the great work of saving and protecting our animals.”

Crocworld Conservation Centre is excited to announce that James Wittstock, the current centre Reptile Curator, will be taking on the position of Acting Centre Manager from 1 December 2020.

“We would all like to congratulate James on this well-deserved promotion and wish him the very best,” said Rodrigues. “We know he will do extremely well in this position.”

To find out more about the new happenings at Crocworld Conservation Centre, visit www.crocworld.co.za or ‘Crocworld Conservation Centre’ on Facebook. Alternatively, contact Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103.