Wanda the whale turns 50

Jan Hendrik Lappies Labuschagne in front of Wanda at the Soetwater Environmental Education Centre near Kommetjie.

Wanda the life-sized sperm whale at the Soetwater Environmental Education Centre is turning 50 this year, and to celebrate, the centre will run an art competition for school children aged 8 to 18.

Founder of the centre, Jan Hendrik “Lappies” Labuschagne, said children of all ages were invited to design a fresh new look for Wanda, and the winning design would be painted onto the whale.

The centre was founded in 2003, and Wanda the whale has since been a landmark in the centre’s sandy parking lot.

The aim of the centre, Mr Labuschagne said, was to teach children about the environment and how to respect and take care of it.

The centre offers various programmes, and learning is done through fun games and adventure, and lesson topics are not only on the environment but also include leadership, self-esteem and conflict resolution.

Mr Labuschagne said there were obstacle courses, hikes, snake and bird shows, and treasure hunts available.

The centre is a registered NPO and hosts schools from all over the country. It also raises funds to host less fortunate children at the centre each year.

Mr Labuschange said Wanda had been designed, to scale, in 1969 as part of the “Save our Whales” campaign, and she stood at the aquarium in Durban for many years where visitors could go inside the whale and watch a video about the plight of the whales.

At the time, he said the numbers of some whale species were critically
low and the “Save the Whale” campaign was advertised all over South Africa.

Waterhadspurtedfromher head and her eyes would light up as whale sounds played inside her. She
hosted thousands of people over the years and was eventually taken to Treasure Beach on the Durban Bluff, where she stood and was used as a storeroom while deteriorating due to disuse.

And this is where Mr Labuschagne saw her for the first time and realised what potential she still had.

He managed to get her on loan and had to carefully plan her road trip back to Soetwater.

The road trip, he said, had taken about 10 days as they had stopped at many places between Durban and Cape Town to talk to schools about pollution and littering and its effect on the ocean.

And so, Wanda arrived at the Soetwater Environmental Education Centre in 2004 where she has been since.

Entry forms for the competition are available on the centre’s website at www.soetwater.org/wanda-the-whale/ and should reach the centre by Sunday December 15.

Entries should be emailed in JPEG format to seecwhale@gmail.com. Include your name, surname, age, school, and a brief explanation of your design.

Visit www.seecorg.za or look for it on Facebook and Instagram.