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Meet our Ocean Ambassador – Dr Koebraa Peters

By Koebraa Peters, 7th December 2022

Koebraa is a lecturer, mom of two and a Muslim woman of colour. She has a PhD specialising in Marine Biology from Stellenbosch University. She obtained her BSc in Marine Biology and Ecology at UCT, as well as her BSc Honours in Zoology and MSc in Conservation Biology. Her love for the ocean, instilled by her dad, meant that she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a protector of the ocean by playing a role in saving the ocean space and educating others about it.

Dr Peters giving a presentation to a group of girls at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre on Women's Day. Image by Danel Wentzel.

Today, she gets to do just that by teaching students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in the Department of Conservation and Marine Sciences and working with communities on the Cape Flats. If there is one thing that she wants to leave this world with, it is that  mother nature is more than just a place where we live or a means of economic gain. It is the beating heart that keeps us all alive, and that heart will stop beating if we do not take care of our precious Earth.

Dr Koebraa Peters and her mom at her graduation day. Image provided by Koebraa Peters.

Ocean Ambassador Programme 

Word by Dr Koebraa Peters

Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to be a Marine Biologist. Exploring along the rocky and sandy shores, and spending my time in tidal pools with my dad and brothers, instilled a deep love for and connection to the ocean. Today, I pass on that love to others in my community by being an Ocean Ambassador for the Save our Seas Shark Education Centre.

 

The Ocean Ambassador initiative is a programme that is close to my heart. The programme was piloted in 2021 when I was approached to be the first Ocean Ambassador. It was truly such an honour and privilege to kick off the programme, and we’ve reached so many people since, in the Strandfontein and Mitchell’s Plain community in particular.

Dr Peters gets to pass on her love for the ocean to others in her community by being an Ocean Ambassador for the Save our Seas Shark Education Centre. Image by Danel Wentzel.

I was always passionate about the ocean and protecting it. I would spend lots of time with my dad, and often my uncle, on the beaches along the Baden Powell drive stretch. Now, as a qualified Marine Biologist, I get to share that passion with others while at the same time being equipped with all of the background knowledge about the ocean, the life that exists there and the impacts that we have on it, as humans.

 

As part of the Ocean Ambassador programme, we had five events this year. These included four beach clean-ups and one indoor event. Our beach clean-ups occurred at the stretch of beach between Strandfontein and Muizenberg, Blue waters and Strandfontein Pavilion beaches. When doing these clean-ups, I never aim to get masses of people involved but rather to reach small groups and make a much more significant difference through direct engagement with all those present. This is the best way to get the message across, and when we have feedback sessions after a clean-up event, community members often share what they were surprised by and what they had learnt. Therefore, I feel that one of the most important ways the community benefits is simply through creating awareness. What I love about these events is that everyone comes with some knowledge, sometimes without realising it and can share their experiences and potential solutions to the issues the oceans face. By making it a sharing space, we all learn from one another, which is one of this work’s most important aspects. Participating in the programme creates a more significant awareness, and we all contribute to that to varying degrees.

Dr Koebraa finds it necessary to teach her family the same environmental ethics that her father taught her. Image by Danel Wentzel.

Our indoor event was in collaboration with a community organisation called RAFED. The event included a talk about my background, growing up in Bayview and overcoming many obstacles to become a Marine Biologist. I also focused on some of the impacts associated with the pollution that the oceans are threatened by. There were activities for both the adults and kids who attended. We had focus groups with the adults to discuss the challenges we face as a community to be more active in environmental issues. The children participated in some art activities, creating sharks from toilet roll holders and colouring in their shark colouring books gifted by the Save our Seas Shark Education Centre. They had so much fun.

As part of the Ocean Ambassador events, Dr Peters hosted an indoor event with RAFED. Image by Jamila Jana.

We’ve recruited several Sea Savers along the way. People who have a growing interest in protecting our oceans and spreading the word to others. My mom and kids have not missed a single beach clean-up, and hearing my mom educate others about how litter can harm the ocean makes my heart so happy. This drive filters through the community, and many people attending the clean-ups have attended before, with new recruits joining at each event. Overall, this year was a success, and I can safely say that we are better off with more people being aware of the threats that our oceans face and willing to make a positive difference. If we’ve reached only a handful of people, we’ve done our duty to our beautiful oceans.

If there is one thing that Dr Peters wants to leave this world with, it is to demonstrate to others that the value of mother nature is more than just a place where we live or a means of economic gain. Image provided by Koebraa Peters.