The Flufftail Festival is an annual event brought to you through a partnership between BirdLife South Africa, Rand Water’s Water Wise Team and the Rare Finch Conservation Group as well as other co-sponsors including Toyota, Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo and the SANBI National Zoological Gardens. The festival is named after the elusive wetland bird, the White-winged Flufftail, which is Critically Endangered and only found in pristine, high-altitude wetlands in South Africa and Ethiopia.

The Flufftail Festival hosts an annual showing of the spectacular ‘Waxi the Hero’ Puppet Show. This interactive and entertaining tale sees the dapper hero Waxi, the Orange-breasted Waxbill, head on a quest to find his missing friend Fluff, the White-winged Flufftail. During his journey we meet several other wetland bird characters who teach viewers a little about the importance of conserving wetlands and waterbirds in between many laughs.

The 2019 Flufftail Festival: Johannesburg

Dates: 8-10 February 2019
Venue: Johannesburg Zoo

Since its inception in 2015, the Flufftail Festival has aimed to teach the young, and the young at heart, about the importance of looking after water, South Africa’s most precious resource. Water sustains all life on earth and plays an important role in wetlands, where it creates a habitat for a wide variety of organisms, including waterbirds. The festival was named for the most elusive waterbird of all, the White-winged Flufftail, a Critically Endangered species that, in a landmark study conducted by BirdLife South Africa, has now been shown to breed in South Africa’s high-altitude wetlands.

On Friday, 8 February, 289 Grade 6 learners from four different schools in the Soweto area were transported to the Joburg Zoo, where they took part in a variety of activities aimed at explaining the importance of water and the human activities that threaten the existence of wetlands. They were also entertained by ‘Waxi the Hero’, a puppet show run by the Rare Finch Conservation Group and sponsored by Toyota that sees its hero, Waxi, in search of Fluffy, a White-winged Flufftail that has disappeared from the wetland. Learners were captivated by Waxi and the antics of his friends and welcomed the ultimate discovery of Fluffy with screams of delight.

The following day, 340 community members were bused in from different wards in the Johannesburg area and were also invited to participate in games and activities that highlighted the importance and plight of our wetlands. Introduced to the many waterbird species that can be observed in the vicinity of Johannesburg, many of the participants expressed their appreciation for these creatures they frequently see but had not been able to identify. It is this spark of interest, in both young and old, that makes the Flufftail Festival such a rewarding experience for all involved.

We would like to thank our partners Rand Water (Water Wise), Toyota, the Rare Finch Conservation Group, Joburg City Parks and Zoo and GDARD for making the event such a tremendous success.

The 2019 Flufftail Festival: Pretoria

Dates: 1-3 March 2019
Venue: National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria

This year for the first time since its inception in 2015, the Flufftail Festival held two consecutive events in Gauteng. The first took place at the Johannesburg Zoo on 8-10 February 2019 and was a resounding success. Following on from that, the team took the Flufftail Festival north to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria from 1-3 March 2019.

The Friday saw 221 Grade 6 learners from Christian Progressive School, Dr Monare Primary School and Nelmapius Primary School take part in the various activities linked to the Flufftail Festival. All of the events are designed to teach learners about the importance of conserving water, wetlands and waterbirds. Half of the learners started off in the aquarium where they enjoyed up close views of the many fish and other marine creatures on display, the other half of the students enjoyed a production of the ‘Waxi the Hero’ puppet show, created by the Rare Finch Conservation Group and proudly sponsored by Toyota, which has become a vital staple of the Flufftail Festival and shares the conservation message through a fun, interactive and entertaining medium of puppetry. The two groups switched over before breaking for quick lunch.

The post lunch session was made up of three stations that explore the functionality of, importance of and threats to wetlands. The wetlands station had hands-on activities that illustrated how wetlands filter water, prevent floods and store water. Learners were also showed a large map of South Africa which highlights all of the RAMSAR wetlands of importance. The Hippo Station taught learners about the threats to wetlands by having them pull different objects from a ball filled bucket and place them under the good or bad categories.

The final and most entertaining station for the learners was the Wetland Wonders station. Learners were divided into two groups with the challenge of sending their bean bag water molecules, germs and dirt partials through the inflatable jumping castle as if it was a wetland. Germs and Dirt had to exit through the sides of the inflatable while water molecules could pass all the way through to simulate the cleaning action of the wetland.

On Saturday and Sunday the stations were setup again for the general public to participate. A waterbirds station was setup by BirdLife South Africa and participants could take on the waterbird word search challenge or the ‘where does the waterbird belong’ activity.

We would like to thank our partners Rand Water (Water Wise), Toyota, the Rare Finch Conservation Group, SANBI National Zoological Garden for making the event such a fantastic success.