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Oppenheimers donate nature reserve to free university
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16 August 2008
Mining magnate Nicky Oppenheimer and his wife Strilli have donated the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve to Taddy Blecher's latest educational endeavour, the Maharishi Institute.
Well-known for pioneering CIDA City Campus, South Africa's first free university, Blecher launched the Maharishi Institute in 2007. From its towering premises in the inner city of Johannesburg, the Institute also offers free tertiary education to underprivileged young South Africans but differs from CIDA in its holistic or consciousness-based approach to learning.
The Maharishi Institute will run youth-focused eco-tourism programmes at Ezemvelo with the aim of encouraging an interest in nature and conservation among the institute's students. Furthermore the Institute will operate an Eco Campus at the nature reserve where students will receive training in nature conservation and guiding as well as eco-tourism management, organic agriculture and alternative energy.
Blecher says that the Institute will also establish a Centre of Excellence in Natural-Law Based Education at the reserve. The centre will include educational programmes and exhibitions as well as a health spa and training in Transcendental Meditation.
Addressing guests and Maharishi students at the official handover ceremony on Thursday, Blecher termed Ezemvelo a treasure trove of natural beauty and heritage. 'If the incredible young people of our country can experience this treasure trove, they will experience real growth and become great leaders, unstoppable forces of change and good in this country.'
The Oppenheimers said that their decision to donate the nature reserve was inspired by the incredible beauty of the reserve. 'If you are privileged enough to have something so special, you are obligated to share it,' said Nicky Oppenheimer. 'After meeting Taddy and getting to know CIDA and the Maharishi Institute, the decision to donate Ezemvelo to the Institute just felt so appropriate, so right,' he added.
The 4,500-hectare Ezemvelo Reserve forms part of the Diamond Route, a network of conservation properties owned by the Oppenheimer family and De Beers. Situated 20km from Bronkhorstpruit, the reserve has over 2,000 animals of 34 different species ad over 250 bird species. Ezemvelo will remain open to tourists, offering activities such as hiking, bird watching, and horse-riding safaris.
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