The eThekwini Municipality has shut down a volunteer programme at the popular Umgeni River Bird Park after the alleged rape of a five-year-old girl at the facility.
The child was allegedly raped by a 17-year-old school holiday volunteer at a children’s party at the park on Saturday. The alleged incident only came to light this week after a message of warning started circulating on WhatsApp groups‚ particularly those whose members were mostly made up of young mothers.
“According to reports received‚ a family was hosting a birthday party at Umgeni River Bird Park‚ when one of the school holiday volunteers‚ 17 years old‚ allegedly lured two little girls towards an area of the park that is not open to members of the public‚” the municipality said in response to TimesLIVE questions.
“He allegedly molested one of the girls and when the other girl realised what was happening she ran to alert the adults in the group.”
The municipality said police were immediately called and the teen was arrested.
“The municipality also arranged for counselling of the child through ChildLine‚” the city said.
“The volunteer programme has been stopped with immediate effect and the alleged perpetrator is barred from entering the premises of the Umgeni River Bird Park. The municipality regrets this unfortunate incident and assures all our patrons that their safety is our top priority. The bird park has 24-hour security personnel who patrol the area.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said: “A case of rape was opened at Greenwood Park police station after a child was allegedly raped by a 17-year-old at Riverside on June 23. The suspect was arrested and charged for rape. He appeared in Durban Magistrate’s Court on June 26.”
BY MATTHEW SAVIDES – TimesLIVE