Hello, I’m Romario. An 11-year-old environmentalist, an ornithophile which means “I love birds” and the author of Protect our Planet – Take action with Romario, published by Penguin Random House SA.

I live in Durban, a coastal city in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Did you know that Durban has sunshine all year round, even in the winter! Abundant nature, wildlife, and aqua beaches. A popular destination for birders, surfers, and hiking.

I’ve always cared for nature and biodiversity. When I was 6, I participated in a school play as an orca. After doing research I discovered the damage pollutants were doing to orcas and other sea creatures. This could lead to their extinction and cause an imbalance in the ocean’s ecosystem. I embarked on a mission to clean the beach at least once a week.  I am currently on 235 beach cleans.

This led me to become Ocean Sole’s youngest ambassador. It’s an upcycling non-profit organisation in Kenya that promotes sustainability by recycling discarded flip flops found on the beaches to transform them into art sculptors of marine and wildlife animals. These magnificent art pieces are individually hand carved by people from the community.

Romario is Ocean Sole’s youngest ambassador. This is a sculpture of an elephant made by recycling discarded waste found on the beaches. (Picture credit: Delsha Moodley).

I have a super comfortable eco bed too, the Max Ultra Flex idream bed. It was gifted to me by Restonic SA. They create idream eco mattresses using yarn made from recycled plastic bottles. A great example of circular economy. My book enthusiastically guides the reader on this subject including recycling, plastic pollution, e-waste, how to save our seas and protect endangered species such as sea turtles.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet a juvenile green sea turtle at uShaka Rehabilitation Centre in Durban under the supervision of a marine biologist from SAAMBR. She was found on the beach with a large woven plastic sack wrapped around her left front flipper. The scientists cut off 65% of her flipper due to dead tissue cells. Her carer informed me sea turtles can swim with 3 flippers and survive in the wild, unfortunately she was too young to be released and would remain at the centre until she was strong enough.

Romario meeting a green sea turtle at uShaka Rehabilitation centre in Durban. (Picture credit: Delsha Moodley).

I wondered how many children know that these precious species keep the oceans clean by eating algae and dead fish. Do they know, majority pollution comes from land or why it is important for us to keep the oceans healthy, or oceans provide us with oxygen, food, and sustainable jobs.

This too is addressed in Protect our Planet.

During the covid lockdown, for my 9th birthday, I crowdfunded for endangered bird species to support conservation efforts instead of receiving gifts. The following year, for my 10th birthday, I did a campaign by helping Birds of Eden, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape. The world’s largest free-flight aviary, for the completion of a 30x30m aviary for 90 abandoned African Grey Parrot. In my pastime, I paint endangered birds to raise awareness of their plight. My book guides the youth about their importance as pollinators and much more.

A painting of the Knysna turaco, only found in South Africa and one of the many birds supported by Romario’s campaign for Birds of Eden. (Artist: Romario Valentine.)

A painting of the Knysna turaco, only found in South Africa and one of the many birds supported by Romario’s campaign for Birds of Eden. (Artist: Romario Valentine).

As an earth warrior I’ve teamed up with the UNCCD for the launch of Generation Restoration and Desertification and Drought Day including in the Great Green Wall at the Sahel region. Kids learn more about this in my book and why trees matter. I’ve sponsored trees with Zeitz Foundation, Tree Aid UK, Green Pop SA, Green Hut Trust and One Tree Planted. In Durban, I’m planting an indigenous, medicinal and endangered tree called Warburgia salutaris. I want to prevent it from extinction.

Romario holding a Warburgia salutaris (pepper-bark tree), indigenous to KwaZulu Natal and critically endangered, known to help with respiratory ailments (Photo credit: Delsha Moodley).

We live in a world where millions of children don’t have access to a clean and safe environment, a lack of internet or education, no access to libraries or opportunities. I found it challenging to find a child friendly book that can guide kids with information on how to protect our beautiful planet. This led me to the creation of an academic natural science environmental book.

The book took just over a year to create with many hours of dedication. I had an amazing team behind me, along with my parents, who understood my personality and were extremely supportive of my ideas and visions. This project taught me the importance of teamwork and having positive people who uplift you.

Protect our Planet, is an optimistic approach to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges. The book includes crucial topics, exciting scientific experiments such as a water filter, art activities and guidance on future environmental occupations for the youth.

I believe children involved in environmentalism at a young age will help them become better citizens of the earth and leave a legacy for future generations to come.

When we take care of nature, we take care of ourselves.

Protect our Planet- Take Action with Romario. (Credit: Struik Nature – imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa (Pty) Ltd)

Protect Our Planet – Take Action with Romario, ISBN no. 9781775848233 will be released September 2022 in South Africa. Internationally, it can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

See more of Romario’s incredible artwork and follow his journey of Twitter @artistromario


Eleven year old, Romario Valentine, from Durban, South Africa is a young eco-warrior and author of Protect our Planet – Take action with Romario. Renowned globally for his beach clean ups, tree planting, avian art and other conservation projects.
He is an Ocean Sole ambassador, a 2022 BirdLife SA Owlet laureate and affiliated to many environmental organisations including the UN. He believes it is his mission to inspire and empower the youth to become earth guardians.