Knowledge is power

By: Marguerite Vanderkolk

Most New Zealanders probably know that we have an ambitious goal of our country being predator-free by 2050. But how many people really know what that means? How will it be achieved? What will it cost? Who will be involved in the work that needs to be done? And how do we avoid failure in reaching such a huge goal?

In 2016, the Government committed an investment of an additional $28 million over four years. This is on top of about $70 million already being spent on predator (possums, stoats, rats) control every year by government, regional councils, businesses, iwi and volunteer community groups. There are currently 3000 species of birds, mammals and insects that are endangered and 800 species are critically endangered.

The next generation benefit from Tossi’s new mobile classroom.

A third of New Zealand’s islands are already predator-free as well as 24 fenced sanctuaries. Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary, on the Tāwharanui Peninsula, east of Warkworth, is one of them.  

Nevertheless, it’s easy to understand that people might feel overwhelmed by the challenge of a predator-free country, shrug their shoulders, and say, “What can I possibly do, as one individual, to make a difference?” Tossi has an Education, Awareness and Appreciation Plan (EAAP).  Its purpose is to help people increase their knowledge of the problem, learn about solutions and how to take action. Knowledge is power: people can change their attitudes and behaviours if they’re given the right user-friendly information and useful skills. It can feel very empowering to plant a native tree to provide food for native birds, or trap predators in your own urban backyard.

The plan includes working alongside Auckland Zoo to support their commitment to conservation science through education for school students. During school terms 1 and 4, school groups camp overnight at Tāwharanui. Over a 24-hour period they learn practical conservation skills that they can use to make a positive difference in their communities.

This summer, Tossi provided another opportunity to inform and educate people in the form of a custom-made, mobile information trailer. Housed in the trailer are three realistic dioramas of the shore, the bush, and the wetlands – showing ‘models’ of the various birds living in each habitat. Below each diorama are photos of the birds on display, with brief explanations about their habitat and behaviour. Other sections feature information on predator control and information about Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary.

World-renowned conservationist David Attenborough recently said, “The biggest threat to human well-being, to other species and the earth as we know it, might well be ourselves.”  Tossi provides an opportunity for people to help reduce that threat – right here in our own backyard.

Marguerite Vanderkolk, TOSSI


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