By SHELLEY TOPP
Forest and Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club has been connecting children to New Zealand’s wildlife and wild places for more than 30 years.
The club now has more than 5000 members, including Ewan Dalmer, aged 13, of Waiau, who joined as a three-year-old.
“I started going along with my brother and sisters but now I like learning about different sorts of wildlife and what I can do to help,” Ewan says.
“We have been to see and learn about little blue penguins and New Zealand falcons, and have been on overnight trips to places such as Lewis Pass.
“We meet people who look after our wildlife and special places, and play games to learn about things like predators.” Ewan also enjoys seeing the native birds in the outdoor spaces they visit and reading the club’s quarterly Wild Things magazine, aimed at readers aged 5 to 13.
Each issue contains environmental stories and photographs, plus projects for children and their families to help the environment.
Club members also get the opportunity to go on club adventures anywhere in New Zealand, club manager Sarah Satterthwaite says. In most places, volunteer co-ordinators arrange outings and gatherings to explore local beaches, forests and everywhere in between.
Some clubs also get involved in local conservation projects such as tree planting, creating lizard gardens or making nesting boxes for little blue penguins.
There are also nationwide challenges, projects, competitions and even chances to be a reporter on the club blog and maybe get published in Wild Things
This month, the club marked its annual Be With A Tree initiative with a nationwide vote to find New Zealand’s favourite tree. More than 1200 New Zealanders took part in the vote, choosing the pohutukawa, with the kowhai second and kauri third.
Ewan says his favourite tree is a kanuka growing on a roadside north of Waiau, on the edge of the Dalmer’s farm.
“I like its bark and its leaves. It is the only big native tree near us so it is a good place for birds like fantails, bellbirds and grey warblers.”