Every artist needs a muse, and illustrator Tony Stoddard is using his art to keep his beautiful muses alive.
Mr Stoddard, a digital artist, is selling his illustrations of New Zealand native birds whose Khandallah Park habitat is under threat from introduced predators.
All the proceeds go towards predator control in the park to protect the birds from pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.
"The birds bring us so much joy," says Mr Stoddard, whose nearby home is often visited by tui, bellbird, kakariki and kereru.
"All the money goes to them. I'm giving them payback and recognition for the inspiration they bring."
The former children's book illustrator has placed his prints on Trade Me and he and wife, Amber, have been stocking up on traps with the money raised.
He says there are just 26 predator traps in the 200-hectare Khandallah Park and, while the Greater Wellington regional council's bait lines have been effective in controlling possums in the park, birds are still at risk from other predators, which prey on their eggs and young.
"Kereru only lay one egg [in a breeding season], so they are very vulnerable to rats. The kakariki nest underground and all their chicks get eaten.
"There are only two kakariki in the park, so once they're gone, there's nothing to replace them."
The traps donated by the regional council will help control rats, stoats, weasels and hedgehogs.
"People often frown at us trapping hedgehogs.
"But they eat the native snails," Mr Stoddard says.
The couple have started a volunteer group called Human + Nature, encouraging locals to help with laying, checking and resetting traps.
Seven people have joined so far, and he is hoping more volunteers will sign up.
"It doesn't cost people much, apart from their time.
"Plus, they'll get fit - they'll need to climb up waterfalls and through dense bush."
Mr Stoddard also hopes to use the proceeds from his art to make road signs warning motorists to be mindful of kereru, which are killed when striking car windows.
"Kereru mate for life, so once one bird goes, that's it."
Mr Stoddard says he has learned a lot about native birds since his family moved to Khandallah.
He loves studying the birds that visit his garden.
"When we lived in Miramar, I saw only one tui. Now our sycamore tree gets about 40 tui at one time."
He has built a bird feeder with help from 5-year-old son Jesse, who has inherited his father's love of nature.
"He loves coming out with us when we check on the traps - especially when we pull out a giant rat."
- The Dominion Post
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