School group learns value of conservation

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 13:11 16/12/2013

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High school pupils from Marlborough and Canterbury gained conservation and leadership skills during a week at the beginning of this month on Blumine Island in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Marlborough Boys' College teacher Peter Sutton said clothing company Untouched World had sponsored 24 trips to the island in 12 years and he led all but the first two.

The 17 pupils cut tracks, checked traps and also worked on an educational booklet with four trainees from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology outdoor education and sustainability programme.

What stood out about the group was their awareness of the need to balance public access and protection of endangered saddlebacks, kiwi and mohua living on Blumine Island. This was triggered by learning about the discovery of mice on predator-free Maud Island in Pelorus Sound, Mr Sutton said.

New biosecurity measures since that invasion saw the pupils carefully inspecting camping gear for seeds and mice before setting foot on the island. When a school group on a kayaking trip pulled up on the beach, they rushed down with brushes and disinfectant to clean the pupils' shoes to ensure they did not introduce diseases.

Department of Conservation ranger Wendy Sullivan was impressed with the pupils' level of interest.

"By the end of the week they were asking the same questions as DOC staff about how to best protect endangered species," she said.

Mr Sutton had seen the island change from a scenic reserve with limited scientific value to a place where animal pests and most plant pests had been eliminated and rare birds reintroduced. Untouched World programmes played a large part in this with students doing the only comprehensive monitoring, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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