Teen to walk the talk

FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Zascha Mann collects donations at the Nelson Market for his planned three-month walk of the Te Araroa Trail.
FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Zascha Mann collects donations at the Nelson Market for his planned three-month walk of the Te Araroa Trail.

Former Nayland College head boy and Otago University science graduate Zascha Mann is to put his learning and accolades to use, with a project aimed at raising funds and awareness for animal welfare charities.

The 22-year-old plans to walk the South Island section of the Te Araroa trail, to raise at least $3000 for animal welfare charities World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Save Animals From Exploitation (Safe). The trail is a continuous 3000-kilometre walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff, but Mr Mann will tackle just half of it, beginning in Bluff in March, and ending three months later in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

He is back in Nelson for the summer, and was at the Nelson Market on Saturday helping his father, organic produce grower Wolfgang Mann, and fundraising for his cause. He has already raised $600 for the charities, and will be at the market again this Saturday at a stall where he will have information on the planned walk and where people can donate if they wish.

"I've always loved animals. They have the same life force as us, and equal rights to live without suffering."

Mr Mann also aims to promote the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle by speaking at schools along the way.

In 2009, he was Nayland College's head boy and recipient of the Palmer Award for all-round achievement. He recently graduated from Otago University with a bachelor of science degree, and while at university he won three scholarships, including one for leaders of tomorrow.

He will soon return to Dunedin to complete a summer research project at the university's biochemistry department, which looks at memory encoding in adults.

Mr Mann said his fundraising walk was also inspired by his having grown up on an organic farm, and acquiring a love for the outdoors on family tramping holidays around Golden Bay and the Nelson Lakes National Parks area.

His appreciation of New Zealand grew with each bus trip he did between Nelson and Dunedin. "They opened my eyes to how epic and beautiful New Zealand is. These journeys gave rise to the idea I'd walk it."

A visit to Southeast Asia during a gap year in studies was another eye-opener. "In Thailand I saw the effects of pollution on the natural environment."

Mr Mann will do the walk alone, but said friends had hinted at perhaps joining him along the way. He would soon begin building up fitness and preparing for the journey, including doing a course in basic bushcraft.

Follow Mr Mann's journey on zaschamann.wix.com/leaveonlyfootprints.