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WILD Dunedin has stepped up a notch this year, claiming April 20-25 to be New Zealand’s Festival of Nature.
They have increased the number of events from 50 to 70, and have added an extra day to this, the third Wild Dunedin festival.
Starting the festival will be a lighthearted contest, where seven speakers have seven minutes to convince MC Jesse Mulligan and the audience that their species or place has earned Dunedin the title ‘‘Wildlife capital of New Zealand’’.
A new addition to the festival this year will be conservation information-sharing on a national level. The festival is bringing to Dunedin four members of the Whangarei Heads Backyard Kiwi Campaign, which has managed to increase kiwi numbers from 80 to 800 in 10 years.
They are a good-news conservation story and will share their challenges, successes and failures, and how they managed to win over their community’s heart to help the kiwi. ‘‘Kiwis in our Backyard — yeah right’’ at Portobello Hall, on Monday at 6pm, is where this group will tell their story, and our local conservationists will ask the question could we have kiwi living here again?
There are seven walks to choose from, town and country, something for all ages and levels of fitness. For the fit walkers the Walk for Wildlife at Orokonui, or the more gentle coastal walks at Karitane and at Penguin Place on Otago Peninsula. Take an easy walk as part of a day-long excursion to Sutton Salt Lake on the Taieri Gorge train, or an urban guided walk on the animals depicted in the street art on our city walls.
About 70% of the festival programme has been designed for families to enjoy, with many activities: ranging from making and flying a kite, to making tracking tunnels and insect hotels. Once again, due to the popularity of the event last year, University of Otago students from AAPES (Animals, Aquatics, Plants and Ecological Society) will have another mystery for young nature detectives in the Upper Botanic Garden on Saturday.
NatureHQ is the festival base, in the Community Gallery at 20 Princes St. It will host many events, including a show and tell on the secretive and rare peripatus by Dave Randle and Tahu Mackenzie.
Also at NatureHQ families can enter for the festival prize of a personal seashore adventure with marine educator Sally Carson and nature photographer Rod Morris. Children visiting NatureHQ over the festival will get the opportunity to earn a Wild Dunedin critter reusable sticker.
This year, the Department of Conservation has arranged for Wild Dunedin Kiwi Guardians medals that can be earned by children attending the events that have a medal icon on the programme. Wild Dunedin is the first event to be recognised with a Toyota Kiwi Guardians medal. The wooden medals feature images of some of the well-known wildlife in Wild Dunedin.
The festival will always include April 22, as this is recognised internationally as Earth Day. To celebrate, Orokonui is having a special Go Wild on Earth Day, there’ll be a life-sized albatrosses made from plastic rubbish by Tori Clearwaters at NatureHQ, a screening of the film Blue at Rialto that is beautiful and at the same time disturbing, and on Monday and Tuesday at the Dunedin City Library there will be two no-waste nomads on a tour around New Zealand with practical advice on reducing household waste, and a waste-free skincare workshop.
In support of the festival, all the ecotourism operations in the programme are offering really good discounts during the festival to enable locals to get out and enjoy our protected wildlife up close.