Dotterel dilemma overcome by student advocacy and action

| By Anne Zhang, St Kentigern College

The first adult dotterel check out the lush growth at St Kentigern College.

When a Northern New Zealand dotterel/ tūturiwhatu chose St Kentigern College fields for their nesting and feeding, Anne Zhang and friends saw a need for protection of these birds. It became important that the humans caring for and using this grassed area needed to be aware and considerate of the dotterel’s needs and threats. One thing led to another and soon there was a small population of dotterels enjoying this habitat and increasing protection and monitoring.

Word of the work Anne and the St Kentigern College Dotterel Conservation Society was doing soon spread. They were interviewed by TV3 AM show, and we also took the opportunity to ask Anne a bit more about her experience. This is her story.

What started the process, and when did this happen?

In 2021, I won the Pest Free Howick Ward logo competition granting me $500 that I could use towards conservation within the school. Knowing that we had a breeding pair of dotterels visiting in 2020, I knew I had to take this opportunity to do the best I could to help. I took this opportunity to start the Dotterel Conservation Society at school with a focus to protect our dotterels that come visit every year. After months of arranging meetings and coming up with feasible plans, our society started in August 2021.

What was your first reaction and then what did this prompt you to do?

Being interviewed.

My first reaction to being on TV to advocate for the dotterels was a mixture of excitement and responsibility. I really treasure this chance to spread awareness for our vulnerable birds. This was also really emotional for me as in a way I have grown with the dotterels my entire college life. I first heard of their existence when I just started at Saint Kentigern and started working on the Dotterel Conservation Society a year later. They have followed me through my junior years right through to my senior years. I believed that this was my opportunity to influence everyone I possibly could and push for something I love. This opportunity was very important to our entire Society as it illustrated how a small group of individuals can make a meaningful impact with passion and dedication.

How have other people been engaged/ involved? How does this make you feel?

Throughout this 3-year journey I have had help and support from many people. Without the encouragement from my teachers and Enviroschools, none of this would have been possible. Cate (Enviroschools facilitator) introduced many dotterel experts who have had a lot of experience working with the birds and I have always learned a lot from every meeting session we have ever had. As a year 10 student, arranging meetings with experts and teachers was, in a way, intimidating and very difficult at times. I would be stressing out days before the meeting and it was the support of senior students and teachers that allowed me to bring the Dotterel Conservation Society to where it is today.

When you think of what you are achieving at St Kentigern’s for these birds, how does this fit into the bigger picture of dotterel conservation?

Celebrating the telling of their story after the TV interview (Anne centre of the 3 students).

At Saint Kentigern, the Dotterel Conservation Society aims to inspire students to engage in conservation efforts and contribute to society and our local community. The society brings students who are willing to sacrifice their time for the wider community together and creates a common goal we can all work on. I think our biggest achievement at SKC is the fact that we managed to gather students of all year groups to work on a common goal, to save the dotterels. We’ve done work in many different aspects: design, education and pest control. By raising awareness about dotterels and their ecological importance, we are not only contributing to the immediate conservation needs but also cultivating a future generation of environmentally conscious citizens. This educational component is vital for the long-term success of dotterel conservation. By actively involving ourselves with pest control, we are contributing to the survival of dotterels and other vulnerable bird species in the area. I believe the pest management we have been working on is a major reason for the survival of our chicks. The year we started trapping was the year we had the only chick hatch in the Tāmaki Estuary. We are all super proud to be a part of this.

What are your messages for others?

Eggs camouflaged in the grass.

I encourage everyone to embrace a sense of responsibility for the well-being of our environment. Each action we take, no matter how small, contributes to the larger world of conservation. I hope the dotterel conservation work our college has done can inspire others and for others to realise the power we hold as a collective force for positive change. I urge everyone to become ambassadors of awareness, spreading knowledge about the importance of preserving biodiversity and protecting endangered species like dotterels. By fostering a deep connection to nature and understanding the delicate balance of ecosystems, we can instigate a ripple effect that extends beyond our immediate surroundings.

What next?

Looking forward, I hope to encourage more youth to join our society and work hard towards the conservation of our dotterels. I hope that the Dotterel Conservation Society can become a long-lasting society that pushes for more action and lead our generation into a more sustainable future. For my plans next year, I am hoping to introduce a waste management project to the society and work towards a greener environment. I also hope to improve on our trapping line, adding more traps and more regular maintenance. I also believe education is the key to success and therefore hope to advocate for more action through working more on the education aspects, such as posters and talks, of the Dotterel Conservation Society.