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Campaign to help bring back the Tuatara

4 April 2006

Otago schools asked to back 5c coin campaign to help bring back the Tuatara

Otago schools are being asked to get behind a campaign to collect 5c coins to support the return of real live tuatara to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

The Dunedin School of Education has mailed to all of Otago's 147 schools a letter to principals and an information sheet on behalf of the Otago Natural History Trust. The Trust is developing an ecosanctuary at Orokonui, near Waitati, 20 minutes north of the Dunedin city centre.

Diane Campbell-Hunt, project manager for the Orokonui Ecosanctuary told principals that at present there is nowhere in the South Island where a tuatara can breed safely in its natural habitat. The Otago Natural History Trust is a charitable trust that is going to change this situation by creating an ecological sanctuary in the Orokonui Valley, she said.

"The Trust aims to restore the kind of forest that would have been in coastal Otago before humans arrived on these shores and to make it safe for our threatened native animals, birds and plants.

"The silver 5c coin featuring the tuatara is soon to go 'extinct.' Beginning in July this year, it will be withdrawn from circulation. The Otago Natural History Trust is asking people to collect 5 cent coins to support the return of real live tuatara to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

"We believe that the Orokonui Ecosanctuary will be a wonderful asset for educating our children (and their parents!) about New Zealand's natural heritage and the way our forests were in times long gone," said Mrs Campbell-Hunt.

"A survey of schools conducted by the Trust in 2003 indicated a high level of interest in the ecosanctuary among teachers. Our visitor centre, which is currently being designed, will include a classroom facility," she said.

The information sent to schools contains suggestions for school-based activities to raise awareness about tuatara and encourage a coin collection programme. The Trust is offering a visit to the tuatara at Otago University's Zoology Department for a group of children from the school that raises the most money.

The Trust is also offering speakers to support this programme in schools.

Late last year the Otago Natural History Trust embarked on a national fund-raising exercise to raise the more than $4 million required to establish the ecosanctuary as a world-class facility. It is anticipated that the sanctuary will be open to the public by 2008.

For more information contact Diane Campbell Hunt, Otago Natural History Trust,

ENDS


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