8-year-old on a mission to turn NZ into a bird sanctuary

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Harry is proving that age is just a number when it comes to making a difference in the predator free movement. He’s trapping, securing funding and encouraging everyone he knows to trap. 

8 year old Harry checking one of his traps in the bush.
Harry is hands-on with his school’s trapping team. Image credit: Glentunnel School

Harry, 8, is a force for nature in his rural town of Coalgate, outside Ōtautahi (Christchurch). 

When the principal at Glentunnel School started a lunchtime predator free team, Harry jumped at the chance to get involved. He didn’t meet the age limit to join, but he used his connections with friends to weasel himself a spot on the team.

Once on board, Harry was part of the group setting stoat traps at their school – receiving a doughnut award for each catch. 

“We were catching so many stoats,” says Harry. His school is beside Waikirikiri, the Selwyn River. He looked across the river and saw a track on the other side. 

Expanding horizons

“My original thought was, are the stoats swimming over or hopping over the river?” He wondered if they could extend their trapping project over the other side. 

Harry knew the landowner and made contact. He learnt they weren’t trapping over there but were keen to start. Harry was given tunnel boxes for traps through one of his dad’s connections. Now, all he needed was some traps.

He wrote to his local council about trapping on the other side of the river. And the council granted him funding for four DOC 200 (stoat) traps. Into the boxes they went, and now the traps are checked every week. Harry and his mum watch the catch numbers climb on the Trap.NZ app, and they’re starting to see the wildlife flourish.

Harry crouching next to a trap box in the bush.
Harry with one of his trap boxes. Image credit: Harry’s mum, Gemma

Harry next turned his eye to his backyard, full of fruit trees getting hammered by possums.

“I want to trap the possums that keep coming into our garden. I spread the message of trapping to everyone I see and want to encourage everyone to trap. Using the fur I get from the possums, I want to get more traps so I can loan them out to people in the community who need them.” 

His mum, Gemma, is also excited about all the trapping. “It’s definitely a movement. You can feel the movement when you’re talking to people.” 

A Predator Free Banks Peninsula talk also inspired them to learn about more effective predator control tactics.

“It just switched in my brain,” says Gemma. Instead of just hoping the predators find the traps, smarter tactics are needed. “We’re now actively hunting for the predators.”

Harry and Gemma say they would love to see everyone doing their bit, even keeping the rats and mice down at home. But Harry has greater dreams. When thinking about predator free sanctuaries like Zealandia Te Māra a Tāra, he’s imagining that kind of birdlife on a bigger scale. 

“I’d love to see the whole of New Zealand as one sanctuary,” he says.

Harry looking at the camera.
Chuffed to be part of the Glentunnel School trapping team. Image credit: Glentunnel School

It all started with a love for the outdoors

Harry’s parents first took him tramping when he was 18 months old. This kicked off Harry’s love for nature which has grown over the years. 

“The love of the outdoors is something that goes on for generations,” says Gemma. 

The family enjoy many outdoor hobbies, like tramping, hunting and fishing. 

A conservation revolution continues to grow in the quiet corner of Colgate, led by this pint-sized powerhouse with a big heart. His efforts remind us that we all have a role in protecting nature and our unique wildlife.