Community fun behind serious message of Maui’s Dolphin Day

The 14th annual Maui’s Dolphin Day and the Xtreme Recycled Raft Race were themselves endangered when funding initially could not be secured to run the community non-profit event.

But thanks to last-minute funders, community support and a lot of people donating their time, the event organised by the Whaingaroa Environment Centre took place on Saturday last weekend, and it was a sunny day with hundreds of happy spectators and participants, says spokeswoman Danielle Hart.

Danielle says representatives from the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Forest & Bird and WWF attended the event and gave updates on the work they’re doing to help save Maui’s dolphins from extinction. The Maui’s dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest known subspecies of dolphin, and a 2012 census by DOC puts its population at just 55.

There was plenty to keep visitors occupied, says Danielle, including a number of artistic endeavours: Local artists encouraged adults and children to get creative and paint tiles for a Maui’s mural to be put up at the Raglan Wharf; Sew Love gave people the chance to create a flag on a solar-powered sewing machine to make a Whaingaroa community bunting; and children painted pictures of Maui’s dolphins to send to Conservation Minister Maggie Barry as part of Peggy Oki’s campaign, Message to the Minister.

Back again was the Whaingaroa Environment Centre Maui Survival Challenge, with Maui Man demonstrating with comic grace the many threats that Maui’s dolphins face, such as seismic testing and plastic and pollution in the ocean.

Children jumped at the chance to wear a rounded Maui’s dolphin fin and make their way through the obstacle course, encouraged by DOC’s threatened species ambassador, Nic Toki.

Local environmental and conservation groups also showcased their work.

Kristel Van Houte, from Karioi Maunga, says Maui’s Dolphin Day is “a wonderful way to highlight environmental works within the community”.

She and Karioi Maunga volunteers shared their vision for the mountain and sea.

“We highlighted our pest-trapping programme and kids got to experience hands-on interaction with some special creatures in our live touch pool.

“Our team came away buzzing. We so enjoyed being a part of such a great day.”

Meanwhile, Raglan resident Victoria Beeby sat in a bathtub for the day to help campaign for the release of Lolita, an orca who has been held in captivity for 45 years at Miami Seaquarium in the United States.

Stephen Reid of Raglan Kayaks shared his thoughts of the day on the Raglan Notice Board Facebook page: “I really enjoyed the Maui’s Dolphin, Recycled Raft Race Day. I feel it’s a real important event for our community, it’s fun, creative, a show case of local talent, cultural, educational and a great fundraiser for local business’s. Next year we should all make an effort to either build a raft and race it with friends and family or attend as a spectator to support this positive community. Much respect to all the organisers. See ya’s nek year (sic)”

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