Kaik­oura’s ma­rine life to grace t-shirt


This year’s Eco Art Ex­hi­bi­tion will fea­ture some in­ter­est­ing team­work as Kaiko¯ura’s ma­rine an­i­mals are brought to­gether to pro­mote a lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion and re­search group.

In the wild, orca and dusky dol­phins may not be the best of friends, but they co-ex­ist har­mo­niously on a new t-shirt de­sign from 20-year-old wildlife artist Katie Eshel­man, who pro­duced the print for the Kaik­oura Ocean Re­search In­sti­tute (KORI).

Eshel­man, from the United States, lived in Kaiko¯ura from Jan­uary to April as part of the Cre­ation Care Study Abroad Pro­gramme (CCSP) which brings Amer­i­can stu­dents to New Zealand to learn about its rich nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

As part of her ma­rine ecol­ogy and con­ser­va­tion stud­ies, Eshel­man was taught by KORI’s di­rec­tor, Dr Jody Weir, and it was Weir who Eshel­man cred­its with caus­ing her to fall in love with the ocean.

The t-shirt fea­tures 63 species, from the mighty blue whale down to the pa¯ua and cush­ion sea star, each of them metic­u­lously drawn by Eshel­man.

‘‘Each of the crea­tures on that shirt has a rich past, filled with quirky habits and com­plex be­hav­iours, and a re­la­tion­ship to mankind’’ she said.

‘‘If this shirt helps one per­son be more in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing [the ocean], then the whole project will be so worth it.’’

Eshel­man hopes that sales of the t-shirt will ben­e­fit KORI, a Kaiko¯ura-based char­ity work­ing to pro­tect lo­cal ma­rine species through re­search and ed­u­ca­tion. KORI’s work in­cludes weekly mon­i­tor­ing of the lo­cal little blue pen­guin colony as well as health and pop­u­la­tion stud­ies of en­dan­gered Hec­tor’s dol­phins.

‘‘Ed­u­ca­tion is a large part of what KORI aims to do,’’ Weir said.

‘‘The fact that Katie feels so strongly about Kaiko¯ura’s ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment as a re­sult of her time here is bril­liant, and we are very grate­ful for all the time and ef­fort she has put into cre­at­ing this fan­tas­tic de­sign for us to use.’’

For Eshel­man, who has now re­turned to the US, the de­sign will al­ways be a ‘‘small to­ken of my thanks for all the price­less gifts the peo­ple, places, and crea­tures of Kaiko¯ura have given me.’’

For a chance to view the print, and pre-order t-shirts fea­tur­ing the de­sign, visit the Eco Art Ex­hi­bi­tion from June 2 to 5 at the Old Scout Hall.

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