Book honours animal carers
The work of an animal organisation during last summer’s Nelson wildfires has been captured in a children’s picture book.
The 32-page story But Who’s Looking After the Animals? tackles the fires in a way young children can understand, and focuses on pets and farm animals being taken to a safe haven as the Pigeon Valley wildfire burned out of control.
Nelson author Renee Lang collaborated with local illustrator Polly Rabbits to create the book while also fundraising for animal organisations HUHA NZ and The Nelson Ark.
HUHA, a charitable trust based in Otaki that finds shelter for abandoned and abused animals, set up the animal haven at the Richmond Showgrounds during the fires.
Lang said what the organisation did ‘‘lent itself really well to a children’s book that kids could identify with’’.
‘‘There were so many community organisations that stood out and did marvellous things.’’
Pupils at Wakefield School recently got a peek at the book before its launch.
‘‘They were absolutely delighted,’’ Lang said. ‘‘It gave them a chance to think about how they felt at the time [of the fires]. Those kids were right in the thick of it.’’
Wakefield was evacuated during the fires, forcing 3000 people to seek refuge with friends and family outside the area.
Lang said she felt ‘‘helpless’’ during the February fires, so she launched into action, fundraising to feed the hundreds of animals being sheltered at the showgrounds.
‘‘That involved delivering food and seeing first-hand what was going on out there, and it just stayed in my mind.’’
Two months after a Civil Defence state of emergency was lifted, Lang and Rabbits set to work on the creating the book.
Sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, llamas, cows, guinea pigs, dogs and cats were evacuated during the fire, and all are represented in the book.
HUHA co-founder Carolyn Press-McKenzie said the book was ‘‘very special’’.
‘‘If we’ve inspired it in any way, I feel very very proud.’’
She said 957 animals passed through the temporary facility at the showgrounds over three weeks. Animals were left and entrusted to the facility while families, farmers and individuals were forced to leave their homes.
‘‘We knew every animal, where it needed to be and where its parents were.’’
She said the site wasn’t just for the animals – it was a respite for families as well.
Helping out was a very ‘‘validating moment’’, PressMcKenzie said. ‘‘It was like my life’s work was put into one moment.’’ The fires were an awful event, ‘‘but it was a positive experience’’.
But Who’s Looking After the Animals? is available from Paper Plus Nelson, Page & Blackmore Booksellers and book stores nationally.