Rotorua Weekender

Winging into the future at Wingspan

Celebratin­g 30 years of Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust and supporting kārearea New Zealand falcon

- Shauni James

Wingspan took flight as a charitable trust 30 years ago, with helping almost 1000 birds and hosting more than 5000 flight demonstrat­ions just a couple of its achievemen­ts to date.

This month, Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust marked its 30th anniversar­y of being registered as a charitable trust.

Wingspan is now recognised as New Zealand’s leading conservati­on, education and research organisati­on for birds of prey.

At Wingspan’s core is a commitment to the conservati­on of the threatened kārearea [ New Zealand falcon].

Wingspan supports wild population­s directly by releasing captive bred falcons and rehabilita­ting injured wild birds.

Through research and advocacy, it also supports long-term sustainabl­e conservati­on action by identifyin­g the reasons for the decline in wild population­s and promoting action to reverse this.

The Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is a place where people can visit and see birds of prey up close during interactiv­e flying displays.

Wingspan executive director Debbie Stewart says Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust was first registered as a charitable trust in 1992.

For the past 30 weeks, Wingspan has been posting “Throwback Thursdays” on its Facebook page so people can reflect together on the trust and centre’s developmen­ts.

“We are incredibly proud to reach this milestone, and I’m surprised how quickly time flies (no pun intended).”

Debbie says that throughout those years, Wingspan has helped almost 1000 birds before releasing them back into the wild.

“Over the 30 years, more than 3500 families and individual­s have joined Wingspan and supported us. Our current membership stands at about 500 members.”

She says in that time, the centre has also hosted just over 5000 flight demonstrat­ions.

Debbie says there is a long list of highlights from over the years, including sharing its birds of prey with the public, and visitors that have touched Wingspan’s hearts with their stories and embrace of the birds.

Highlights also include the number of firsts Wingspan has achieved through its research, hatching and rearing birds before releasing them into the wild, and a new initiative around matauranga and releasing kārearea on to iwi land in Taupō, she says.

“We have been very close to the forest falcons and have been monitoring kārearea for 30 years in Kaingaroa Forest. I think it would be one of the longest monitoring [efforts] of any species in the country.”

Debbie says as well as reflecting on the last 30 years, Wingspan is very excited about the future and the new Wingspan Centre developmen­t which is starting to take shape.

“We will have a new centre that will promote and embrace culture, education and research . . . a place of learning for the general public to come to.”

They hope to start constructi­on of the first stage early next year, but further fundraisin­g is needed to complete the centre, and Wingspan is seeking additional funding partnershi­ps to join it on its new journey.

Debbie says Wingspan is proud of its developmen­t over the years and how it helps bring economic benefit to Rotorua.

“I think the last 30 years have paved the way and given Wingspan a lot of strength moving into the future.”

Over the 30 years, more than 3500 families and individual­s have joined Wingspan and supported us. Debbie Stewart

 ?? ?? Wingspan executive director Debbie Stewart and a kārearea NZ falcon juvenile.
Wingspan executive director Debbie Stewart and a kārearea NZ falcon juvenile.
 ?? ?? A bird’s-eye view of Wingspan.
A bird’s-eye view of Wingspan.
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