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Wellington teenager wins conservation award

News from Forest and Bird
Wellington teenager George Hobson has been awarded Forest & Bird’s Te Kaiārahi Rangatahi o te Taiao youth award, and hopes to use it as a springboard for drawing more young people into conservation.

“It’s very exciting. I think the award will definitely set me up for the work I want to do in the future and build up additional credibility so I can encourage more young people to become involved in conservation,” George said.

The 14-year-old has already encouraged many other young people to love nature through his growing involvement in conservation organisations over the last three to four years. His infectious enthusiasm, articulate advocacy, and organisational skills are very persuasive.

Darren van Hoof, until recently the lead ranger for education and youth at Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington, nominated George for the award, saying he had a special gift for empowering others to achieve conservation goals.

“He has drive and enthusiasm in abundance, qualities which he has used to great effect when collaborating with different conservation organisations to facilitate youth involvement,” Darren said.

Earlier this year George organised a trip for six Zealandia youth ambassadors and three staff to Rotorua. He arranged visits to several conservation and cultural organisations, including Rotorua Canopy Tours, the Kaharoa Kōkako Trust, the Te Puia geothermal area and Māori cultural centre and the Turangi National Trout Centre to see young whio, or blue ducks, being prepared for release into the wild.

George’s first involvement with conservation started nearly four years ago when he became a youth ambassador at Zealandia. There he developed guiding skills and an ability to communicate his passion for nature to children and adults while taking tours and visiting schools.

“When I’ve taken school groups around the valley and their eyes light up when they see a takahē, I realise it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to show other people the wildlife we have in New Zealand and to see them become enthusiastic about conservation.”

He has since become coordinator of Young Birders New Zealand and been campaign manager for the banded dotterel in Forest & Bird’s last three Bird of the Year competitions. He also monitors his favourite bird at Eastbourne near Wellington.

“Banded dotterels are very cute, quirky little birds that have been very under-represented in the general public’s consciousness. What most people don’t know is that their population is decreasing at an alarming rate,” George said.

Photography is another of George’s passions and recently he was appointed official photographer of the Wellington Forest & Bird Youth Council. He loves to take wildlife photos whenever his hectic schedule allows.

Forest & Bird’s youth award is awarded annually to recognise and encourage New Zealand’s future conservation leaders.

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