Shirley Chan
This is writing…

On a Wing and a Prayer

by Shirley Chan
(ThermalAir, Rotorua Daily Post)

Close to extinction, fierce efforts are being made to address the plight of the NZ Falcon and reinstate them to their rightful glory

 The New Zealand Falcon, “Karearea” is on our twenty dollar note but this magnificent bird of prey, rarer than the iconic Kiwi – to near extinction, may fly no more.

Fully protected for 30 years, numbers are teetering critically at 4000, rendering them “threatened”, right before “extinction”.

Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust, headed by incredibly passionate, committed people with great respect for these raptors, is a unique trust, supported by donations, grants and community volunteers.

Wingspan is the first bird of prey centre in New Zealand to research habits and habitats of raptors with a successful programme of captive breeding and release.

Here, falcon eggs are incubated, hatched, the chicks hand-reared, trained and released back into the wild. Here also is rehabilitation of injured, orphaned or sick birds of prey.

Chairman Noel Hyde, with extensive experience, including work with Te Papa Museum, is incredibly passionate about the Wingspan Project. His enthusiasm is infectious – from lovingly exercising Ruby, the falcon in his care, talking about the centre’s future to night-feeding the week-old chicks. There is not a more devoted “father” to these raptors.

Debbie Stewart, founding trustee of Wingspan, exudes immense confidence and believes, with your help, they can keep extinction from these beautiful raptors.

We believe her as we watch the newly hatched chicks which will join the pre-release training programme. Releases already made in the North Island are encouraging.

Wingspan works closely with the Department of Conservation and Massey University and attracts worldwide compassionate people like Mia Jessen from Denmark, who has devoted her life to caring for birds of prey at global centres.

A visit to the centre is not just a show of Falconry, a sport in other countries – not in New Zealand. Here, it is an age-old technique used to exercise, train, rehabilitate, hone the hunting skills and fitness of the raptors prior to releasing them back into the wild.

It is a visit of learning, education, inspiration, compassion – for these spectacular birds, now threatened in the wild often by misunderstanding and ignorance.

Wingspan has a museum, display aviaries, flying of the falcons in the open, complimentary drinks in the tea room and more information than you will be able to absorb from the warm, friendly people whose enthusiasm will rub off onto you.

Pic by Shirley Chan