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Contributed by Alex Wall, Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre (first published in the Wairarapa MidWeek)

There’s nothing like seeing someone else’s ‘passion’ to remind oneself just how important a cause can be. When it comes to nature and the natural world regarding Aotearoa’s native flora and fauna there’s nobody better equipped to represent us than our very own ‘Bugman’ Rudd Kleinpaste. He is literally New Zealand’s answer to David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg rolled into one. A passionate advocate for tiny bugs, birds and animals across our planet, giving their plight a voice and telling their stories like an Attenborough documentary. With climate change ever at the fore the message is evermore urgent. So in Thunberg like fashion there’s a no-nonsense, direct approach when hearing Ruud speak. An insistence that we must act now or forever lose organisms from our natural world that can never be replaced.

Ruud was speaking to Pūkaha staff and business leaders from the Wairarapa and Tararua regions on 30th July to kickstart fundraising for Pūkaha’s Te Wānanga Taiao project. A build that when completed in November 2022 will deliver a significant community resource allowing for research projects, hosting facilities and fostering education of the natural world across all age groups but especially our regions’ children.

There was a collective intake of breath when Ruud stated that 150 natural species from around the world become extinct every year. That audible sound doubled in volume when only moments later he corrected himself and said that he actually meant to say 150 species every day. You heard that correct. E-V-E-R-Y D-A-Y. He extolled the virtues of how many of societies inventions including Velcro and rain resistant windscreens had their foundations in technology that derived from the scientific discoveries found in nature.

Ruud said that the key to preserving nature for our future was to create “Nature-Literate New Zealanders”. To do this we needed “Nature-Literate Kids”. And to get those we needed “Nature-Literate Teachers”. And therein lay the solution – Te Wananga Taiao. Pukaha’s education centre that will deliver on all of the above. Very soon we’ll let the community know how they can contribute and be part of this extraordinary conservation project that will deliver so much for our region – and indeed our nation. But in the meantime, if you have an idea on how you, your school or organisation could help to fundraise, please drop us a line at marketing@pukaha.org.nz. We need to raise $2.5 million to complete the project and we need our community to help get us there. All ideas are welcome.

Ruud Kleinpaste aka ‘Bugman’ at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre

Ruud Kleinpaste aka ‘Bugman’ at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre