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White-flippered penguins a focus, as Blue Cradle puts marine education in the spotlight

The ocean is life.

That is one message that the Blue Cradle Foundation is delivering to New Zealanders through its work and mission of making marine science more accessible to everyone.

The Ōtautahi-based charitable trust, established in April 2020, focuses on advocacy, research expeditions, documentary filmmaking, and education for ocean literacy to get their message across.

The Blue Cradle Foundation, which is supported by the Rātā Foundation, is focussing on educating the public on microplastics, biosecurity, biodiversity, and Kororā (little blue penguins).

Rātā made a contribution towards operating costs related to the launch and partnership development of Blue Cradle, running a pilot project, the production of a documentary, outreach events and a mural art creation and exhibition during Seaweek 2021. 

The pilot project was focused on a  population survey of the White-flippered penguins (kororā), an endemic species to the Banks Peninsula. This was a collaborative project with Bush Farm School, other key conservation stakeholders and local iwi.

Blue Cradle Founder James Nikitine, says the Foundation has very high ambitions and an important role in the community to make ocean science more accessible.

“To achieve this, we work with communities, education partners, iwi and hapū, to truly come together in understanding that the ocean is the starting point – that the ocean is life,” he says.

“If we don’t protect the ocean, we are going to have some very serious problems moving forward.”

As part of their community education, the Foundation produced a documentary focusing on white-flippered penguins – which are the only native bird species of Canterbury – which proved very popular during Seaweek 2021.

We know about little blue penguins, but not necessarily about this white-flippered subspecies and so this documentary, we hope, will excite the general public to go visit the penguins - to learn more about where they are, and to also mitigate threats to these little penguins,” says James.   

The filmmaker behind the documentary, Kororatahi Creative’s Kerepeti Paraone, says it was also important to tie in how Te Ao Māori and Kaupapa Māori were part of the traditional environment and economy.

The relationship between people and animals really needs to be thought about in terms of the cause and the effect we have all the way down the line.  So for me it’s integral to have a Te Ao Māori worldview listened to, so we have some commonalities and find the places that we can work together better.”

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans says Rātā is very supportive of Blue Cradle and its efforts to involve people and communities in actions which benefit the local environment.

This project was funded from our Sustain focus area. For more information on our Funding Focus areas visit