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Youth ambassador George Hobson
Louise Slocombe

Youth ambassador George Hobson

Recipient of ZEALANDIA's Tītipounamu Award for Future Leaders

Aged 13, George Hobson is one of ZEALANDIA’s youth ambassadors – a team of around ten young people who help with the work of the Education Team. George’s enthusiasm and dedication recently won him ZEALANDIA’s Tītipounamu Award for Future Leaders.

I met up with George recently to find out more about what he does. He told me that his main role as an ambassador involves guiding school groups of up to 12 students from years 2 to 6 around the valley. He does this around once a week – including dawn, daytime and night trips. He really enjoys “being able to connect with younger people, and telling them about the tāonga in the valley and what they can do to protect wildlife”. Often the school groups will include students who are already interested in birds and George loves meeting others who at a young age “have a passion for conservation and wildlife”.

As well as guiding, George also does outreach work for ZEALANDIA’s education team. He goes out to schools – recently he has been showing students ZEALANDIA’s new trading card game – and attends special events such as the ‘Kids’ Day Out’ at Wellington’s Botanic Gardens and Greater Wellington Regional Council’s ‘Pest Fest’ event.

George has been an ambassador at ZEALANDIA for about 2 years. His interest in birds was first sparked when he looked after some cockatiels for a friend for several weeks. Initially interested in the idea of researching caged parrots, his interest grew to wanting to learn more about wild birds. He became a member of ZEALANDIA, made enquiries about volunteering and as a result became one of the first ambassadors in ZEALANDIA’s youth ambassador programme.

George’s passion for birds and conservation extends beyond ZEALANDIA. In fact, “every waking moment is bird-related” according to George’s mum, Andrea. George is an enthusiastic photographer – when I met him, he was off to try to photograph the kāka kura, the red kākā that only occasionally visits ZEALANDIA and has recently been seen in the valley. He is also heavily involved with Young Birders New Zealand. His favourite bird is the banded dotterel - he has helped with monitoring them at Eastbourne, and for the past two years has led the Forest & Bird ‘Bird of the Year’ campaign for banded dotterels.

I asked George about the highlights from being involved with ZEALANDIA. He told me that the first time he led a school group was a “massive highlight”, and he loves “being able to go out at night and see kiwi”. He’s also enjoyed having the opportunity to take part in different activities, like helping to band hihi. One of the things he has enjoyed most was being involved in last year’s spotted skink release which included travelling to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington harbour to pick up the skinks and returning to release them in ZEALANDIA.

Was he thinking about a career in conservation when he was older, I asked him?  “Yes, but I’m not sure what field yet,” he said. “But definitely something to do with birds.”

Check out some of George's favourite photos in the gallery below...

Written by Louise Slocombe
Edited by Judi Lapsley Miller
Photo of George by Adie Rowell

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