Artists for Conservation

Pat Latas

As I write this, I am looking out across the Foveaux Straights, on the far south of the Te Waipaunamu (South Island) of New Zealand, whilst sitting in the kakapo rearing facility on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island. It is cold and windy, the sea choppy with whitecaps. Freezing on the outside but warm in the heart.

I am privileged to represent Artists for Conservation, on the 14th Flag Expedition, documenting the heroic efforts of the Kakapo team. There are two large chicks, grunting like piglets and begging for food as I write. There are also three more in nests under the care of their mothers, and one chick from another island sanctuary is in the Auckland Zoo for treatment and hand feeding. The addition of six chicks to the population is a 5% increase. It is an honor to be allowed to observe the operation of the Kakapo Team, and a heart-piercing experience to watch the tiny chicks grow from cotton balls to fuzzy, squishy bowling balls in a matter of days. And thanks to the Artists for Conservation, I am here to witness and record this huge effort.

In 2011, I was selected to be a volunteer as a nest minder with the New Zealand Department of Conservation Kakapo Recovery Team. Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the next many months were spent in treatment. The wonderful memories of the kakapo and the many fortunate opportunities I have had to participate in conservation with my art around the world has kept me going and hopeful. I vowed, that if I survived, I would return to the kakapo what they had given to me: hope for the future.

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