The founder of the Australian War Animal Organisation (AWAMO) charity has visited Palmerston North ahead of a special ceremony to open a new memorial in Waiouru.
Nigel Allsopp delivered a public address called 'The Deeds and Sacrifices of Animals in War' at the Palmerston North City Library last Tuesday, where he outlined the history of animals working alongside defence forces throughout the last two world wars.
The Australian based author is in New Zealand for the opening of the country's first national War Animal Memorial held at the National Army Museum on Saturday.
In conjunction with the unveiling at the National Army Museum, February 24 will now become annual Purple Poppy Day in order for these animals and their sacrifices to be commemorated and remembered by future generations.
"Animals had no choice to be there, they were volunteered," Mr Allsopp said. "Animals were used by all sides, often pressed-ganged into service; they had no malice and worked tirelessly alongside their master.
"These animals demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans. The bond was unbreakable, their sacrifice was great and we should honour them."
Since establishing the AWAMO, Mr Allsopp has been instrumental in its erection of more than 30 memorials to animals who lost their lives in various conflicts around the world and most recently, a unique memorial produced by acclaimed sculptor Susan Bahary (United States) at Pozieres on July 21, 2017.
Mr Allsopp was joined by Kotuku Foundation Assistance Animals Aotearoa founder Merenia Donne. She was recently made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services training disability assistance dogs. Ms Donne has recently extended the foundation's training programme to provide assistance dogs for military veterans.
"We had a wonderful day at the unveiling in Waiouru, being humbled to have been invited not only to attend and lay a wreath at the memorial, but also to assist Nigel Allsopp with arrangements for the event," she said.
The use of animals within the New Zealand Defence Force is on a steady rise, predominantly due to the military's training and implementation of explosive detection dogs and military working dogs.