A new arts trail around Tamaki Makaurau is officially launched today, shining a light on the Hauraki Gulf and the plight of its rarest resident, the Bryde's Whale.
"There's only 135 of these amazing whales left in the Hauraki Gulf and, interestingly, this particular species doesn't migrate: it actually lives here in our very own backyard," said Livia Esterhazy, CEO of WWF-NZ.
"Whales are also an indicator species of a healthy ocean; if we have a healthy population, we have a really healthy ocean.
"Unfortunately, as you can imagine, 135 whales is not a healthy species."
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The WWF has partnered with Wild In Art and Auckland Unlimited commissioning 80 New Zealand artists, such as Otis Frizzell, Gregory O'Brien, Cora Allan Wickliffe, Weta Workshop and Jeff Thomson to design 80 whales' tails that are dotted around the wider Auckland region on public display. A trail map and free-to download app guide viewers to the installations.
The Bryde's Whale is under threat as its food source, zooplankton, is susceptible to pollution. Zooplankton are filled with microplastics, says Estherhazy - about 25,0000 per mouthful.
The trail will be viewable until the end of April when the sculptures will be auctioned off with proceeds going to WWF's critical mission to protect and restore the mauri (life force) of our ocean, including – the endangered Bryde's Whale.
Wild in Art has hosted sculpture trails around the globe and raised millions of dollars for charity. Recently Wild in Art produced the Pop-Up Penguins Trail in Christchurch. Its 50 penguin sculptures raised more than $1 million for Cholmondeley Children's Centre.
We're so thrilled to bring this entire arts trail to Auckland," said Esterhazy, "to raise the awareness and make sure people really understand that, yes, the Hauraki Gulf is a beautiful shimmering light and we enjoy it at a surface level – surfing, kai, playing, fishing – but underneath it's really not healthy."