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Te Ipukarea Society: Students raise awareness for the Kōiti habitat

Saturday 1 June 2024 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Environment, National


Te Ipukarea Society: Students raise awareness for the Kōiti habitat
Students from Apii Te Uki Ou and collaborating partners showcase new educational sign post at the Aroko Salt Water Marsh Site. TIS/24053101

This week’s Environmental Column is written by Gabriella Napa, a budding journalist and writer of Youth Media Cook Islands.

On Monday 28th of May, a group of students from Apii Te Uki Ou joined together with Muri Environmental Care, landowners, the Mitchell Family and Te Ipukarea Society to partake in the grand finale of project “Kō'iti Raukura”.

This stage of the project included the construction, and presentation of the Koiti Raukura notice board. All partners collaborated to create a course for the students to participate in, conduct research and collect data based on their project “Kō'iti Raukura”. It also came up with a solution to help educate tourists and locals about the home of these crabs, and help them understand what they are doing to bring great harm to these water creatures.

Kō'iti Raukura became a project to help raise awareness to keep the red fiddler crabs that live upon the shores of Aroko Salt Water Marsh (Muri Lagoon) out of danger and advise people to be cautious and to use alternative routes for their kayaks and paddle boards. Students from Apii Te Uki Ou spent over two months studying, coming up with ideas, solutions and creating art to help tourists and locals notice this situation and take part in keeping it a safe home for the crabs’ habitat.

Eight-year-old Ezra Mitchell said: “My family and I were worried when we saw that people were stepping and dragging down kayaks to the beach and hurting the crabs because different feet can hurt the crabs in many different ways without them realising it.”

Brennan Panzarella from Muri Environmental Care said: “This was an exciting programme blending research, practical data collection, and public outreach. The students estimated Kō'iti Raukura density at one of the habitat patches at Aroko using quadrats and transects. They also gathered valuable baseline data on burrow size with digital calipers.”

“The students experienced firsthand scientific fieldwork and were encouraged to problem-solve to obtain reliable and objective data.

“As part of a literacy-science crossover, they were assigned passages from scientific literature and gave presentations on what they learned from international studies of other fiddler crab species.

“Hopefully, the process inspired some of the students to pursue careers in conservation.”

The young ones had huge smiles and pride upon their faces as they presented their posters and shared what they learned.

“They really had soaked up a lot of knowledge from this hands-on course,” one student said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Kō'iti Raukura is a project that has brought together so many from our small community across all ages and it is something that this group of like-minded people with a shared goal have created to raise awareness for generations to come. VSA volunteer for MEC and TIS, Ryan Donovan said: “Operation Kō'iti is a fantastic example of what is possible when the community comes together with a shared goal to protect Rarotonga’s biodiversity.”

Kōiti Raurkura has played a major role in these young ones lives and with their posters now sitting on the Aroko Salt Marsh entry point, they hope to be heard and seen by our community as well as tourists so we all do our part to help keep these species only found at Aroko safe from any danger.

Jo Holley says: “In recognising a challenge, we uncovered an empowering opportunity to engage our youth to tell this story and help raise awareness through hands-on, practical education. Through collective effort and collaboration, together we crafted an inspiring in-school curriculum, enriched by field trips and art creation. It’s a great result, as the students have created something impactful, guiding both locals and tourists to cherish and safeguard the invaluable habitat of the Kō’iti Raukura.”

Landowner Atai Kirikava said: “On behalf of my family, we are proud to have the students create something so significant that will educate tourists and locals to preserve our land and the Kōiti Raukura”.

A massive Meitaki Ma’ata to all the experts that mentored and educated our youth and thanks for helping them create something so wonderful to help raise awareness for such an incredible cause. So now, make sure to go educate yourself and check out the awesome posters down at Aroko Salt Water Marsh!

“We’ve done our part now you do yours!” says the head boy of Apii Te Uki Ou, Ngaakara Wong.