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Meet conservation hero Gwenda Pulham

Published: 2 June 2017
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Meet Gwenda Pulham, a conservation hero.

OurAuckland has a chat to Gwenda Pulham, winner of the Conservation Heroes Influencer category for her work with the Dotterel Minders network.

For 41 years, Gwenda Pulham lived a double life.

Her days were spent inside with school children, as part of her work as a dental therapist. It was isolating, she says.

She decided she needed a hobby to challenge herself, and a reason to get outside and enjoy adult companionship.

So, in 1976, she joined the Ornithological Society of New Zealand.

A love for fairy terns

Here, Gwenda rediscovered her love of the fairy tern and the dotterel, birds she first encountered during childhood summers in Waipu.

“I witnessed human abuse of these birds,” Gwenda recalls.

“People would just walk all over them, completely unaware. I remember thinking, 'Surely these birds have as much right to be on and survive on these beaches as I do'."

Gwenda describes fairy terns as her first love. "I learnt about dotterels almost by default," she says.

"If there weren’t any fairy terns to observe, there were always dotterels because they are in the same area. I feel very flattered and honoured Auckland Council is acknowledging me for my work with dotterels."

Achieving more together

Since the late 1980s, Gwenda has been involved with the Dotterel Minders Network, a community group that shares information about dotterels on the beaches and urban areas around Auckland.

When Auckland Council merged in 2010, the newly formed biodiversity team began working with the Dotterel Minders Network, providing signage and fences, sharing ideas and putting on thank you morning teas at the end of the season.

“At the Dotterel Minders Network, nobody’s above anybody, we all just pull together," says Gwenda.

"I believe ‘team’ is an acronym: 'Together Everyone Achieves More'. And that’s been my experience of Auckland Council’s biodiversity team.

"They are a team in themselves but when you work with them you’re kind of left feeling that you’re part of a team working towards something bigger together and I love that feeling." 

Watching your own 'patch'

Everyone involved in the Dotterel Minders Network has their own ‘patch’ to keep an eye on. For the last 10 years, Gwenda has been heading to Albany at least once a week, observing the birds with her telescope and taking notes about behaviours, the number of birds and any new chicks.

Upper Harbour Local Board Chair Lisa Whyte says, “It’s wonderful to have people like Gwenda who are so dedicated to the wellbeing of our native birds.

"By working together, the Dotterel Minders Network and biodiversity team are gathering important information about Auckland’s dotterel population so that they are around for generations to come.”

Gwenda’s tips to help protect Dotterel

  • Respect the fences
  • read the signage
  • keep dogs on a lead or leave them at home
  • keep clear of nesting areas.