The first sensory tour through Pukaha is being heralded as an overwhelming success – throwing the doors open to the wildlife centre’s lush native forest and fauna.
The very first tour in the new Te Taiao wellness programme saw 15 visually impaired members of the Wairarapa Blind organisation explore Pukaha’s forest earlier this month.
Donna Laing said the group had a wonderful time discovering what Pukaha had to offer.
“Being able to touch and feel the carvings, trees, and animal taxidermy and skins really helped to enrich our visit.”
In addition to a forest tour, the group visited the carving studio, kiwi and takahe sanctuaries and participated in the long-fin tuna [eel] feeding.
Pukaha said the Wairarapa Blind group, accompanied by guide dogs and friends and family, paused to listen to tieke [saddleback] and kaka chatter in the forest, compared the sizes of kiwi and takahe eggs, held kiwi feathers, identified forests and were treated to a behind-the-scenes introduction to carving.
Wildlife centre general manager Emily Court said the Te Taiao programme would provide guided tours over the next year to people in Masterton with social, mental, and physical challenges or disabilities.
She said the initiative would not have been possible without Masterton Trust Lands Trust community grants and was delighted to be a recipient this year.
“All residents of Masterton, regardless of their situation or their abilities, should have the opportunity to connect with the wonders of nature.”
Court said Pukaha was a peaceful place for learning and healing and was looking forward to hosting more community group tours.
Masterton Trust Lands Trust chair Christine Brewster said after a five-year hiatus, the trust was thrilled to announce the return of community grants with a focus on health and wellbeing.
She said the decision to support Pukaha’s Te Taiao programme was an easy one that would benefit people who were otherwise unable to experience the “benefits of nature”.
Interested Masterton community groups can register for a sensory tour online at: pukaha.org.nz